Supporting village children into school in Benin

 
$4,890 $7,208
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Children in Benin
Children in Benin

The residential children’s centre in Affame, named in memory of Geoff Burnett, is now ready for occupation.

This year's visit in September will mark an interesting change in my involvement with Benin. For the first time since I started going there in 2009, there are no on-going building projects. This time the emphasis for me will be on helping HANDS AROUND THE WORLD (HATW) local representatives themselves to raise running costs for the centre.

The obvious route for this is to build on the work started on lifting agriculture from the current subsistence level. The tractor and implements provided through HATW are already leading to improvements in soil fertility by enabling farmers to incorporate crop residues rather than the traditional burning. I am now removing my engineer’s hat and, calling on a lifetime of living on a farm, will be using a soil test kit donated by Andrew W to check on actual levels of fertility as a first step towards improving outputs. Andrew, an agriculturalist, hopes to visit Benin in the future to further this work.

Forestry plays an important role in this area and the Iroko tree is considered of great value. Unfortunately there is no local knowledge of how to propagate this tree. However some work at a Nigerian university has developed a system of stratification for the Iroko seeds to enable germination. I will be taking the very simple equipment (i.e. a thermometer and schedule) to start a programme of raising plants for sale.

Work on the orphan support programme will now continue under the able guidance of Nigel England who will be accompanying me to Benin on 22 September. I'll leave him to introduce himself.

Nigel writes: "In 2009 I was involved in a trip to Kenya to build a school with volunteers and local tradesmen and women. This was an amazing experience. I now have the spare time due to retirement as a children's services manager from a large charity. HATW has given me the opportunity to use my skills in child protection and engineering (20 plus years in each) to support the project in Benin. I will be looking to help enable sustainable systems to ensure safe and appropriate child development."

Working in the Fields
Working in the Fields
Children in Affame, Benin
Children in Affame, Benin
Hard at work!
Hard at work!

In these days following the death of our long-term project co-ordinator Geoff Burnett, it is very important to reinforce the links and ensure the continuity of this project. He's a hard act to follow! Geoff was such an enthusiast, and devoted to the people of Benin. Indeed, when our next volunteers go out in September, they have agreed to take out some of his ashes to scatter on the banks of the River Oueme which meant so much to him. Our African partners too are much moved by this gesture.

Geoff's extremely valuable work in support of vulnerable and under-priviledged children continues, with 164 currently being helped, of whom 104 are in school, 28 in 'seconde cycle' (sixth form), 20 in apprenticeships and 12 in university. Nigel England our new co-ordinator will be visiting and getting to know them in the autumn.

Dick Wheelock will be spending time there too again, using his agricultural engineering skills and experience as well as some new parts to help keep the tractor working hard. A drill for assisting with the planting of maize will be in his luggage!

Meanwhile construction work on the Affame children's residential centre 'Chez Papa Geoff' is proceeding well. The shell of the building is complete as is the exterior rendering, the ceilings are up, wiring is under way and just painting remains before the building comes fully to life and children can start to move in later this year.

We look forward to the next steps and hope honestly and appropriately to be able for long into the future to make a really positive difference in the lives of many needy children. Thank you for your help, and please continue to support us in our work!

The Workhorse
The Workhorse
'Chez Papa Geoff'
Geoff Burnett
Geoff Burnett

It is very sad to have to record the death of a good friend, and now we must remember the passing of Geoff Burnett, for many years our project co-ordinator for the HATW projects in Benin, West Africa, and a tireless fighter for the disadvantaged.

He will be sadly missed, but happily the orphanage he established will be named 'Chez Papa Geoff' in his memory. May he rest in peace.

His funeral and a celebration of his life will be on Tuesday 24 February.

We very much hope to be able to continue his work, and are delighted to report that Nigel England, ably supported by Dick Wheelock, will help ensure a future for this link by acting as our new Project Co-ordinator. Although Nigel has not visited Benin before, he has building skills and experience, has been a HATW volunteer at an orphans' project in Kenya and has many years' experience of working with children in care in the UK.

Of course we look forward too to your ongoing support and help. Thank you.

Best wishes,

David

Adjidole orphanage now roofed
Adjidole orphanage now roofed

In recent times I have been talking often with Geoff Burnett and Dick Wheelock about progress with the Adjidole orphanage building in Benin. Dick visited twice in 2014 with other volunteers and helped move the building along, also embarking on the drilling of boreholes. Unfortunately, Geoff has been unwell and for the first time in 12 years was unable to visit this year. We have however received regular encouraging reports on progress, along with some photos from Dieu Donne Kakpo our link partner in the country, showing the roofing and subsequently the plastering/rendering of the Adjidole building well under way. 

