Project #8520

Supporting village children into school in Benin

Ready for the solar panels
Ready for the solar panels

After a good flight from London through Casablanca, Dick Wheelock and I arrived in Cotonou where we were met by DieuDonne Kakpo our local co-ordinator. On our drive to Affame we stopped to pick up steel tubing and paint to make a frame to mount the solar panels on the orphanage roof.

The new kitchen, storeroom and dining hut were in place (although needing a little finishing in part). We also met a new member of the team (Alice, a recently bereaved lady) with her young son, who will live in as supervisor.

I was very pleased to know that 4 girls and 6 boys have now moved in to the orphanage, with a new girl due to come next school term. The children have been in for a fortnight, are settled in, look happy and well fed.

We were able to complete the setting up of the solar panels that will give a consistent electrical supply and run both water pump and fridge.

We met with local education officers and agreed a feedback system for the 116 children/young people in school, university and apprenticeships. I am setting up a spreadsheet to monitor their progress and help with the new intake.

The 4 hectares of land acquired recently looks very promising for growing food and cash crops.

Altogether a very encouraging and successful visit!

Since my last report, the work on the orphanage and support buildings has almost been completed. Due to silty ground conditions, the water pump is still causing a problem. We have identified a new pump with the right filters and will be fitting it when Dick and I arrive on the 4th November.

We have sent a crate of agricultural equipment and solar panels by sea and it has just arrived in Benin. With this now on site, we can work with the local team clearing the land that has been purchased, and plant a food and cash crop that will enable and support the orphanage to be self sufficient.

The solar panels will be fitted on the storage building, to provide electricity to run the fridge and emergency safety lighting in the orphanage. Any excess electricity may be used by the local community. We have also sent out a back up generator.

Epifan has now had confirmation of a medical appointment on 11th November on the 'Mercy Ship' that is currently in Cotonou, to discuss his walking problem, and transport has been arranged for him to attend.

We are awaiting the agreed attendance and attainment reports for the children and young people supported through education and training. Whilst out there, I plan to visit all the schools to discuss this support and seek feedback information for DieuDonne who acts in loco parentis. We can also discuss identifying further support to a new intake of children.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support. We will do our best to update you further, with accompanying photos,  on our return.

Hard and hot work planting by hand
Hard and hot work planting by hand

The Benin project is moving forward on all fronts, thanks to generous support from individuals and groups.

The first intake of children to the 'Chez Papa Geoff' orphanage is due next month and short-term support is in place.

The long-term financial support is now assured too, as a donor has provided for the purchase of 8 hectares (20 acres) of land. This will be farmed to produce an income for the orphanage.

The bottleneck, as far as farming is concerned, has proved to be the planting of maize which is very much their staple crop. Hand planting in temperatures of 36 degrees C is both exhausting and slow! A hand-pushed seeder worked better but was unable to cope with crop residues which, from a husbandry point of view it is desirable to leave in the soil.

I originally trained as an agricultural engineer, and now (almost 50 years later) have dusted off my early training and am building a powered two-row seeder which will cope with local conditions.

A local firm has donated some solar panels which are sufficient to run the whole orphanage “off grid”. This will give a big saving in running costs and also avoids the need for emergency lighting to cover the relatively frequent power cuts of 6 hours or more.

All this equipment will be crated up for shipment in late September. Nigel England and I hope to visit in November / December to help install the panels.

As far as the children are concerned, HATW is delighted with your support to be able to help ever increasing numbers of orphans to receive schooling. And we are currently investigating the possibility of corrective surgery for one young orphaned boy who has deformed legs. You can see him here:

Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement!


A bit easier with a hand-pushed seeder
A bit easier with a hand-pushed seeder
Dick with friends in Benin
Dick with friends in Benin

Dick Wheelock writes: "I spent most of April 2016 in Benin to meet up with old friends and see how the Chez Papa Geoff orphanage is progressing. Much has gone well but work has temporarily halted as everyone rushes to plant their maize before the rains.

For this visit I stayed in the orphanage to test the facilities which turned out to be wonderful even if bucket showers were the order of the day. The dormitories are well ventilated and were cool even during some very hot weather. The composting toilet functions as advertised, with no smell, and the separation of liquids / solids is foolproof with plenty of wood ash (to help composting) available throughout village."

Speaking to Dick on his return from Affame, it would seem that the hold up in accommodating the 22 children identified for the orphanage is the water pump. Due to the fine silt-like quality of the earth, the electric pump is clogging up. While there Dick was able to extend the depth of the well by 2 metres to allow the pump be suspended in the water. Also he has identified a new solar powered pump which will be both more effective and sustainable.

The main block with bedrooms, toilets, showers and an office are complete, as well as the kitchen area. The footings for the thatched dining hut are in place. Money sent recently will be spent on beds and mattresses so that the children can be admitted asap.

There is a bit of a delay at the moment as everybody is working in the fields prior to the rains. The dining hut can be completed when the children are on site.

We are now looking now the cost benefits of purchasing land for crops rather than rental. This would provide food and cash crops to secure the long term future of the project.

Education Project

Plans are in place to monitor attainment and attendance at the end of term. All schools are to send records of individual children to Dieu Donne (acting in loco parentis). He will then forward these to us to build into a spread sheet.

I will be visiting Affame in the 3rd week of October and should be able then to look at and discuss any discrepancies.


Thank you for your support for this wonderful project!

An interested small friend in Benin!
An interested small friend in Benin!
Geoff Burnett
Geoff Burnett

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!


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Organization Information


Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom
$6,926 raised of $12,098 goal
82 donations
$5,172 to go
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