Dick Wheelock writes:
HATW has been working in a small town called Affame in Benin, for the last fifteen years.
About 11 years ago, Margaret Coupe, a nurse/volunteer, on visiting Affame, came across a young boy called Herve who had a club foot. She subsequently arranged to have it operated on the Mercy Ship, when it docked in Cotonou. Margaret then undertook to keep Herve supplied with corrective boots.
On my first visit to Affame, about a year later, Margaret had asked me to check up on Herve to make sure he was wearing his boots. Off I set on the back of a motorbike for the six or seven Km. drive, along some rough and steep tracks, to the tiny isolated village where Herve and his family live. On arrival, the village elder sent someone to seek out Herve. Moments later a small boy stepped out of a hut without a stitch of clothing on but wearing his boots!
As I later got to know his mother, it became apparent that she was quite determined to always do her best for him. It also seemed that the whole village was adding this support. Thus Herve never had the chance of going barefoot again until he was completely healed..
The next time I visited Herve in his village several years later, it was to meet this fine upstanding youth who was the pride of his school football team and had no sign of his former handicap. He incidentally spoke about the best French I have ever heard from a junior school student in Benin.
Chris Barrell writes:
I have just returned from my annual visit to Monze, Zambia. An important objective is to assess how PIZZ School is developing. It is possible to get information through reports and pictures, but to get a proper understanding of the situation you really have to visit!
The joy for me is to see happy, healthy children laughing and enjoying life. This might not seem to be a great achievement to us here, but the staff at PIZZ School tell me that for many of their students, when they started school it seemed impossible for them to smile. The children have generally had a very traumatic life and part of this is living not knowing where their next meal will come from and when it will arrive. Having a regular meal at school takes away some of this stress and gives them a chance to deal with some of their other challenges.
I watched a football match where PIZZ School were playing a neighbouring school. The celebration when they scored a goal showed me that we are doing a wonderful job! The children were full of joy, excitement and energy. Without the school meals this wouldn’t be possible.
Thank you for your support and please keep these children smiling!
Ben Luck has just returned from Zambia. He writes:
I thought I was going to Monze to help install solar lighting equipment in Pizz School, and I had been preparing by studying the manual and collecting the tools and equipment we needed. But that’s not what happened, for the whole month I was there the equipment was stuck at Lusaka airport, impounded by customs. While this was frustrating and disappointing, it also meant that I could spend my time in Monze (it was my first visit) in a different way. I had more time just to be there, to meet and spend time with people, to shop in the market. I was lucky to go out with Chris Barrell who has been there for many years and has many friends.
Also, I was able to spend time visiting children and families in their homes. Pizz has a wonderful system of care givers, ladies who live in different parts of the community and who have ‘their ear to the ground’, in other words they know where the children are in greatest need, and when a family is experiencing particular difficulties. So I was able to go out visiting with these caregivers. Briefly, and to give a flavour, these are some of the visits I made:
A girl who suffers from epilepsy and who had had a fit that morning. She lives with her grandmother.
A brother and sister who go to secondary school. But they are required to bring a packed lunch. Because they are unable to do this, they come home at midday. (Even when children have left Pizz, the care continues).
A girl who was unable to be at school because she was looking after her sick mother. Her mother was lying on the hard floor, with no blanket. She makes a small living by selling fish in the market, but since being ill has been unable to do this. So there was no food in the house.
A ten year old boy who lives with his grandmother; they were sitting on the ground shelling maize. She is ill, and lives in a small hut with eleven grandchildren.
A young mother who had a traffic accident when she was one month pregnant. Her beautiful daughter was born without legs.
A very old lady who doesn’t know how old she is but thinks over a hundred! She has been been confined to bed for many years, cared for by her daughter who is herself partially disabled through polio.
So although I was unable to install the solar lights as planned, perhaps through these visits I was able to gain a deeper understanding of everyday life in Monze, of the challenges which people face and the courage and dignity with which they do this.
