Children being supported by FSP - SC Abomey-Calavi, Benin.…
Our new house - a new start for me and my children
Children being supported by FSP - SC Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
Our new house - a new start for me and my children
The housing programme, one of the services offered by the family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Villages Benin in Abomey-Calavi, provides families with a decent place to live and therefore helps them to stay together and break the cycle of poverty. Léocadie and her three daughters were among the first beneficiaries of the housing programme.
Léocadie, who is 35, and her daughters Pélagie (eight), Valerie (six), and Carina (five) live in Tokpa Zoungo, a city located in the vicinity of SOS Children's Village Abomey-Calavi in the South of Benin. Daily life in that part of the country is a struggle for many people; poverty and poor health are among the major problems.
Léocadie's family used to get along quite well. They led a modest life and managed to meet their needs without too many difficulties. Her husband had a job at a local company and supported her own small business - selling rice and beans. Their incomes were sufficient to cover their daily expenses for food and other basic goods.
In 2003, cruel fate changed the situation dramatically. "My husband died of fever just a few months after the birth of our third child. I was still inactive and weak, and I needed him. He was the only support I had," said Léocadie. Her only close relative was her grandmother, an old invalid who was extremely poor.
"The first year after my husband's death was very difficult because I had really nothing, not even the minimum I needed to eat with my children," added Léocadie. She had no money and since she no longer had the support of her husband, she had to continue selling rice and beans. The children did not eat every day and Carina, the smallest, was regularly ill. She could not get the treatment she needed and Pélagie could not go to kindergarten.
The family lived in horrible conditions in a one-room house made of old sheet steel, with old Hessian bags and recycled fragments serving as walls and no roof. They had to share a bathroom and toilets with several other people living nearby. The family had to stay in the house for several years because Léocadie could not afford the building materials (cement, sheet steel, iron etc.) that were needed for a new house.
A new house
In 2004, when the family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Villages in Abomey-Calavi was launched, Léocadie became one of the first beneficiaries. Once the family's most basic needs had been met, the next step was to build a new house for them.
In every community that is supported there is one volunteer for every ten to twenty families. The volunteers serve as the contact point between the beneficiaries and the programme administration. They play a key role in identifying and assessing the housing needs of beneficiary families, and in preparing the project once a decision has been taken. When a house has been identified for repair work, the volunteer talks to the family and community members about the scope and timing of the project, and about the distribution of relevant tasks.
Community members were then actively involved in the process: skilled workers were hired as masons and carpenters, whilst others were asked to collect sand and stones, fetch water from the river to make bricks or carry out various other tasks aimed at making rapid progress.
Thanks to careful planning and the preparations made, the actual construction period lasted for just two weeks. The new house was built next to the old one (which was not destroyed so that the family had somewhere to sleep during the construction work). Bricks were used for the foundations and all the materials that were used were solid so that the walls would be able to support the roof. Léocadie, her daughters and her grandmother moved into a warm and comfortable place. Léocadie said "I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to all who contributed to the success of the project. This new house represents a new start for me and my children".
Almost three years later, the house is still beautiful and is well-kept, and the family is extremely happy with it. So far, three families have been identified to become beneficiaries of the housing programme. All three of them lived in dilapidated houses or huts which did not protect them from bad weather and put their health at considerable risk. Four more families that live in the worst conditions have been identified as possible beneficiaries of the housing programme.
Solid and diversified support
The family strengthening programme is also supporting Léocadie's family in various other respects. They are receiving food parcels once a quarter and are given easy access to basic health care. Since school fees, school uniforms and school stationery are provided, the girls, who stayed at home for years, are now able to go to school and to kindergarten.
The long-term aim of the family strengthening programme is for the heads of the families become financially independent. A low-interest microcredit was granted to Léocadie to establish income-generating activities. Léocadie started selling Akassa (fermented maize paste) with fried fish, one of the most popular local dishes. Her business is doing well and she is already planning to start another venture with another low-interest microcredit.
The family strengthening programme will soon launch a training programme which will be tailor-made for the various beneficiaries. Léocadie will attend courses on the prevention of viral and contagious diseases and nutrition/malnutrition, and literacy training.