Dieu Donne our link partner in Benin remembers with us Geoff Burnett who passed away a year ago.
He writes: "Un an déjà que notre très cher papa et ami Geoff nous a quitté; beaucoup de courage à la famille Burnett. C'est le moment pour nous de se souvenir de son passer. Nous avons perdu un grand homme, un homme sage, travailleur, un homme de développement, soucieux de l'avenir des enfants démunis vulnérable - en un mot un leader. Pour notre Fondation le 8 février est une journée de réflexion. Pour cela nous nous sommes réunis pour réfléchir sur nos parcours. Octobre 2000 au 8 Février 2015 beaucoup de choses ont été réalisés; ce fut une fierté de connaître un tel homme. Merci DD"
"It is one year already since our dear friend and father Geoff left us; I wish lots of courage to the Burnett family. It's time for us to remember his passing. We lost a great man, a wise man, a worker, a human developer concerned about the future of vulnerable children in need - in a word a leader. For our Foundation, February 8th is a day of reflection. For this reason we gathered on our journey to think a while. Between October 2000 and 8 February 2015 a lot has been achieved. I am relly proud to have known such a man. Thank you, DD"
Since the last report we have been able to secure funding for the education element of the project. This means that approx 12 new children will be funded to start and finish their secondary education every year. (6 years of further education). Even if the worst happened and the funding stream came to an end there will be 6 years of ongoing funding deposited. Every child who starts secondary education will be funded for the full 6 years.
We have also secured additional funding to complete the kitchen and outbuildings, also to buy beds and mattresses for the first intake of 24 children to the orphanage. A start-up cost and payment for the on site co-ordinator have been agreed.
We have clarified that funds raised from the land and crops, plus the lease of the tractor, should be used for the ongoing costs of running the orphanage. Now we are investigating whether purchasing land rather than renting would benefit the security of the project. The on-site well is completed and new filters have been sent to ensure the new pump will not silt up. There is a manual well less than 200 yards away in case of an emergency.
Systems are being created that monitor the achievement and attendance of children from each of the 5 secondary schools. Benin is signed up to the UN agreement of the rights of the child and a code of conduct is in place for the children accessing the orphanage.
We are as confident as we can be that staff on site have the local knowledge to appropriately assess and evaluate the children attending the orphanage. One co-ordinator will go out to monitor the projects in the Spring and one in the Autumn.
Thank you very much for your support! We hope that this excellent project will continue to go from strength to strength and benefit many more children!
We are delighted that Hands Around the World has been able to identify sponsorship for building the much-needed classrooms at Athi School in 2016!
The project will enable the building of a block of four classrooms, together with toilet and water facilities; the aim is to start the work in mid-February and to complete the work within a year, providing the disabled children with water-tight classrooms and enough space to teach the children in smaller groups. The work on the therapy room, together with planned classroom building, means that the children at Athi Special School will have much-needed improved facilities.
An update from Oliver K, manager of the Disability Centre (DCC): “We completed painting the therapy room at Athi before we closed for the Christmas break and the building is looking good. The DCC workshop and power connection has also been completed and we are just about to start use of the equipment that relied on higher load of electricity and hopefully we can now get started in producing more items to better the lives of the children we serve.”
A planned project visit to our Athi/DCC partners will enable us to evaluate progress of previous initiatives in person, see the building work and assess other needs.
How would you like to help these children living with disabilities? Can you spare time to visit and share your skills – physiotherapy or specialist teaching? Or do you have technology skills in making individual mobility aids that you could share in the workshop at DCC?
Contact email@example.com for more information or to arrange a volunteering visit; or donate directly to making a difference in the lives of children living with health challenges who attend Athi Special school.
Our idea of what it would be like volunteering in Rwanda was similar to our first view of Kigali from the air – rather foggy! But like the sky above the runway, things soon became clear as we settled into a happy month teaching English in Bugarama, a small town in the SW corner of Rwanda.
Wendy writes:Before we left England, seasoned Hands Around the World volunteers told us that the most rewarding aspect of the volunteering experience would be forming relationships with the people we would meet. As I look back now on our time in Rwanda, I have to agree. I think of:
Thierry with his big grin and black homburg hat, festooned with our multiple cameras, enthusiastically taking pictures of and for us all while simultaneously talking on his mobile phone!
Carpophole with his deep voice (a gentle giant), showing us the books he looks after in Muko School library (meagre by European standards but a source of great pride to him).
Wellars with his quiet smile, meticulously translating a Kinyarwanda sermon for us during a 3.5 hour church service. (I will remember those five key points he translated long after most English sermons have faded from memory)
Jean and his wife with their amazing hospitality, welcoming us into their home to meet their gorgeous toddler twin girls and presenting us with lovely matching outfits - made by a local tailor to measurements cunningly obtained via a note from an anonymous well wisher (alias Jean)!
Our students (experienced teachers themselves), patiently welcoming our efforts to learn their names. Always enthusiastic ... lively ... keeping us on our toes. “Teacher, you told us meals in English are called ‘lunch and supper’, but here on my phone Google says they can be ‘dinner’ and ‘tea’.” Oops, Felix, you’re right - hasty explanation needed!
Georgine and Japhet, heads of Muko and Mihabura Schools – hospitable, generous, humbling us with their welcome and appreciation of our efforts
Joel, Esther, Rehema, Rachel, Louise – and others too many to mention (working with fellow volunteers Dennis and Myfanwy to improve the school buildings) - our lunchtime companions, singing with us in an impromptu choir, playing games and sports with us, and laughing kindly at our unsuccessful attempts to walk with a bowl on our head... something they manage with effortless grace
Children ... everywhere - eager, laughing, grabbing our hands and then running away, startled by their own boldness. The parents too that we met in the market or on the streets of Bugarama – their initial shyness of the “muzungu” (white person) replaced with a beaming smile when I greeted them in my (albeit scanty) Kinyarwanda. I loved Rwanda – its beautiful scenery, sunshine, interesting culture. But most of all, I loved the Rwandan people. They have very few of the things we would consider essential for a good life in material terms, but they have a large measure of warmth, friendliness, good humour and love that means they find their way very quickly into your heart. Why was I feeling tearful singing a song at church back in England, I wondered. Oh yes, I know ... it’s because the last time I sang that song it was in a dusty classroom in a far-off little African town with people who have become my friends. And I miss them!
Peter writes:What can I add when my wife has already said it all? A few thoughts about the experience do occur to me.
The first is - given that we were only there for a month - how little we were able to contribute to the development of Rwanda. It is true that we probably improved our students’ English slightly and probably, with that, their appreciation of the mindset of somewhat elderly English folk! However that was as nothing compared with what I learned of my own faith, philosophy and personality from the act of giving rather than receiving.
Although I have visited several African countries, this was the first time that I actually spent my days in their homes and schools, living and working alongside their citizens and children, getting to know them. I cannot pretend that this makes me some sort of expert on the subject but what it did do was to give me a new viewpoint from which I could observe my native land and its history, economy and its people in a new light.
I came back to the UK via Heathrow to find myself in the middle of the nation where few people actually spoke to one another or looked one another in the eye, let alone smiled. Many of them looked very overweight and inactive, a sure sign of malnourishment if ever there was one! There was not a single child playing in the streets. Perhaps it was too cold for them although the sun was shining and I was wearing the same clothes as I had in Africa? I bought a newspaper to read on the journey home. Although this was one of the wealthiest and supposedly “advanced” countries in the world, almost every article seemed to be about poverty, inadequate housing, medical care, inadequate education or refugees. How much we could all learn in a few weeks in Bugarama!