It is awful to have such sad news before the holidays, but the past few days we have been dealing with a difficult case. An infant was found abandoned by its mother in a trash heap. The child was still alive and has been taken to the hospital. Our staff in Benin is helping with the situation and monitoring its progress.
We’re thankful for our staff in Ouesse and for the medical staff at the local health center. They’re doing everything possible to help the child and it is comforting to know that there will be people who show the child love and care during the infant’s first holiday season.
As the 2012-13 school year approaches, Dagbé is once again supporting as many children as possible with their education. Over 60 children will receive support from Dagbé this year, in the form of scholarships, school supplies, vaccinations, and uniforms.
One year of tuition for public school costs about $50 in Benin. This is often times more than many families earn in one month, making it difficult for many of them to send their children to school. We believe that education is extremely important in the continued development of the community and we’re committed to doing as much as possible to make sure that these children get every opportunity to pursue their education.
As the Anti-Trafficking Training was taking place in July, authorities were alerted to a case of trafficking and sexual exploitation in Vossa, a remote village 10 miles west of Ouèssè. When the police took the alleged trafficker in for questioning, they discovered that he had been sold a 9-year old girl for the equivalent of $240 USD.
Our staff partnered with local authorities to protect and care for the child while a long term solution was identified. We also worked to reunite the child with family members and committed to paying the girl’s school fees, supplies, and basic living expenses on an ongoing basis. Dagbé will be helping to cover these expenses over the next year. We’ve also committed to conducting follow-up supervision with the girl over the course of the next year. The parties involved with the case have been dealt with through the Beninese judicial system.
Most of our cases to this point have dealt with trafficking for labor purposes and, as you might imagine, dealing with a case of sex trafficking, particularly with such a young girl, was very difficult. It puts our work in perspective and allows us to realize how important it is.
In mid-July, we sponsored a three-day anti-trafficking community seminar to train community leaders on how to identify, address, and prevent trafficking cases. In addition to caring for victims of trafficking, we work to reduce these instances, and training seminars such as this one go a long way toward achieving that goal.
The training was attended by 45 local volunteers, as well as local police who deal with these issues frequently. The training was also broadcast via the local radio station, the Radio Rurale Locale de Ouèssè, to an audience of over 15,000 listeners in two local languages. This partnership was critical to the success of the initiative, as many trafficked children end up working in rural fields where the only news received through the local radio station. With the radio’s help we were able to reach many of the people living in these areas and we are hopeful that this will help decrease child trafficking in the area.
The training seminar was a success and sparked ideas for replicating the model on a wider level in the future. We’re excited about the possibilities and looking forward to doing more to combat trafficking as we move ahead.
In late June, CAEES hosted the second annual Camp Espoir, a week long boys’ camp with 35 participants from across the central region of Benin. The camp focused on training the boys in leadership activities, gender equality issues, health care, and the importance of education. Camp Espoir, which means “Hope,” aims to help prepare the next generation of young men to be future leaders in their communities.
Why sponsor a boys’ camp? Recent programs in Benin have targeted the importance of girls’ education; however it is also necessary to educate young men to in order to better prepare them to be successful community members, husbands, fathers, and leaders.
We’re very proud of CAEES’ efforts in this area and look forward to establishing Camp Espoir as an annual tradition!
In May, Dagbé worked with local authorities to resolve a case of child labor trafficking. Three boys, aged 9-13, were found working in the fields outside of Ouèssè, in central Benin. One boy had escaped and been living in the town’s market for two days.
The boys were from the Toffo region, about 4 hours south of Ouèssè. The boys, who had been laboring in the corn and peanut fields, had never received the wages they had been promised.
Dagbé’s staff in Benin worked with local authorities to identify a resolution to the case, and together they were able to reunite the boys with extended family after two weeks. During that time, the boys were cared for at our children’s home, where they received food, shelter, and medical treatment while the case was investigated.
Your donations contribute greatly to the swift resolution in trafficking cases such as this, and we’re very grateful for your support.
In the first couple of months of 2012, CAEES, along with the support of various community members, began a poultry farming program within the children’s home. The chickens that are currently there are being raised both for consumption and also for income-generating purposes.
This initiative provides the center with an opportunity to provide a little extra income as well as nutritional benefits. Protein is scarce in Ouèssè, and usually very expensive. Having the poultry house on the children’s home’s grounds provides multiple benefits for the children and for CAEES. This is another positive and admirable undertaking that helps CAEES in its mission – providing for a better future for the disadvantaged children in the region.
At the end of October, CAEES received a visit from their friends at ARC-Bénin, a French NGO based in Aix-en-Provence. ARC-Bénin has been collaborating with Victor, the executive director of CAEES, for the last fifteen years in various forms. Their earliest activities involved financing training sessions in income-generating activities for women’s groups in Ouèssè and the surrounding region. Since CAEES was founded, ARC-Bénin has been a steady partner in helping the center grow.
They have provided many in-kind donations including sheets, blankets, pillows, clothing, and more. Representatives of ARC-Bénin spent a few days in Ouèssè, meeting with the staff, getting to know the children, and strengthening their connection with CAEES.
During September 2011, CAEES continued one of its most important traditions of handing out school supplies to children in difficult situations, in this case, the nine children currently residing at CAEES among many others. In all, over 40 children benefited from this donation. Each child received new school supplies including books, pens, pencils, notebooks, compasses, and erasers and also gets measured for their school uniforms. The khaki material is provided and the tailors that make the uniforms are also paid. Paying for the peripheral school expenses (not including tuition) can run up to $180, depending on the class that a child is in. For many families, this is the equivalent of two months salaries! The work that CAEES does in this area is invaluable for the many children that otherwise wouldn’t attend school due to these high costs. This is a yearly tradition that has gone on since the inception of the organization in 2008.
In September 2011, CAEES welcomed five more children as part of their homestay support program. Elysée and Dominique were brothers from Ouèssè whose mother passed away. Dominique has taken up vocational training in the fabrication of upholstery, while Elysée is in his second year of high school. Mariette and Félicité are sisters from the nearby neighborhood of Adougou whose situations in dire poverty necessitated the move to Ouèssè. Mariette is receiving training as a seamstress, while Félicite is in the sixth grade. Blaise hails from Azraou, one of the most remote parts of Benin, 45 kilometers west of Ouèssè. Azraou is cut off from nearly the rest of the country due to almost non-existent roads. Blaise is in 7th grade, and his father’s passing made it very difficult for his mother to support the rest of the family, particularly in such an isolated area of the country.