Supporting orphan children and young people from remote villages of Benin, West Africa, enabling them to continue in education.
It is pleasing to be able to report from Dieudonne Kakpo, our local project co-ordinator, that the large numbers of youngsters being supported are continuing to respond positively in the programme.
Of the eight currently attending the University of Abomey/Calavi, seven are male and one is female. She is studying Geography for the four years of the course and is living in University accommodation. Another student, Djidjoho Bonou, studying Physics and Chemistry writes:
‘It is with great pleasure that I am writing this letter to you to fully present my thanks. It is ten years since I entered the family of orphans. Before the death of my father in 2001, I made it my life to help him with his farming work. Then when he died, with the kind support of my uncles I began my school attendance.
Four years after my father died, when I was in the second year of the Elementary Course (CE 2) it became difficult for my uncles, but in 2006 I was fortunate to be given a bicycle by Abopha (the charity supported by HATW).
I continued to benefit from your support to the present day, and offer my thanks to you and all your partners at various levels.
During 2012 I was pleased to visit most of the ten orphans currently engaged in apprenticeships. The procedure varies according to the training being given. Some gain their permit after just one year but most are committed for 3-4 years. In this time they live with the employer's family. We pay about £160 for the apprenticeship, plus around £200 for the issue of the Diploma.
Jacqueline Ahoton started a three year apprenticeship last year, coming from the village to a very well-organised hairdressing salon on the outskirts of the city. Living is hard within a very large family but she is happy and doing well on the course.
It is a considerable challenge to keep track of the more than sixty young people currently supported to attend school or college from more than six rural villages in this region. However once he has provided uniforms, paid the parental contribution to school fees and purchased basic equipment, the school personnel are very cooperative with Dieudonne in monitoring their attendance and progress.
One such pupil, Alain Oussa wrote recently to Hands Around The World to express his gratitude for the excellent support given enabling him to complete his college course this year. He is one of fifteen children orphaned in 1999 when his father died.
‘It gives me heartfelt joy that I am writing this note to you. First of all I send best wishes for the new year to Hands Around The World. I also offer very sincere thanks for your support which God alone may justly reward.
My father was a farmer in a small village of Wete. He had married three wives and was the father of fifteen children. He died in 1999, 14 years ago this year. My mother, Celine Gbenou, is the third wife who works as a domestic assistant to a family in Affame.
In 2001 I began the C1 (Course of Initiation) with my mother’s help and she alone supported me in CM2 (2nd Year Middle Course). In spite of financial hardship I gained my CEP - Certificate of Primary Studies in 2005 and my BEPC - Diploma of the First Cycle, in 2011.
I was able to pay one half of the education expenses by working at weekends and during the holidays. My tutor paid the other half.
This year God and my father who had left the visible world sent me people of good will, representatives from Hands Around The World, within a programme supported by a very generous sponsor. So now I may successfully finish my studies.
Odette, another of the fifteen children who is now 14 and in the last year of secondary school, will hope to follow me to college. I thank HATW for the support given and pray that God will bless their work.’
Finally I refer to a six-year old lad, Tousin, shown here with three other younger children during a six week break from his adoptive mother. We are pleased to be able to assist him to attend school but he is just one of an increasing number of orphaned or abandoned children for whom the adoptive families are struggling to provide.
The financial help you are generously giving to the children of this caring but vulnerable community is used directly to the benefit of the children and young people. It is well evident that their lives greatly change when you help in this way.
Many thanks to you all.
Dick Wheelock and I timed our arrival in Benin to coincide with the arrival of the container which we had loaded in Monmouth and the timing worked well. It held a generously donated a Fordson Major tractor and many ploughing and other farming accessories, also a number of bicycles for intended use by the youngsters enabling them to get to school. Dick also linked with a church in Monmouth and obtained an organ to give to the Affame Methodist Church. We took redundant medical equipment, and literally hundreds of pencils!
