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We help children affected by poverty in Benin

Education


education

$50

Fifty dollars can cover the academic tuition of a child for an entire school year. Half of children in Benin do not finish primary school.



Food & Shelter


house

$80

Eighty dollars can provide a displaced child with food, living expenses, and shelter in our children’s care center for a month.



Reunite Families


reunite

$500

Five-hundred dollars can reunite victims of human trafficking with their families, covering direct care costs, investigation expenses, and transportation to visit families.

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JENNIFER ESCHELBACH

Director of Finance & Partnerships

Jennifer joined Dagbé in 2015, after being introduced to the organization by a member of the board. She received a B.A. in French, and a minor in Music Industry from the University of Southern California. She also completed a 6-month study abroad program in Paris. Jennifer has worked in the fashion industry for 8 years, and is currently an Ecommerce Buyer for a major women’s retailer in Los Angeles, CA.

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KATHRYN BURRUSS

Director of Operations

Kathryn joined Dagbé in 2015, after being introduced to the organization by former colleagues. She has previously been involved with development projects in Uganda and Colombia, with her work focusing on program development and evaluation.

She holds a BA in Economics from Seattle University and an MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and works for Eagle Asset Management.

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Caring for Children and Families

More than 35% of the population of Benin lives below the U.S. poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Many of the children who are taken into our care have been left in a vulnerable position following a family death or illness. In Central Benin there are no government agencies to support these children who are left without base case and are forced to work from a young age as a result. We provide food, shelter, and other living expenses for vulnerable children at our residential care center, and though home-stay arrangements with local families. Through these vital services, children receive nutritious meals, safe lodging, quality healthcare, and support from our team of community-based care providers.

In addition, we host a women’s cooperative which allows local women to learn about a variety of issues pertaining to child health and nutrition.

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ABOUT CENTRAL BENIN

Dagbe operates in the hilly central region of Benin known as the Collines.

Nearly every inhabitant of the Collines is at least a part time farmer, deriving some form of income from agriculture. Corn, cassava, yams, cashews, peanuts, and other staples feed the region and provide for the livelihoods of much of the Collines’ population. While the farmlands generate some income for the region, they are isolated from the rest of the country, and are often the last regions in Benin to receive governmental assistance or infrastructure improvements (e.g. electricity, running water).

Basic infrastructure in central Benin is often feeble, with healthcare, educational, and other civic institutions unable to meet the basic needs of its citizens. The remote location of many towns and weak infrastructure have limited the ability to receive regional and international NGO assistance. Preventative healthcare is almost unheard of, as healthcare expenses are typically reserved for dire circumstances. Dire economic circumstances often leave children in vulnerable positions, cut off from access to school, healthcare, and basic social support structures.

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TOMÁS SEBASTIÁN SEROMIK

Founder

Sebastián lived in Benin for over two years, where he teamed with Victor Kinmagbahohoue for the development and construction of the center for children in crisis situations that Dagbé now assists. Sebastián founded Dagbé upon his return to the United States to provide continued support to children in Benin. Sebastián’s career includes work in the venture capital, impact investing, international development, small and medium enterprise (SME) consulting, and social science research sectors.

He holds an undergraduate business degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in professional ethics from Boston College, and an MBA from Yale School of Management. He speaks Spanish, English, and French; and is a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States.

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ALEXANDER SHANNON

Board of Directors

Alexander (Alec) lived in Ouèssè from September 2009 – September 2011. He worked closely with the director of CAEES to establish lines of communication between CAEES and donors in the United States for fund raising efforts, as well as functioning as the center’s accountant during his time in Benin. Alec joined forces with Sebastián after returning home to the United States to act as Vice President of Dagbé.

He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Human Biology, Health, and Society and currently attends Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Alec speaks English and French and was a former ice hockey player at Cornell.

