Its been quiet here on our end for a few days hasn’t it? I bet you’re thinking “what happened?” Don’t worry. There’s a LOT going on behind the scenes, but since you can’t all see that on your end, we thought we’d take a few minutes and let you know what we’ve been up to these last few days.
As you already know, we got approved for initial funding from the United Nations, which is amazing! We’re still all kind of taken aback that it happened so successfully and with only a few minor delays. You know as well as I do that things in large multi-national bodies rarely move fast – but they’ve been moving fast for us this last week.
So, what’s been going on and why haven’t you heard about it on here?
The biggest reason: it’s boring! There’s no fun way to say “Congratulations! We called lawyers and bankers all day today!” lol.
Most of what’s going on now is administrative. We have about $38,000 in funding coming this way in a few days or a week, so we’re getting all the administrative stuff in a row that it takes to make this stuff work.
Setting up the Charity “Officially”
To do this properly requires a proper corporate presence, for obvious tax reasons. Without the formation of a proper 501(c)3 nonprofit organization any donations made from individuals or corporations aren’t tax deductible for them AND I have to pay taxes on it as income. That’s a lose-lose for everyone, so we’re in the process of starting the paperwork.
Can you help? Sure.
If you are an attorney that specializes in 501(c)3 organizations, we’d like to hear from you. We’d REALLY love to have a law firm that wants to help sponsor this program as well. (Read that to mean “give us discounts because we’re doing this for charity.”) Otherwise, it’s a fairly expensive and time-consuming process: doubly so because we’re going to be an international charity so we need bank accounts and charity registrations in multiple countries and each of them has different laws and regulations. In short, this process could take us a few weeks, even after we select an attorney firm to help – depending on how fast and how diligent that attorney is. If you want to be our sponsor in this and have us spread the word about your firm, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m handling that part of the project as well as a few other tasks.
Press Releases and Media Coverage
This is another BIG thing that needs to be done right. Many of you remember me from the laptop incident. The one GOOD thing that came out of that is that when I call TV producers, they answer the phone! lol.
We’re currently talking to NBC about letting them have exclusive coverage of the project as it unfolds. Of all the networks I had to deal with over my own family’s thrust into the spotlight, NBC was the most kind to us and the most considerate. It felt only right to offer them the chance first to be part of this. We’ve spoken to a few producers from the TODAY show and they have expressed a serious interest in it. That also means we have to coordinate our press release with their camera crew and get them halfway around the world with when it comes time for the photo-opportunity.
Speaking of Photo Opportunity, that’s another big step. The UN has asked us to be on-site in Libya for the press release and photo op. That’s great and it’s awesome and we’re ready to do it! There are however some hurdles that need to be handled.
The biggest one is a Visa. Unless you’ve traveled abroad to a country that requires you to have one, you might not be familiar with the process. To travel to the UK for example, you don’t need a visa. Just show up, conduct your business, and fly back home. Libya is VERY different.
To even set foot in Libya as an American, you have to have a Visa. To get a visa, they (Libya) has to sponsor you and initiate the paperwork on their end. It can take days or it can take weeks. First you have to find a sponsor, get them to do all the paperwork, etc. We’re currently in communication with one of the royal families in Libya that has shown a lot of excitement to be part of Project Phoenix, so we’re making progress, but it’s not fast.
Once, it took me three months to get one. It just depends on how motivated the Libyan sponsor and the US State Department are to move quickly. It could literally be done in three days, but I’ve never seen it move that fast.
We have the school designed, the technology ready to be installed, and everything ready except for the school books. Wait. What? Why didn’t you think of that first?
Well, we did. The short story is – the company that SAID they had the publishing rights to produce student materials for Libya….umm… well…. they lied. They don’t have the contract. They haven’t had the contract since the end of the former regime and word amongst the locals is that they were getting kickbacks from the Gadhafi regime anyway – which means we definitely don’t want to work with them anyway!
So, a few days prior to getting the UN funding, we started our own hunt for a publishing firm. We thought we had this all locked up for a month, so we put it on the back burner. That’s what happens sometimes.
We’re currently working with people in both the UN and the Libyan government to help them work out their curriculum issues – which extend to the country as a whole, not just our project. There are some hurdles there that they’re struggling with, so we’ve offered our assistance to see if we can help fast-track things for them. Again, this is another step that’s not going to be fixed overnight, but we’re making significant progress.
Of course any multinational project involves banking. Money has to go from point A to point B. We are currently evaluating a few different international banks to determine who best to handle the funds. For one-time transactions international banking isn’t a big deal. Wire transfers are fairly painless, if costly, but we don’t want to be paying fees for every transfer between countries so we have to work with a bank that has a significant presence in both countries and the middle east. Sound easy? It’s not!
Cost Savings Analysis
This has been a CONSTANT process. While Dr. Gillian and myself are working on these administrative things, Chad and the fellows over at DEI Industrial have been revamping 3D designs, considering alternate sources for materials, evaluating costs from vendors, and performing a myriad of tasks aimed at lowering the price of the final school. Right now, the cost before curriculum and tablets, is around 52,000 with another $10,000 in shipping costs. We are reasonably expecting the full product to come in at less then $100,000. The long term goal is to cut that in half through corporate sponsorship and through outsourcing the construction itself to a firm in Jordan.
There are other costs that can’t be truly determined until we’re actually ON the ground doing this – things such as time/costs to train teachers, hotel, food and travel costs for overseas consultants working in Jordan or Libya. All of this is being factored into our sub-100K goal for each school, but the realities of working in the middle east are often much different than you read on paper.
Overall, the mere idea of creating a mobile school building for less than $100,00 is still an amazing achievement that no one else has ever come close to, so we’re incredibly proud of our progress thus far, but we’re still working on refining it. The lower we can reduce the costs, the more schools we can build. The more we can build at once, the less each one costs. It’s an ever-evolving project still.
Most importantly, we STILL need your help! I’m currently working on a kick-starter project for building the first school, but we have to be careful how we structure the concept for Kickstarter.com. They have a lot of rules about not supporting charity, so it has to be a “product” that we create. I’ll hopefully have that completed in the next few days and be able to share it with you at that time. Then we can get some REAL influx of sponsorship maybe!
These are some of the more important links you can share with others.
Don’t worry about the bit.ly look to them. If you’re not familiar with Bitly, it shortens REALLY LONG web addresses to more manageable lengths. Otherwise they don’t always cut and paste correctly. Using those links insures that everyone can see them regardless of whether they’re on Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. It also allows us to track those links by how active they are, so it’s good for us too.
Donate Directly Via Paypal
The History of Project Phoenix
Making it Happen: How?
Project Phoenix (all posts related to it)
Our Official GoFundMe Page: