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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
Many thanks indeed to all who have contributed to the Benin projects so far.
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.
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