HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD seeks to help vulnerable children around the world, encouraging enthusiastic and well-prepared volunteers to offer practical help, skill-sharing, support and friendship.
Aug 25, 2015

August 2015 Update

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
Aug 21, 2015

August 2015 Update

Boys playing at Mrs. Sianga
Boys playing at Mrs. Sianga's house

I have just returned from a few weeks in Monze, where I had the opportunity to spend some time with Mrs. Sianga, her the staff and the children from PIZZ School. I spoke to most of the children who have sponsors in the UK and it is a delight to see how they have developed since my last visit. Very often I notice that the student has a new confidence and a spark which wasn't around previously.

It is clear that the school provides a lot more than just an academic education. The children at the school would be unlikely to attend any other school. Although education at primary level is free, the children are expected to buy uniforms, have shoes, buy notebooks etc.. Many families cannot even provide these basic items. Most of the children have lost one or both parents and the health of a parent or guardian is often poor. We get some idea of the poverty when we realise that a school meal or free uniform is a great attraction to the children. Some of the children even save some of their meal to take home to feed hungry brothers and sisters.

Hands around the World is trying to help the children reach their full potential and so continues to fund some children through secondary school and even university. We would like to do more. It is clear that the school is making a huge difference to the children despite limited funding. The teachers are dedicated and are achieving examination results which far exceed those attained in government schools – despite receiving wages that are a fraction of those their government counterparts receive.

In Zambia the opportunities for young people are limited and without an education the prospects are very poor. I asked two of the older children what they would be doing if they weren't at PIZZ School and both said that they would be “on the streets”. The boy added that he might be in prison like some of his friends and the girl said she might be dead - “because it's dangerous on the streets”.

PIZZ School is providing hope for these children. They can look at some of the former students and see that they too could have a good future. I met Boniface this year. Boniface is a very confident and interesting young man who was a former PIZZ School student. He is now a singer and is popular as a performer at local events. He was happy to write a song for PIZZ School. It stresses the importance of an education – particularly for a girl. He says that (in Zambia) a girl without an education is likely to have problems, she might not be respected by her husband and can be chased from the home. If she is educated she can help support the family better and have a better life. It is clear that Boniface is a talented singer and can put together a professional video. He says that without PIZZ School he would never have been able to develop his talent.

His video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4imMH7UYqaw&feature=youtu.be

The new classroom block is being built – when I left the concrete slab was about to be laid. Jane, one of our volunteers has just spent three weeks with the children providing extra holiday activities and providing some tuition in computing. She also raised money so that about 100 children could visit Victoria Falls and other places of interest in Livingstone. For about £10 each the children had an experience that they will never forget. So many people in Zambia can never find the resources to see this “Natural Wonder of the World” though it is so close. The headmaster believes that taking students who are about to sit exams often gives them an added incentive to work hard. Their horizons are suddenly expanded and they realise that maybe there are opportunities that they hadn't previously imagined. These trips are not possible within the ordinary school budget.

I left Monze in awe of the wonderful work done by the dedicated staff and wishing that I could do more. We currently provide £20,000 - £30,000 p.a. to pay for regular costs – including teachers salaries and some school fees for secondary and university students. Every penny is well spent but I am aware that it isn't enough. Buildings and equipment are necessary but without well motivated teachers we can achieve nothing, a lot has been achieved over the past 10 years but a lot more is needed to ensure the children are supported all the way.

Your support can make a huge difference, please continue to back the efforts of Mrs. Sianga and her staff.

Thank You


Chris Barrell

Boniface
Boniface
PIZZ Teachers
PIZZ Teachers
Mawini, now a medical student in Lusaka
Mawini, now a medical student in Lusaka
Aug 4, 2015

August 2015 Update

Having visited this project recently and spent a month with the DCC team along with fellow UK volunteer Lydia Bazeley, I was inspired to make this video of the centre and tell something about its inspiring work with local children. I hope you like it!

https://youtu.be/ovDoOmqodNk

These children come from very poor backgrounds in a scattered rural community where the stigma of disability is still a major problem. The DCC works hard not just to help individual children and families, but also to increase awareness and educate the wider community. It is quite a challenge!

Thank you for your support in the past. Please keep helping us to make a long-lasting difference in these special young lives!

 
   

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