After an amazing first week of brainstorming with the students, we were happy to begin to really work on the projects with the selected 8 students. It was an incredibly busy week as we went around to cities all over Benin to conduct research, but very exciting to work on the details of the projects and to work with the students on developing their project management skills.
The progress of each project and personal development of each student have advanced in just these first two weeks and we’re looking forward to seeing how the next two weeks will go. But let’s first give you an update about the Benin Summer School’s second week…
What Other Projects Are the Students Working on?
Last week we told you about some of the projects were working on. Here are a few more…
Female Role Models
Our student Solange is working on a project to interview model women in Benin and make a video. This video will be used at least in the 8 primary schools that work with Hubi & Vinciane. The idea is to give young women hope, to show them what they can achieve if they study hard, don’t get pregnant during their teenage years and are able to continue their education. The lack of opportunity for women to be educated is one of the key problems in Benin and was very openly noted by all of our students, especially the male ones where felt bad for their female counterparts.
Unfortunately, many teenage girls get pregnant and find it practically impossible to complete their education. It is our hope to show these young women what can be achieved if their lives are not interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. Showing what successful woman in Benin have achieved in their studies, professional lives and only later their families will be an important, and hopefully motivating, message.
To get started on this project, a local journalist that Jamie had met last year named Boniface was enthusiastic to help. He offered to connect us with some very high-level women he knows so we could interview them. Since he hosts his own radio program, he even suggested that we do a special radio program on the subject and record the interviews during the radio session to use in our video. We were very excited about this idea because everyone in Benin listens to the radio. It is the best and most effective way of communicating with the general public.
We loved the idea of our message reaching a very broad audience and still ending up with a video that could be used by the foundation’s schools for educating the students. It really seemed like a win-win. We still wanted to be sure that Solange could conduct a few video interviews of her own with women whom she considers to be role models as well. This will give our video a nice mix of various positions that woman in Benin can achieve.
Giving a Helping Hand
We went back to the hospital of Boko with two of our students to visit the physical therapist there because he had found a patient who was missing a hand. He was an ideal candidate for a 3D-printed prosthetic hand because he still had a significant portion of his arm left to provide a base for the device. He lost his hand after he had gathered with a group of fellow tobacco producers during a moment in Benin when gathering in a group was illegal. The police began to throw grenades into the crowd and he actually lost his leg and hand.
His prosthetic leg is quite advanced but he has never found a solution for his hand. He was very happy to work with us and eager to have and use a new hand. Fried immediate got our team in Belgium on adapting the “Talon Hand” from the E-nabling the Future because it’s the most rugged and durable design. The team at the hospital was excited to hear that we may be able to help this man.
Providing Provisions for “les Gardes Malades”
One project this year addresses the “Gardes Malades”. “Gardes Malades” is a typical phenomenon in many African countries. When someone is hospitalized, at least 2 or 3 days, though often times many more, family members come along and camp in the hospital to provide financial and moral support but also to take care of their basic needs (bathing, food, etc.) as hospitals only provide basic treatment. Unfortunately, a large majority of the time they are just waiting, disturbing the patient’s treatment and ability to rest, cluttering the treatment rooms and littering on the hospital grounds.
We went with two students to a Hospital in Tanguieta because we heard that they had a good system for dealing with the "garde malade". The hospital is run by an Italian doctor named Brother Flaurent. He really runs a tight ship. It was very clean and extremely organized. They even had a pre-natal unit. They had a large, shady, park-like area where the “Garde Malades” could spend their days. There was a huge kitchen with dozens of stoves for cooking, potable water, etc. They also had areas for them below the hall ways so that everywhere the hallways were kept open and clear so that the staff could work efficiently.
We Also Had Some Fun
In between working on the projects, we also made time to have a bit of fun. One of our favorite evenings so far was when the students cooked a fantastic meal called "igname pilé" (pounded yam).
To make this, they use a tall wooden structure made by hollowing a tree into a bowl shape (see above-left photo). They put the yam and water into the bowl and pound it with a long wooded pole and mash it into a dough like substance. They also made fish with a delicious sauce of tomatoes and spices.
Also, on Friday afternoon we took our two students to a traditional village near Togo where you could see the “Tata Sombas”. These are two-story, fortified houses in which the ground floor is used for housing livestock at night, internal alcoves are used for cooking, and the upper floor contains a rooftop courtyard and is used for drying grain, sleeping quarters, and granaries. It was a very interesting visit and the girls asked a million questions and really seemed to love it. We even got to watch the sun set over an amazing valley before heading back to Natitingou to stay in a hotel for the night. It was a great ending to an awesome week! Stay tuned for the week 3 update.