Supporting village children into school in Benin

 
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Preparing to drill a Borehole
Preparing to drill a Borehole

Many thanks to all of you who helped us raise £870 in our recent Eye Appeal to support Mary Kelly's work in Benin. This was a wonderful effort!

Mary is currently evaluating the possibilities and assessing how best to spend the funds to achieve maximum benefit.

With our other 4 volunteers just returned from their work on the construction of the new residential unit for needy children in Affame, and a couple of boreholes nearby, we hope to have more information and pictures to share with you in the next week or two. These pictures are a taster for what will follow shortly! Watch this space...

The Tractor always comes in handy!
The Tractor always comes in handy!
Mary eye testing
Mary eye testing

Dr Mary Kelly is volunteering currently as an ophthalmologist with HANDS AROUND THE WORLD in Benin, West Africa (looking mainly for children with eye infections needing treatment, and children who need cataract surgery).

She has gone out with 4 others who are helping build and develop, in Affame village, an accommodation unit for orphaned children some of whom also have disabilities. 

We have just received a report from Mary about her work so far, after her first 2 weeks. 

She has already seen lots of people in the clinic! Many need glasses; 4 need cataract surgery soon; several need treatment for corneal ulcers, a growth called pterygium, etc.; many need antibiotic drops or tablets. 

Last week Mary also did a session in the local secondary school where 26 children who said they could not see the blackboard were tested – only 4 would benefit from glasses, others mostly needing antibiotics and follow up. One youth aged 20 needs cataract surgery. (More visits are planned.) 

We are now targeting support for her work through a Global Giving appeal which offers valuable 50% matched funding on donations made between Mondays 3 and 10 March. Cost of treatment is a major barrier to local people - cataract surgery (for example) costs £100! 

Please help if you can. Thank you so much.

Struggling against the Elements
Struggling against the Elements

We have become accustomed to extreme hardship in the world resulting from drought and the antithesis, flooding. In Benin, and in particular in the region of the River Oueme, the issue of the timing of the arrival of the tropical rainstorms is greatly significant. The staple crop of the area, maize, depends on critical irrigation for satisfactory growth, but so also does the capacity for effective construction. The Dogba classrooms were completed to replace three traditionally thatched structures lost to flooding and the newly constructed rooms, in a very remote district across the river was bravely achieved by a determined African team.

Now they are experiencing big natural challenges in the building of the rescue centre for homeless and physically compromised youngsters.

(Photo 1)

It had been decided that the Centre – Adjidole – would best be situated within a central area of the village for the safety of the children and to give them access to schools and community playing fields. Land for sale was not easy to find and natural water courses needed to be diverted. Now achieved!

A voluntary community support group was formed in Benin, the former mayor, two current headteachers and a recently retired primary head, now the representative for womens welfare have joined forces with the village chief and King Allocheou of Bonou. The immediate Centre team of six represent three faith groups - Methodists, the Church of the Celeste and the village Muslim community.

Guidelines for the day-to-day running of the Centre have been agreed. Admission to Adjidole will be governed by evident need and the Centre will be a non-violent community working towards self-sufficiency.  

The construction is now proceeding well (Photo 2).

The tractor - kindly donated in 2012 - is proving to be a real asset. Foundations have been laid, walls constructed and reinforcing bars in place.

The versatility of the tractor is soon to be tested when the machinery for the well construction, recently sent from the UK, arrives in Benin. The winch unit and drilling rig are due at a time to coincide with the arrival of a volunteer team from the UK and France next February.

(Photos 3 and 4)

Shadrack, from the village bakery, known well to previous UK volunteers and now eighteen, is working with the team. The Centre Leader is currently investigating linking with a project in Kenya ‘Baking our way to a sustainable future’ initiated by an Australian charity; Shadrack’s expertise could help to bring this to fruition at Adjidole. This initiative might be attractive to potential sponsors. Your donations would be well received.

Mary, one of the volunteers and an ophthalmologist, recently retired from Hereford Eye Hospital. She will associate with Health Centres of the Bonou region. Depending on financial donations, minor operations will be arranged, hopefully to coincide with the annual visit of the Mercy Ship Anastasia in Cotonou. A donation of $150 would meet the cost of a cataract operation, transport and follow-up for one young person. Can you please help?

It is pleasing to have received letters from two of the orphans supported in this project recently. Djidjoho, in his second year studying Physics and Chemistry at the University, concludes: "Please accept the sincere expression of my deep gratitude."

Alain, currently studying for his Baccalaureate at a post-sixteen college, tells of his struggle since the death in 1999 of his father (who left three wives and fifteen children). With the project's support, Alain gained a Certificate of Primary Studies in 2005 and a Diploma of the First cycle in 2011. He hopes to progress to University in the future.

(Photo 5)

Here you see representatives of the orphan group of more than one hundred generously assisted with funding, thus enabling them to attend schools, colleges and universities and complete apprenticeships. The project aims to sustain this programme; development of the Adjidole residential centre will extend help to the homeless and meet some of their most pressing needs.

The next challenge for the centre will be to secure funding for furniture, bedding, mosquito nets, chairs, tables and a computer facility.

The Spring 2014 Hands Around The World volunteers will help the African team in planning to meet the challenge.

