Supporting village children into school in Benin

Sep 24, 2013

September 2013 Update

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

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
May 28, 2013

May 2013 Update

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.
Jan 24, 2013

January 2013 Update

Djidjoho Bonou
Djidjoho Bonou

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.

Merci, Bonou'

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.

Jacqueline Ahoton helps at home
Jacqueline Ahoton helps at home
Alain Oussa
Alain Oussa
Tousin and friends
Tousin and friends
Oct 15, 2012

October 2012 Update

The tractor in action in Benin!
The tractor in action in Benin!

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. 

Dedication of the bikes and organ
Dedication of the bikes and organ

Aug 14, 2012

August 2012 Update

Geoff makes final checks to the loaded container
Geoff makes final checks to the loaded container

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.

Thank you.

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Project Leader

David Steiner

Chief Executive
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Supporting village children into school in Benin