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CAROLINE WOLFE

Board of Directors

Caroline (Carrie) lived in Ouèssè from September 2005 – September 2007 while serving as a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer with the Peace Corps. During her time in Ouèssè, Carrie met Victor and recognized his ability to effect change and serve as a role model in the local community.

She currently works as a Senior Consultant for Accenture Management Consulting, specializing in public sector finance transformation initiatives. Carrie studied Economics, International Business, and French at Miami University. She currently resides in Boston.

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GABRIEL LAPRAIRIE

Chairman of the Board

Gabriel joined Dagbé in 2011 after having been involved with the original fundraising efforts for the construction of the children’s center in 2008. His educational background includes undergraduate studies in Economics and Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, as well as multiple professional certifications in the financial services industry.

Gabriel currently resides in Salt Lake City, UT where he does financial research for the Goldman Sachs Group.

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BEN PASTERNACK

Board of Directors

Ben joined the Dagbé board in 2012. He currently works as an associate at BlackRock Kelso, a fund manager that invests in middle-market companies. Prior to joining BlackRock Kelso, Ben worked at Chapman Capital, a hedge fund in Los Angeles. Ben received a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, magna cum laude.

He also studied international development economics at Oxford. Ben currently resides in New York City, NY, and participates in Imentor, a program that provides assistance to high school students from underserved communities.

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VICTOR KINMAGBAHOHOUE

Executive Director, Benin

Victor has worked in the humanitarian sector for three decades. He started his career as a volunteer technician with the World Food Program. He previously founded the nonprofit organization GASSPE to provide training in revenue-generating activities to women’s groups in Benin. Victor’s work in the community includes construction of school buildings, child vaccination campaigns, vocational training workshops for disadvantaged youth, and more.

Victor built the center for children in crisis situations in 2009 and has served as the Executive Director of the center, called CAEES, ever since.

He is an elected official in municipal government, speaks multiple local languages in addition to French, and is the proud father of five children.

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MARGUERITE SENONKIN

Treasurer, Benin

Marguérite is originally from Ouèssè, Benin but went to school in Savé and Parakou before returning home upon obtaining her diploma. For eight years, Marguérite has been teaching primary school in Ouèssè. Her concern for children and her desire to see them receive the opportunities that they deserve led her to become involved in the children’s center.

Since its inception in 2008, Marguérite has served as treasurer of the center in Benin, ensuring all finances are in order. Marguérite has two children, and in her spare time enjoys singing. She has been a member of her church choir for several years.

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VIVIEN ASSOGBA

Secretary, Benin

Vivien grew up in Ouèssè, leaving in 1997 to go study at SBCRP, an international communications agency in Lomè, Togo. He stayed there for four years, where he was trained in computer-generated design and imaging. In 2002, he returned to Benin and established his own graphic design enterprise, Mercom Nouvelle Generation.

Vivien’s collaboration with Victor on a number of humanitarian projects in Ouèssè, and his dedication to his community, led to his involvement with CAEES at its establishment in 2008. His oversight assures the center’s smooth operation. Vivien has two children. His enterprise often provides T-shirts for big events in the region.

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FLORENT DJOGBENOU

Director of Social Affairs, Benin

Florent was born in Abomey, the seat of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey. He was trained in upholstery in Parakou before moving to Ouèssè to begin his trade. He has been a master tradesmen for over 15 years. Since 2006 he has served as president of the Professional Upholstery Union, and in 2012 he was elected Secretary-General of the Ouèssè Tradesperson’s Gathering.

He has been working with community groups on various social projects for several years and joined the staff in Benin in 2011 in his current role. He has six children.

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CLEMENT ASSOGBA

Director of Training and Development, Benin

Clement is originally from Ouèssè and has lived in the area his entire life. Having been involved in agriculture owned businesses in the production of soaps and detergents. He turned his true passion, working with the community, several years ago.

After undergoing training, he has been a community development worker for the last seven years. He joined our staff in Benin in 2011. He has five children.