It was decided that the container should remain in Affame for added security and so after having off-loaded the tractor in the market place we faced the challenge of placing the container within the ‘Kakpo’ family compound. Dieudonne had successfully negotiated the release of the container from the port and its transport to Affame, but now he needed a lorry with a crane. Fortunately he located one and between the tractor pulling and the lorry lifting and pushing the container was left securely in place.
The organ is in use in the church and the organist wrote reiterating the great thanks he had expressed in church. ‘Merci beaucoup et que Dieu vous benisse’.
Medical equipment will be offered to the Health Centres of Hounvige and Aschonsa.
Achilles was pleased that he had been able to use the three classrooms on stilts during the school year 2011/12 but he also expressed his concern that the plastering and painting had yet to be done. The construction relies extensively on the use of re-enforcing bars and these are liable to corrode if not fully covered. However, this task is difficult to achieve and can only be done between the two rainy seasons when sand can be taken from the river and cement can be safely transported by pirogue and lorry from Affame.
In order to make optimum use of donations, keeping the transport costs to a minimum and making bulk purchase of cement would be essential. Thus, it would make the most economic sense if this remaining task could be undertaken when the funding for the total estimated cost of £2500 became available. We are currently £1800 short of this target and so further financial assistance is urgently requested please.
Amid great excitement, Geoff Burnett, Dick Wheelock and friends in July gathered lots of different donated goods to send in a container to our partners in Benin.
Items sent included a carefully-chosen and refurbished old Fordson tractor with plough and other implements, a 100 year old anvil, a cement mixer, various hand tools, a church organ, 42 bikes, many pencils and a printer!
The container has now arrived in Cotonou and been collected by Dick, Dieu Donne Kakpo and Geoff and is on its way to Affame.
We expect to hear news shortly and trust all is well! We'll keep you up to date with the latest news as soon as possible.
The three Dogba School classrooms have been structurally finished and all are in daily use for teaching. The village children - pupils at the school - took responsibility with their parents and the headteacher for clearing the site of building materials and creating attractive and dry learning spaces. The recent flooding did not enter the building though dugouts were used to ferry pupils to the school.
There remains only the essential plastering and painting of the structure to provide the best chance of sustaining its use for many years to come. Funding of £2000 is currently being sought for this purpose. Can you help please?
In order to support the staff and provide a basic level of sustained income, volunteers will visit the community this summer and will be taking a tractor and farming implements, computers and bicycles to facilitate secondary school attendance. All considerations of making financial donations to this next development will be most welcome.
HANDS AROUND THE WORLD supporters currently sponsor 52 orphans to attend primary and secondary schools with 6 years of funding promised. The programme started in April 2010. 4 students are now also sponsored to attend Calavi/Abomey University in Cotonou. Dieudonne (DD) has escorted them to the University for their enrollment following their success in the Baccalaureate. Also within this programme there are 7 apprentices in current training.
Medical support has been given to five young people in Affame with funding from past volunteer group members and others. Those helped are Aubin, Herve, Clement, Mikhail and Soulange.
Every Saturday around 16 orphans attend computer lessons with Natalie (DD’s wife) or Adeline Affaton, with help from HATW supporters.
The three Dogba classrooms are very nearly finished. Two are in use and the third requires a row of roofing tiles before completion. A stairway structure will be modified to permit two entry points. Plastering and painting has not been done yet but is essential.
Flooding this year lasted for three months but did not enter the three classrooms. Our visit necessitated a long crossing by pirogue (dug-out canoe) - estimated to be around one mile from Aschonsa - and a walk in the river and mud up to our knees!
Dieudonne has the first contract for the production of roofing tiles using the Parry machine. He aims to supply around 600 tiles to Raphael for the village. He was given start-up funding for cement from 2 volunteers.
Children who have lost both parents are particularly vulnerable and following the death of one parent, sometimes the children are rejected or are maltreated by the new wife or new husband.
There is the need for a centre for the protection of young orphans and young physically handicapped and for their training and development which we would like to see undertaken through HATW soon. 600 sq. metres of land in Affame has been purchased and cleared in preparation for a centre
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