Happily, although the initial building funds have now been used up, we are delighted to have been able to secure further money to allow the work to continue, especially as the weather is currently good. Dick feels that the team are very much on budget and producing good quality work. He writes: 

'The shell of the main Adjidole building is now complete but wiring, ceilings, rendering and painting are still required. The boundary wall is also complete – but the necessity of moving the construction of this wall forward has involved some changes to the timing of the original plan. 

The expenditure of the newly agreed funds should be quite sufficient to get the orphanage open and working with up to 10 or 12 children. We then need to allow time to see if there proves to be both a demand for and the ability to manage more children, before taking further steps.' 

In relation to the child support programme, we are in a more unsettled position due to Geoff’s enforced inability to visit this year. I do hope that Guillaume (who volunteered in 2014) will be able to look at this when he visits later in the year, supported by Dick who is hoping to go out again in 2015.  

Naturally, we are keen to supervise the support programme closely, whilst feeling confident that Dieu Donne is very honest and worthy of support. 

This is a successful project, consistently doing well and supporting many needy children! Thank you for your support and interest in the past. With your help, we hope to be able to make a positive difference to many more children in the future.

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Rendering the Walls
Rendering the Walls
Lovely clean water!
Lovely clean water!
One of the lovely Children in Affame
One of the lovely Children in Affame
An enduring feature of our projects in Benin since 2001 - without a break - has been our determination to give volunteer support to the African teams of volunteers in the remote rural region of Affame, Benin. Our African hosts have carefully identified the most pressing needs within their community following consultation with local chiefs and representatives of elected groups.
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We started by helping them to restore the residence for nurses of the Health Centre (which had been virtually destroyed by fire) necessitating their use of beds in the Centre, taking up much needed space there. We moved on to the installation of water and electricity in the Health Centre. This facility was sustained for another eight years until, unfortunately, the flat roof yielded to the tropical rainstorms. But good news!  The Health Authority, subsequently built a new Health Centre acknowledging the joint efforts of both volunteer groups. 
 
Next we were approached by the Head Teacher of the Dogba school, situated across the river Oueme from Affame. Three traditionally built classrooms had been washed away during the rainy months and help was needed to support the building of replacements which might endure the annual flooding. These buildings on stilts are now fully operational. 
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It was during this time that we came to understand the plight of orphaned youngsters in relation to school attendance. School fees had to be paid, uniforms were required at secondary level and difficult daily journeys of up to 15km had to be made by many.  A UK Charity - Inside Out Trust - a 'prison-based' organisation donated ninety cycles one year to help with these journeys. Understandably with such physical exertions it was decided that a daily lunch would also be needed if the young people were to get the maximum benefit from their efforts.
   
Currently there are more than one hundred orphans in the programme, with ten now at University, sixteen have completed or are pursuing apprenticeships and the great majority are attending schools or colleges. 
 
MANY THANKS INDEED TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE MADE THIS POSSIBLE WITH YOUR MOST GENEROUS SUPPORT.
 
Earlier this year five HATW volunteers  - Dick, David, Mary, Guillaume and Adeline - were in Affame assisting with the construction of the orphan rescue and training centre Adjidole which is now nearing completion. The last full Global Giving report  was submitted by them in July and included the additional element of the work done by Mary - a recently retired Ophthalmologist. The African team have subsequently taken twenty-seven persons to the specialist hospital in Paracou where a variety of conditions have been/are being successfully treated. Plastering, painting and the fitting of doors and windows remain to be achieved, and all financial assistance towards these goals will be most gratefully received. 
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Progress at Adjidole has been remarkable given the amazing weather extremes, the well-drilling to a depth in excess of thirty metres was successful and the training facilities for Carpentry, Red-Oil production, Motor-Vehicle Maintenance, Bread-making and Tailoring are due to follow-on when the Centre is ready to receive its' first residents. Soon our focus will be to furnish and equip the Centre. Dieudonne, Albert, Jean, Felicienne, Delphine and Blandine will be the initial staffing team and Shadrack, the local baker will be the first with a training responsibility. It is estimated that an annual sum of $15,000 would sustain this level of staffing.
 
Our volunteers Guillaume and Adeline, from France, are aiming to continue their association with the projects during 2015 and they recently revisited the Hands Around The World base in Monmouth and met up with me in Lancashire too. Their skills with computers in particular will be a great asset.
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We look forward to lots of exciting new developments in the coming years! Please continue your support, and watch this space!
Dogba Village scene
Dogba Village scene
The Adjidole Centre starts to go up 2014
The Adjidole Centre starts to go up 2014

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Organization

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE, United Kingdom
http://www.hatw.org.uk

Project Leader

David Steiner

Chief Executive
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Supporting village children into school in Benin