If you would had asked Francis Dayamba a year ago how his new club, the D’Amuge Fund (Dee-ah-moo-gay),
would be helping Beninese schools in Western Africa, it is unlikely he would have said, “By giving them pineapples.”
But that’s exactly what he’s done.
Civil engineering student Francis Dayamba ’11, who lived in Benin for 10 years, started the D’Amuge Fund, a student-run nonprofit organization, during his junior year at Clarkson in hopes of improving the educational systems of rural Benin. How? By combining the knowledge base in science, engineering and business of his club members to help schools develop business plans and fund new financially sustainable projects.
So where does the pineapple fit in? “The main issue in rural Benin is that many community members are farmers. They rely on their children to help with farming, so it is difficult to balance both school and work for many students. Sometimes work wins over school,” Dayamba explains.
To combat this, the first project for Dayamba and his fellow club members was to work with community members in Avossa, a small village 110 miles from Benin’s capital, Cotonou, to develop a business plan for the future of their primary school.
With the backing of the D’Amuge Fund, the community members of Avossa decided that the best long-term solution for the school would be to invest in a pineapple farm that could employ 20 parents from the community and raise at least $3,100 in its first year for the school to put towards school supplies and meals for students — costs that would normally have to be incurred by families.
To get the pineapple farm up and running, members of the D’Amuge Fund had to raise money. They reached their goal after one semester, raising most of the funds through events such as an African dinner night and a bazaar featuring bracelets made in Benin. They were also supported by the students of an upper-level entrepreneurship course, who donated all of the earnings from their small business ventures, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), which made a large donation.
Aside from the Pineapple Project, members of the D’Amuge Fund have also given scholarships to fund tuition for top students, donated school supplies and started a clean running water initiative for the village.
The idea for the club actually came from Dayamba’s involvement with NSBE. He suggested that they sponsor a fundraising event to help a primary school in Benin. After the success of the event, his friends encouraged him to start a new club on campus that focused solely on helping schools in Benin.
It also helped that Dayamba had inspiration from his own father, who worked for a nonprofit company on improving the Beninese educational system. “Having exposure like that on a day-to-day basis really motivated me to start my own initiative. As I got comfortable at Clarkson, I realized the tools and support I had around me offered the perfect place to start,” he says.
For more information on the D’Amuge Fund, go to www.damugefund.com