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BARTHELEMY MEMEVEGNI

Strategic Advisor, Benin

Barthélemy was born in Ouèssè but spent many years living in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where he was also educated. He was a sales representative for a number of companies in Côte d’Ivoire as well as working in the logistics industry. He launched a couple of ventures in Côte d’Ivoire before moving back to his hometown of Ouèssè, where he has been an entrepreneur and a chauffeur.

Although he has been advising the staff in Benin for years, he has been serving in a formal capacity for the last three years. He and his wife have six children.

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HONORINE

Portrait of Honorine sitting in a chair

Honorine is 12 years old and finishing the 7th grade. She is originally from a town in the eastern zone of the central region in Benin. Her father passed away when she was very young and she was sent to live with her uncle. Her uncle is a farmer and has always struggled to make a living financially. He tried as much as he could to provide all that his children and Honorine needed food, shelter, and school. However, the expenses were very burdensome and his income as a farmer was meager and quite unpredictable. Honorine struggled with poor health and the cost of her care was often more than her uncle could afford.

Dagbé began caring for Honorine at its center in Benin during the 2012-13 academic year.

She is very happy at the center because she is eating well and has the opportunity to continue to attend school, something which she says girls in her village do not do. Her favorite classes are history and biology.

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VIVIANE

Viviane sitting in a chair outside

Meet Viviane, a 6th grader from a small farming village in Benin. Viviane lost her mother at an early age, and her father is in poor health. She was taken in by our team in Benin at the beginning of this school year when family could no longer support her.

Dagbé provides for Viviane’s basic needs, including lodging, meals, and healthcare. We also funded Viviane’s school uniforms, supplies, and pay her school fees.

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GISÉLE

Gisele

Giséle is 17 years old. She comes from a very small village in the interior of Benin called Idadjo. To get to Idadjo, a subsistence farming community, one must take dirt roads and paths for 50 kilometers from the nearest paved road. Most of the paths get flooded or become too hazardous to navigate during the rainy season, and, as a result, few resources make their way to Idadjo.

In April of 2011, after Giséle’s mother passed away, she was told by her father to walk to Ouéssé (25 km away) to see if she could fend for herself. Giséle arrived in Ouéssé a couple of days later with no money, no food, no family, and nowhere to live. She relied on the kindness of a few people in the market but after a few weeks she was nearing despair. It was at this point that she heard about our children’s home, and approached the staff to tell them her story.

After a thorough investigation and assessment of the situation, Giséle was accepted as a permanent resident at the center beginning in May 2011.

Giséle is in ninth grade this year and aspires to finish high school, a feat that very few women from her village have ever accomplished. If possible, she hopes to have the financial support required to continue her studies at a university.

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JACOB

Jacob holding pail

Meet Jacob. He is ten years old and in the sixth grade. Jacob’s father died a couple of years ago. His mother, who never received an education, would try to carry water for others or perform other odd jobs to make a daily living for her children. When she did not make enough money, the family did not eat. Jacob and his brothers would sleep on the dirt floor of the small room they called their home.

A friend of the family’s was alerted to the work that Dagbé was doing and brought Jacob, who was taken in at the children’s home. Jacob is thrilled to be eating nutritious meals, sleeping in his own bed, and playing with friends. What’s more, Jacob is now able to attend middle school – something that very few children from his village ever do.

Jacob is making the most of his opportunity to attend middle school. He has one of the highest grades in his class, scoring a 14, which in the French educational system is exceptional.

His favorite classes are biology, physical sciences, and history. He is very excited about school and will move on to 7th grade for the 2013-14 school year.

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CYRIAQUE

Cyriaque

Meet Cyriaque. He is 15 years old and is originally from a small farming village in Benin. Following the death of his mother, his home life became very difficult, and frustration was taken out on him in the form of beatings. Cyriaque ran away to a neighboring town and survived on his own before he was brought to our team in Benin.

Since April 2011, Dagbé has provided a home for Cyriaque, including food, healthcare, and support from our team of care providers. We also sponsor his education, including school fees, uniforms, and supplies.

