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Kingston-based Bendeshe's Village sends 60 Ethiopian kids to school – The Patriot Ledger

KINGSTON – When the Bonner family traveled to the village of Wondo Genet in Ethiopia in 2020, Charlene Bonner gasped to her son Ben, “Oh my god, it’s your dad.”
Ben, who is 14, reunited with his biological parents on the trip. His father was waiting the moment they arrived to escort them into the village, where he saw his mother, wearing an outfit that resembled a wedding dress. Born Eyasu Bendeshe, Ben was adopted by the Bonners when he was 11 months old. 
“They just couldn’t stop hugging him,” Charlene Bonner said of Ben’s birth family.
At 3 years old and then again nine years later, Ben returned to his native country. He spent time with his biological brothers and saw a disparity in education and the lack of access to clean water. 
Since that visit, Ben, who lives in Kingston, and his mom have founded the nonprofit Bendeshe’s Village, which raises money to send children to school.
Ben and his close friends are even on a junior executive board, working to aid Wondo Genet.
 “All the kids were completely on board because they had seen Facebook pictures of our trip so they were kind of intimately involved already,” Charlene Bonner said. “Everybody just started sort of cheering like, ‘Yeah, we can do this.'” 
Since 2020, Bendeshe’s Village has raised about $10,000 through donations and selling merchandise, including sweatshirts, bracelets and cups. The organization, which is mostly run by Ben and his friends, has raised enough money to send 60 kids to school since its launch.
It costs $25 a year to send each student to school, which covers the cost of supplies and an informal uniform, Charlene Bonner said. The organization has been so successful, it created a bit of a problem.
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There’s not enough room to send all the newly enrolled children to school in the village, Charlene Bonner said, and their partners in Ethiopia asked if the nonprofit would be interested in building a school. 
The school will be named Bendeshe’s Village School, and Ben’s biological brothers might even attend. 
To bring awareness to the organization and the ongoing coin drive sponsored by Kingston Intermediate School, Bendeshe’s Village’s junior executive board is presenting at an event at the school Feb. 17. 
Antonia Ierardi, a 17-year-old from Kingston and Ben’s former neighbor, is among those on the junior executive board. She has compiled videos from fellow members to make a presentation for the event, and has urged others to support the cause. 
“If someone emailed and they said that they wanted to help out, they’d be more than welcome to,” Ierardi said. 
This spring, Ben said he hopes to host flag football and basketball tournaments to raise awareness and money. Along with building a school, the nonprofit hopes to build a well in Wondo Genet.
Ben continues to talk to his family in Ethiopia via Facebook and What’s App, and said he has a special place in his heart for his birth family and the students he’s been able to help send to school.
He said Bendeshe’s Village is just getting started. 
“It definitely seems like something that I would love to continue for the rest of my life and even after,” Ben said. “I feel like I can pass it on to my children.”
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Reach Alyssa Fell at


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