Also, I was able to appreciate the value of Pizz School, not only giving a great education but also understanding and caring for the children in their home situation as well.
We are very sad to report the death at the age of 85 of Lord Joel Joffe, a truly remarkable, kind and generous man who had helped us as a patron of HATW for 20 years. It was an honour to know him and he will be greatly missed. As a South African lawyer he defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial in 1963, and for his trouble was expelled from the country. After arriving in the UK he worked with Oxfam for many years, ultimately as Chair.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB’s Chief Executive, said:
“Joel had an enormous influence on Oxfam and its staff for over 20 years. His unswerving sense of justice and commitment to ending poverty was an inspiration to all those who worked with him. He was able to use his sharp legal mind and years of experience in business to challenge authority and increase the effectiveness of our work around the world. His fearless campaigning for care of the elderly, corporate responsibility and global development shaped the world for the better yet he always maintained his trademark self-deprecating sense of humour. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
You can read more about Joel Joffe’s long and varied life in his obituary: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/joel-joffe
Some of the Children at Chez Papa Geoff
HATW volunteers Dick Wheelock and Nigel England have recently returned from a visit to Benin, where the Orphanage Chez Papa Geoff has now been in operation for 6 months.
My responsibility is for the agricultural project which is to provide for running costs of the orphanage. The fields or “les champs,” as they are now being called have changed out of all recognition since I saw them last autumn. Now, most of the 8 hectares (20 acres) have been cleared of weeds, rank grass and non productive palm trees. There are still roots to be removed; brutally hard work in which Dieu Donne and Albert have now been joined by Justin.
Justin is the tailor who has always made school uniforms for those children who are supported by Hands Around the World, but has found his other work declining. He seems to love the change of pace and has become a valuable member of the team. Equally useful is his encyclopaedic knowledge of the locality and where, for instance, the nearest welder can be found.
April is the most important month of the year for planting maize in this region and several hectares of ground had already been prepared before our arrival. A broken injector pump on the tractor had caused a temporary hold up but we were able to bring a replacement with us. The two-row seed drill which I had built using proprietory seeder units, mounted into a far more robust frame and powered by a two-wheeled market garden tractor, was given its first real test. After a few very minor modifications and on a seed bed that was far from ideal, it worked as well as I could have hoped. At the same time as planting the seeds it also places fertiliser along the rows. On the impoverished soils of the area this will give much improved yields.
In 6 hours we were able to plant half a hectare (over 1 acre), with only one operator. A large gang, even if it were possible to recruit one at this busy season, could not plant as much by hand. The drill will also be used to plant peanuts and haricot beans later in the season. Once the maize has started to grow, manioc (cassava) will be planted between the rows giving a second crop maturing after the maize has been harvested in July / August.
There are still trees for firewood, fruit, or palm oil to be planted. As June is considered the only month wet enough for tree planting it won’t be possible to plant all that Dieu Donne would like this year. It will take several years before ‘les champs’ reach full production, but the start which has already been made is most encouraging. I look forward to seeing even more progress on future visits.
On arriving at Chez Papa Geoff (the orphanage) we were delighted to see the 11 children and young people were settled and happy. They had got used to each other and were making friends with the local children. Alice, the full time carer who joined the team last October, was making a great job of feeding the children well and getting the balance of care and discipline at the right level within the cultural setting.
Two of the boys have a disability. Epiphane has a problem with his legs and needs an operation. We are trying to get an agreement with his family to have the operation but without much success yet. Marc, who is the oldest boy in the orphanage had an ulcer on his arm when he was younger and it has left his right arm permanently bent. We have arranged for him to have the operation he needs and his mother will accompany him to the hospital.
We were able to take out clothes donated by people at my local gym and they were a great success. All the children tried on clothes for their size and chose the ones that suited them the best. They then gave us a fashion show. We also took out some footballs and taught the children a form of basketball. They had a great time. The children made up, produced and performed a play about coming into care. It was heart rending and I am talking to people I used to work with in the UK about the therapeutic benefits of this.
