Jamie Milas, Pascale Notté September 18, 2014

“Creating better and healthier world” are not empty words to us. This is seen directly in our Benin Summer School. In our last two blogs (week 1 and week 2) we gave you brief introductions to the student’s projects at the Benin Summer School. During week three we really worked on advancing all of the projects so that they could give their final presentations in the middle of the fourth and final week. 



On Monday, Pascale organized a Skype meeting with our friends at WAKATI so that Constant could ask his questions and gather more information.  Already, Materialise had agreed to purchase a few dozen tents so that the agriculture engineer from the Hubi & Vinciane Foundation could conduct a market study in Benin. We are quite confident that all of the farmers will appreciate the tent because the tests we conducted here and in Belgium were very positive.

Hospital Projects: Guarde Malades, E-nabling the Future, and Fresh Hospital Food


On Monday, Jamie spent the morning at the hospital in Boko.  Fernande, working on the Garde-Malade Project, and Euloge, the local coordinator from Hubi & Vinciane, interviewed the man responsible for the maintenance of the hospital. We also picked up the map of Boko for Abel so that he could use it to make his plan for installing a half-hector garden on the hospital property for his fresh hospital food project.

The next day, we met with the men working in the rehabilitation center where they have a complete workshop for prostheses.  They agreed to be our point of contact moving forward who will collaborate with our team in Belgium to create hands for amputees in the future.  They will send images and measurements to Belgium, we will select the best hand for that patient, adapt the design for that patient, print the hand and send it to the CHD (Hospital in Parakou). The men there will make all the necessary adaptations to the hand by adding leather or foam so that it’s comfortable to wear.  They will also make sure that the hand is attached properly, that the patient understands how it works and that feedback report is sent to Belgium so that every time we can improve on the results.

Wednesday we had an inspirational meeting with a man named Hamidou.  He approached us because he heard that we were conducting a summer school with projects related to education and trauma. As he is the director of the “Institut français” and the Red Cross of Parakou, he was excited to offer his time and advice.  He was so passionate about books, reading and learning in general.  Already he has done so much for the community and offered great advice to Atanase on his project to improve education including what would need to happen in order for his institute to equip a library in Tchaourou. He also gave Adelaide great ideas for educating the population on our new fracture care and prosthetic hand center at the CHD.  The Institute actually has a proper event area with a stage and stadium seating for 700 people where you can perform skits as a means of educating people on various topics.


After, we went for a visit to a traditional healer to see his techniques for healing patients. He was a very proud man who enjoyed telling us about the heritage of being a medicine man and how the skills and gift are handed down from one generation to the next. He also showed us several plants that he uses to heal, his special mixtures of medicine and shea butter and his splints he uses for fractures. He also showed us a few photos of people he had healed. It was a very interesting visit.

That afternoon while Pascale worked with the students to prepare their presentations and reports, Jamie went to Papané to take pictures and measurements of the old maternity center, which is no longer used, to see if we could re-purpose the building for the “garde malades”. Jamie created architectural drawings of what’s actually there as well as a proposal for what we could do with the space. It seems like a perfect place that could house a maximum of 100 people by making a few fairly minor adaptations.

Female Role Models

Monday afternoon, Pascale began to storyboard with Solange for the female role model project and even had a Skype call with a friend that Pascale knows in Belgium.  She is a multimedia designer who had been involved in several special film projects in Burkina Faso to educate local schoolchildren on various topics.  She not only provided an example video but also gave great advice on how to prepare to make a video and the filming itself.

On Thursday, Pascale and Solange began filming interviews of female leaders.  The first was Antoinette from the Hubi & Vinciane Foundation and they filmed at her home in Parakou.  Later, they filmed the interview with the Director of the CHD hospital as well.


Getting Ready for the Big Presentation

Tuesday afternoon, Pascale taught a class on how to create a PowerPoint presentation and what’s important for giving a good presentation.  Then we let the students get to work.  Unfortunately, soon after they started, we lost all power to the house and we spent a half a day getting it turned back on.  The power goes off quite regularly here so everyone was used to not having it. The students used the time without power to take a break and dance! It was so fun to watch.

Once the power was back on we wound up working with the students until midnight to make up for the time that was lost so that they were still on track with the planning, as we had intended to already to trial presentations on Thursday.


Thursday afternoon and evening we already were able to go through three presentations and provide feedback.  At first, the students were hesitant to give their feedback, but as they saw us really trying to give constructive comments they began to also contribute their ideas on how to improve the content or style of presenting. For a first try, they did fairly well but it is clear there’s still a lot of work to be done before next Wednesday when we will do the final presentations.

We began Friday with the remaining 5 presentations.  After, each student began working independently on making the suggested changes.  Pascale and Jamie went around to each student to be sure that the advice was clear and if they had any other questions.  We wrapped up around 5:00 p.m. so that the students could go home for the weekend.  During the evening, Pascale, Jamie, Emile and the two Belgian interns at the Papané hospital had dinner at the French Hotel.  It was a nice end to a tiring but rewarding week. We’re looking forward to how these projects will progress and the student’s final presentations. Check out our blog next week to see the final results!

Learn more about our Benin Summer School here.