One year ago, I really had no idea how this new non-profit venture would turn out, or in what directions it might go, but after our first year as The Couffo Collaborative I can say that I am very happy and a little in awe of the progress we have made.
After one year we have accomplished quite a bit and made several important steps:
There are now 455 participants in the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Mentoring Program, and we doubled the loan amount each woman receives. At the end of the last round of the micro loan program, 100% of the participants paid back the entire loan with interest! Usually we have 85-95%, but this is first time we’ve had 100%. The women in the program have really taken initiative to support our other projects as well. They have taken it upon themselves to organize smaller groups of women to assist and provide support for other activities, such as the school supplies project and the Community Clinic.
In September, we distributed school supplies to 1500 primary school students. Supplies included pens, pencils, notebooks, rulers, language textbooks and backpacks. This event garnered much attention in the area and beyond, and served as a good way to inform people around the Couffo Region of our work in Benin. This was also an important event because the project was entirely planned and carried out by our representatives and volunteers in Benin.
We have identified a plot of land to purchase for the Organic Farming Training Program. ADESCH is in the process of making this arrangement and we hope to have the purchase finalized by the end of the year.
The Community Health Clinic and Counseling Center is expanding with support from the Ministry of Health. Roch Houngninhin, an advisor to The Couffo Collaborative in Benin, is also director of The National Program for Traditional Medicine in the Benin Ministry of Health. In August, Roch met with ADESCH (group that oversees the clinic) and many healers and herbalists from the area. The Clinic will now be under the guidance of the Program for Traditional Medicine, helping them with organization, targeted funding, and sharing knowledge and techniques. We will continue to support the clinic in terms of facilities and operating expenses.
We submitted our registration dossier to the Benin Ministry of the Interior in July to be officially recognized as an International NGO in Benin. That is still in-process, but we hope to have it finalized by the end of 2018.
During my visit last July/August, we formed an outreach group to help us expand into other areas of the Couffo Region. Made up of people from each part of the region, they will work in their communities to inform people about what we do and how they can work with us. They are a great group of men and women who have already gone beyond what we’ve asked of them by assisting in the distribution of school supplies.
While we did not meet every goal we had set for the year, many of the other accomplishments are setting us up to have a strong foundation for our work in Benin. We are making plans and goals for the upcoming year and I will share those with you soon. We are again launching a #GIVINGTUESDAY fundraising effort, and you can find that information on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CouffoCollaborative/).
Thanks to all of you for your support and continued interest in The Couffo Collaborative!