Sarah Chapman

Nurse. Activist. Non-Profit Powerhouse.

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    Whitney Frink

Imagine packing up your life and moving to a remote West African village in the tiny country of Benin (that’s Beh-NIN). You sell your possessions, relocate your dog and set out to build an orphanage almost completely on your own. That is exactly what Hermosa Beach’s Sarah Chapman is doing. “In October, I looked 40 children in the eyes and promised them I would return in July to build them a home. How can I not deliver on that promise? How? I must.”  

A nurse, Sarah entered the field of medicine with the intention of delivering care to the underprivileged. Those California dreams have blossomed beautifully into the globe-spanning non-profit, Build a Better Benin. “In Benin, one nurse can make an impact in a huge way … think Florence Nightingale … big,” she says. “I am able to give the African nurses the education and tools they need to self-sustain.” 

In Benin, there are only two doctors for every 100,000 people—a challenge Sarah and her patients confront everyday. “I have seen the magnitude of the need: a mother losing her child at birth due to poor medical equipment and training, families being torn apart from Malaria outbreaks, and young homeless girls forced into sex slavery,” she shares.  

Endlessly energetic and bubbly (this woman could make a rock smile), Sarah recalls a story from her initial Benin visit involving 10-year-old Condon. He was homeless, naked and starving, but when he tugged on Sarah’s sleeve, he begged to be put into school. That’s all he wanted. And it was Sarah’s $20—just 20 bucks—that got him off the streets and getting an education. “You never know—Condon may grow up to be the next president of Benin,” beams Sarah. “The impact one person can have is astounding.”