Posted by Sam Lucas (from Email) on Oct 18, 2017
Another two months has passed and I am still in Antananarivo, however we have made some good progress, and I (finally) leave for Mahanoro today!
Key Progress
Simon's presentation: I think most will know that Simon presented Onja to the club and high power Rotarian visitors. I'm told Simon worked his magic and the visitors want to see Onja happen. That should give our grant proposal a good boost! Thank you everyone and in particular Simon for going out of your way to make that happen.
St Johns Commitment: Thank you for openly and thoughtfully considering the project, and for being some of the very first people to recognise its potential. This is very rare in a space I have found to be pretty sheepish (both in the way people and entities follow one another, and are overly adverse to measured risk). St Johns has committed to investing 15 NZD over 3 years. It is a real milestone and I cannot thank you all enough. 
Partnership agreement: We recently signed a Partnership Agreement with the Ministry of Education. Due to the unusual nature of our project we have much to gain from collaborating with the ministry. They have shared with us the exam results which give us an indication of the intelligence and work ethic of over 250,000 students - that's priceless. They are also helping us to contact the most talented students, who we will test further. The partnership ceremony was covered by a local news channel, and I have since uploaded the clip to youtube:
Recruitment trip preparation: This has been our major focus for the past month. It is a huge organisational challenge involving sending letters where no postal service goes, and delivering  radio communications in each district. Starting on the 25th of this month we will be travelling to 18 different regions for two-and-a-half months and will examine and interview at least 120 of the most talented students who can not afford to continue their education. The students will come from all over each district and stay for two nights at the CISCO (The central education authority for the district). We will provide food and cover their transport costs. The trip will be funded by some of the crowdfunding money. The student recruitment 'path' is shown below. 
Facebook page: Tina, a friend of mine in Antananarivo, and the founder of a great organisation called 'Teach for Madagascar' has started regularly updating our facebook page and it's really blown up in Madagascar, so much that our 'page likes' have grown from about 1000 to 20,000 in just two months. This is good for building trust and raising our visibility.
World bank meeting: Kevin managed to get me a meeting with the world bank here in Madagascar. They like what we are doing but no real tangible outcomes came out of the meeting. I will keep them updated for now, in hope that we can collaborate later on. 
Computer Screens: A couple of my former colleagues from Fisher and Paykel Healthcare have been lobbying the company to donate the screens we need to compliment the computers that have already been donated. It looks like they will be successful and we hope to have the screens available early next year!
Rotary Ivandry in Madagascar: We have been attending 'Rotary Ivandry' club meetings fairly regularly and they are getting used to our faces. They would like to be our local 'host sponsor'.
University of Auckland Innovate Campaign: My former University kindly included me in a recent campaign showing alumi doing innovative things:
Madagascar blog: Madagascar's leading blog platform did a story on Onja: 
Top 10 Startups: I stumbled across this list the other day. It's nothing professional but its great to see people cluing on to what we are doing.
Key Challenges
Visa: You might remember in my last update I had some visa problems. Fortunately the Ministry of Labour took pity on me (after I pulled the poor volunteer helping Madagascar card) and they processed it quickly for me. Next time we will apply nice and early. 
Rainy Season is hot on our Heels: Over the next three months we will be travelling to the 18 different regions of Toamasina province (This represents about a 1/5th of Madagascar). The rain turns many roads into slop so we are planning to test regions with the worst roads first, and hopefully the rain will hold off long enough for us to avoid delays.
Plague: You may have heard about the recent plague outbreak in Madagascar. It's most prevalent in the areas we will be travelling to but statistically speaking it does not pose a huge risk. The chances of dying from Malaria are hundreds of times higher than dying from Plague in Madagascar. That being said we will carry antibiotics for the team and if someone shows symptoms we will get them to hospital. 
This was a late night for Fita and myself at the Onja office (the room I have been renting in the capital). We were writing letters to 35 students in Mahanoro, inviting them for our first test session. Fita has become a good friend of mine and has been instrumental to our progress over the last 5 months. 
Thank you to you all for your ongoing support, 
Sam Lucas Founder
+261341024727 (Madagascar)
+64223701234 (New Zealand)