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Julien

Photo of Julien

Julien is sixteen years old and has been living at Dagbé’s center since the beginning of last year. He initially was a part of our home stay program before moving to live at the center. Julien is originally from a small town in central Benin. His father was a subsistence farmer until he became ill and paralyzed from the waist down – he recently passed away. Julien’s mother tried to keep the family afloat selling basic home goods out of her house but it was not enough. Since coming to live at Dagbé’s center, Julien has been able to receive the support he needs.

Julien is now in high school and is receiving excellent grades in his classes. He hopes to go into law enforcement when he graduates because he likes the order and discipline that he sees in that career. Dagbé is committed to helping Julien and children like him make the most of their opportunities in life.

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Caring for Children and Families

More than 35% of the population of Benin lives below the U.S. poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Many of the children who are taken into our care have been left in a vulnerable position following a family death or illness. In Central Benin there are no government agencies to support these children who are left without base case and are forced to work from a young age as a result. We provide food, shelter, and other living expenses for vulnerable children at our residential care center, and though home-stay arrangements with local families. Through these vital services, children receive nutritious meals, safe lodging, quality healthcare, and support from our team of community-based care providers.

In addition, we host a women’s cooperative which allows local women to learn about a variety of issues pertaining to child health and nutrition.

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CASSIE NIELSEN

Board of Directors

Cassie joined Dagbé in 2014 to assist with marketing after being introduced to the organization by Gabriel, a fellow colleague when she worked at Goldman Sachs. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA where she works for an executive search firm in their Sustainability practice and manages the firm’s social media. Cassie graduated with a BS in Mathematics from Arizona State University.

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Preventing Child Trafficking

Nearly 50% of Beninese children ages 5–14 are involved in some form of child labor.

Anti-Trafficking Community Training Seminars

We sponsor training seminars to raise awareness about child trafficking and educate community volunteers on measures they can take to prevent, reduce, and combat child trafficking. In July 2012, we partnered with community radio to broadcast the training sessions to over 15,000 listeners in rural areas. We are planning on scaling the project to a regional level in 2013.

Child Documentation Project

We have partnered with local government officials to launch a campaign to provide proper documentation for children in the region. Many children are born at home and therefore don’t receive birth certificates. Without a birth certificate they cannot obtain a national ID card, register for school, and they are deprived of many other opportunities. We work with local authorities to verify the children’s history and provide them with the proper identification.

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Supporting Economic Development

Enterprise is a powerful tool in the field of economic development.

Our goal is to invigorate the local economy by empowering local business leaders and provide the younger generation with job-ready skills. We sponsor vocational training for several children from needy families who are no longer in school to equip them with knowledge and skills to launch their own businesses. Our current roster of apprentices includes young men and women from families affected by loss and extreme poverty. Many of these apprentices attend tailoring and upholstery training programs. In addition, we run a poultry-farming program to provide a low-cost, additional source of protein to supplement the children’s diets, and we also operate a community garden to support our children’s center.

We are currently in the planning phase of a new Information Technology Center. Electricity only recently became available in the region, and the demand for business services in the area is growing. The IT Center will provide educational services to the children in town and jobs and business services for the local economy, all while generating revenue that can subsidize the operation of the children’s home.

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Providing Access to Education

Only 55% of the rural population attends primary school.

In rural Benin, children often begin farming instead of finishing school. As a result, their incomes are tied to seasonal factors such as weather, market prices, and productivity.

Through our education and youth development programs, we pay school fees, buy supplies and uniforms, and help pay for required immunizations for children. In addition, we subsidize legal birth certificates for the 50% of children born without the proper documentation to attend school. We cover the cost of tuition for students in need, and our CAEES fund pays for school supplies for about fifty children year. CAEES also organizes and hosts Camp Espoir, which provides a space for boys in secondary school to learn about social issues impacting the region: gender inequality, child trafficking, and lack of educational opportunity.

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