The solar panels we sent out were working but not to the output they should. Dick has been speaking to the manufacturer to try to sort it out.
The main building is working well and we hope that after the planting season the new well should be completed, and the water pump supplying the orphanage should be up and running. At that point and with the fields producing enough food we hope to increase the numbers of children in Chez Papa Geoff to the maximum of 24. It is expected that within two years Chez Papa Geoff should be self supporting with food and a cash crop from the fields.
We now support 110 young people in secondary education and 6 in university and 4 in apprenticeships. After visiting all the school directors we have 88 reports and at the end of the academic year we should have all 110. I am creating a system to monitor attendance and attainment records and be able to identify young people who are able to access a university place, or an apprenticeship.
Thank you for your interest as we seek to make a major and lasting difference in the lives of these children in Benin.
HANDS AROUND THE WORLD Operations Manager – Monmouth
2.5 days per week, NJC SO1 £25,951 pro rata
18 month contract
A rare opportunity to join this small development charity working with children in Africa and India. Applicants must have excellent administration, communication and fundraising skills.
For more information and an application pack, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date 9th June, Interviews 28th June
We need the following items (in good condition please) to send to Pizz School and Kaliyangile Vocational Training Centre in Zambia for 5-18 year olds…
* Clothing and footwear, including sports kit, trainers, football boots;
* Sturdy good quality toys for the reception class;
* Unbreakable bowls, cups and spoons;
* Yarn, thread, knitting needles and crochet hooks for an after-school training club;
* Pens,pencils,crayons etc;
* Books suitable for 5-18 year olds.
PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ITEMS AT THE OFFICE
To arrange drop-off or collection please ring Lynda on 01600 775433 or 07895 276323
No items to give?
We need other things too – donations towards the cost of transport and help with packing boxes one day in July.
We are also looking for a Transit-size van with a volunteer driver and driver’s mate to deliver boxes to Folkestone and help to load into a container, late July / early August.
Today David and I spent an hour or two with some of the pupils at HATW partner PIZZ School, a wonderful place where Mrs Sianga and her team are supporting orphaned and vulnerable children.
We sang, told some stories and traced our journey from home on an atlas. Suddenly we were all deafened by the sound of torrential rain on the metal roof of the classroom. Unable to carry on with our discussions, we handed out the 7 or 8 books we had with us to groups of pupils. It was like giving food to starving people! The children descended on the books with a thirst for information and knowledge that both humbled and delighted me. So thrilled were they by the stories that some began to copy them into their exercise books in order to be able to read them again later. An encyclopaedia was a cornucopia of delight, and the flags of the world shown in the atlas were of great interest to one group of boys in particular, another group were amazed by pictures of animals from the polar regions.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these children had access to a library? Unfortunately it can be difficult and expensive to get books to Africa from the UK, but some books are available locally to those with the money to buy them.
It’s hard not to dream of feeding the minds of these children with the provision of a library. Their teachers are hard-working and committed, but resources are very limited.
HATW supporters have already given these 400 or so orphaned and vulnerable children a school and teachers, which has transformed their lives. When we heard that many of the children would go all day without eating, you responded to our Lunch Box appeal, and now a simple but sustaining school meal is provided every day.
Imagine if break time might also include a trip to the school library during the rains. The children would pray for rain as fervently as the farmers!
Imagine if those dedicated teachers had lots of books to use in lessons, what a difference that might make to literacy, geography, history…
The first step toward realising the dream is to imagine it. Do you think that together we could take the next step? Could you help to feed those hungry minds? If you would like to, you can help here: www.hatw.org.uk/donate
Please mark your donation ‘Books for hungry minds’. Thank you.
It is with sadness that we need to record that Michael Nicholson, former ITN reporter and for a long time one of the Patrons of Hands around the World has passed away. Our thoughts, prayers and good wishes are with the family at this time.