Many thanks indeed for the help you have given and hopefully may consider giving in the future.

Construction proceeding well
Construction proceeding well
The Tractor - a real Asset!
The Tractor - a real Asset!
The Tractor shows its versatility
The Tractor shows its versatility
Some of the helped Children and Young People
Some of the helped Children and Young People
Dogba School Opening Ceremony
Dogba School Opening Ceremony

Supporting orphan children and young people from remote villages of Benin, West Africa, enabling them to continue in education.

Throughout the twelve years of involvement of Hands Around The World in this community, in the region of the Oueme Plateau, every effort has been made to incorporate the principles of self-sufficiency and sustainability in all supported activities. Volunteers from the UK continue to ‘give-a-hand’ with developments which are considered essential by the African team members.

The project to replace three classrooms in the village of Dogba which had been lost in floods was successfully completed this year and following the official opening the classrooms are now fully in use.

To enable youngsters to progress to distant Secondary Schools more than 100 cycles have been allocated within this region.

It is pleasing to report that currently the team enables 88 orphaned young people to attend schools in five villages. 41 of those are girls who traditionally would have been expected to remain at home or to be working in the fields. They are all expected to pay the parental contribution – around $30 - and the charges for uniform and school equipment. This is one example of the tangible way in which your generous donations help.

There are now 16 apprentices, some of whom make the uniforms and learn to repair cycles. Hairdressing and building skills are the most popular training programmes. Charges vary but an average sum of $350 for each orphan covers the apprenticeship training period - mostly 3 or 4 years - and $200 is needed for accreditation and the administration of the Diploma.

12 young orphans - 10 males and 2 females - are currently attending University in the cities of Cotonou and Porto Novo and so residential fees, course attendance expenses and transport costs have to be found.  Around $1000 covers the total cost for a student to graduate. Entry is open to a potential student who gains the Baccalaureate and who can pay the fees, there is no other barrier to admission. Many thanks in advance if you think you can help towards meeting this expense.  

Next major project:

Having discovered that there are increasing numbers of homeless children in both the cities and in our rural region we have been requested to support the development of a residential rescue and training centre in Affame.

Land, near the village playing field has been purchased, a three-year building project has been approved and a group of volunteers is due to visit next February after the local team has established the building foundations. Sponsorship of a volunteer might be an attractive alternative to a personal visit?

The centre will be named ‘Adjidole’, a Fon word meaning ‘Children,- our future’.  The plan will be to include an internet facility at the centre consistent with communications development in Benin so inevitably costs will rise! All financial assistance will be well received. 

Later, the training facility will be built near to both the secondary school and with access to trading routes. It is thought most likely that there will be training in Red Oil production (the local equivalent of Olive Oil made from Palm Nuts); Tailoring/Hairdressing; Carpentry and Motor Vehicle Maintenance. Subsequently services will be charged and products sold to defray costs of Adjidole.

Having received the generous gift of a tractor in 2012 and new tyres earlier this year, members of the African team have an excellent facility which enables them to assist with community agricultural development as well as building-site preparation and transport of building materials.

Pump-priming local community initiatives has been shown to be effective in this region especially when followed by volunteer visits.

It is always good to hear from prospective volunteers! Please ring 01600 740317 or email david@hatw.org.uk

Many thanks indeed to all who have contributed to the Benin projects so far.

Dogba Children in School
Dogba Children in School
The Tractor at Work
The Tractor at Work
I visited Benin during April and May this year and was able to visit Dogba village and meet many of the young people who benefit from the generous donations received. Dieudonne Kakpo, our Co-ordinator in the country, continues to monitor the progress being made by each of them.
During this time twenty-five large containers of paint were taken on motorbikes to the edge of the river and then transferred in a ‘dug-out’ canoe to the village before being carried on heads to the school around half-a-mile further. After an amazing tropical rainstorm the motorbike journeys were very tricky!  
The painting of the three classrooms on stilts in Dogba has been completed and they are now in daily use.
The Headteacher, Mr. Achilles Degnion, came to Affame to express his pleasure and gratitude for this exceptional facility.
Discussion in the community between the African team, Hands Around the World volunteers, Headteachers and the village Chief, has confirmed as reported previously that there is a need to focus future activity on identified vulnerable children.
The Benin Government does have programmes to eliminate the abandonment, trafficking and abuse of children but serious concerns have been expressed in this community and our support is urgently requested.
Plans have been approved for the construction of a residential ‘rescue’ centre and training facility in the village of Affame for children of the wider community and we all are aiming to provide a closely supervised arrangement conforming to high standards of child-care.
Suitable land has been purchased with good access to schools, the health centre and the village playing field and Dick Wheelock from Hands Around the World is willing to play a key role in assisting with the construction. 
Future running costs will be governed by the number of children admitted - with the need to provide food, clothing and education costs, but the initial expenditure beyond the construction will be for bedding, including mosquito nets, chairs and tables.
Last year the team received a kind donation of a tractor and for a modest contribution they are using it to assist neighbours with their very strenuous farming demands.
Additionally they hope to raise funds by selling water once the well is in place, and eventually they expect to sell products from the training facilities.
Clearly this will be a challenging development; all donations will be most gratefully received. Many thanks indeed to all who have contributed to the Benin projects so far.

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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