Posted by Email from Sam Lucas on Jan 29, 2018
It has been a busy three months since my last correspondence and I have much exciting news to report!
Key Progress
Student Recruitment
Overwhelmingly, our major focus over the past few months has been student recruitment. In total, 66 students sat our aptitude exams and undertook a 30-minute personal interviews, conducted in 5 separate districts.

The students invited to attend the exam sessions were those who had received exceptionally high grades in lower or secondary high school (especially in Maths), but who can no longer continue studying. These students represent the top 2-3% of their peers.
Most students traveled quite a distance to attend the exam sessions, and so we reimbursed their travel costs. Local schools provided classrooms for the exam sessions and also as a secure place for students to stay over two days and three nights. We provided food, and everything else students required while they stayed with us. 
From this process we have identified at least 12 students who we are confident will be a good fit for our programme. After years of work and dedication from our staff and supporters, this is a very exciting stage to be at, and we are looking forward to introducing the students to you soon!  Click Read More to see more photos and the rest of Sam's email.
Rosny - A student from Ambatondrazaka who received one of the highest marks in our aptitude exams. She has completed lower secondary school but would not be able to continue onto upper secondary school - despite being among the very brightest of her peers. 
Team Effort
The recruitment process is a huge organisational challenge and required a real team effort. Fita (bottom right in image below) and I arranged the delivery of over 300 letters via 50 of the student's previous schools. We also organised radio communications announcing each students name and explaining the test sessions.

A few weeks before we conducted testing, Fita traveled to each district to visit the local education authorities, headmasters, and local radio to make sure they were doing what was needed and sort problems as they arose. With the state of the roads and public transport as they currently are, this is exhausting, sleepless work so all credit to Fita for getting that essential work done.
For the exam sessions themselves, Marcelline (center in photo below) and I conducted the exams, personal interviews and looked after the students. Madam Zerimen (left in photo below) had the monumental task of feeding everyone - sometimes catering for over 30 people at once! 
The team for the largest test session. Top left to right: Madam Zerimen, Marcelline, Mitantsoa. Myself and Fita crouching. 
International Grant
We have now received the thumbs up from the 9920 Rotary Foundation Committee to submit our application. Special thanks to Simon and Willard for getting us this far!
Rotary Ivandry, a highly respected Rotary club in Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar) has agreed to become the host sponsor for the project, and are finalising the host committee. Special thanks to president Michel Perin, and former president Dimitris Skourtelis for their contribution this far. 
Key Challenges
Various Recruitment Challenges
Being our first time recruiting with this system, you can probably imagine our smorgasbord of unexpected challenges. In one district we were late to secure a classroom but fortunately Madam Zermain managed to find a church for us to use instead! Overall I am really happy (and relieved) that despite all the hurdles we came across, we met our major objectives: The students came, they were tested and interviewed, and I think they actually quite enjoyed the couple of days they stayed with us.
My younger sister Claire, brother Matt, and his girlfriend Alice have been in Madagascar for the last couple of weeks so I have taken some time to show them a national park (which I had never been to) and generally just have a little bit of a holiday. Claire, who is responsible for our finances will be staying here for 3 months and will take the time to put some reliable systems in place.
As always, comments and questions are appreciated, and if you require any further information just reply to this email. 

Happy New Year!
Myself, Claire, Alice and Matt