The 9th edition of the École de vacances (summer school) saw a trio of Materialise volunteers travel from Belgium to Benin to mentor a group of under-20s as they developed projects around plant-based alternatives for preventing and curing malaria, empowering female entrepreneurs in rural regions, and kick-starting a clean, safe e-scooter alternative to dirty, petrol-fueled motorbikes.
Meet the eight high school graduates who are making ripples across their communities.
Every spring, we start raising funds for an initiative particularly close to our hearts: the Benin Summer School. This year, our software department challenged the company to raise the ambitious amount of 10,000€ - and even introduced some friendly competition in pitting Materialise headquarters against all our offices combined. So if we were going to be successful, it was clear that we couldn’t just stick to the traditional Run4Benin, the race we run each year to raise money for Benin.
Every year two of our employees volunteer to head the Benin Summer School, a social initiative organized by Materialise and Belgian charity Hubi & Vinciane. This year Matthias Floru and Christoph Hamacher had the honor of handing over university scholarships to Loth Chabi, Moussibaou Babatounde and Narcisse Koudjangnihoue!
Every year Materialise organizes the Run4Benin – a company-wide 15km race along the fields surrounding the buildings of our headquarters. It’s a fundraiser organized to sponsor our Summer School in Benin – an initiative which enables local students with management potential to do a university degree and consequently stimulate entrepreneurship in Benin. This year our Medical department was in charge of the organization – and they decided to do things a little differently.
The Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs association in Belgium is an initiative led by – the name gives it away – entrepreneurs, who wish to stimulate business and sustainable growth in countries with developing economies. African Drive, a charitable enterprise supported by Materialise, had the honor of receiving the Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs Trophy last week!
Started in 2012, the Benin Summer School is one of the social initiatives started up by Materialise. Located in Papané, Benin, the idea behind the program is to select the three best students of the region – and then support these students financially throughout their university studies. The goal is to stimulate the local economy by giving its brightest young citizens the tools to build up useful businesses that last. We work together with a local NGO, Hubi and Vinciane, who helps the two volunteers from Materialise work with the students for two weeks on a project they need to develop and present in order to get selected as part of the final three. Meet Jonas and Dorina, who volunteered to teach the summer school this year.
African Drive is an initiative that was founded three years ago by a group of Belgian entrepreneurs led by our CEO, Fried Vancraen. With the aim of creating a safe and dependable method of transportation for the inhabitants of Benin, African Drive’s affiliate, Baobab Express, started providing locals with a secure, low-cost way of getting from city to city.
You’ve heard the cliché of the coveted internship that turns out to actually be merely coffee-bringing and document-printing with a few hours of uninspired sitting at a desk. Charlotte’s internship, however, was nothing like that. In the last semester of her Masters studies in management, Charlotte Gréant joined Materialise as an intern to take charge of a social engagement project in Benin, West Africa: the Baobab Express. The Baobab Express provides safe, reliable and comfortable transportation services to Beninese people, filling in a gap left by sparse public transportation and prohibitively expensive private transport. Charlotte tells us how the Baobab Express project reached public approval and financial success after meeting an initially tentative reception.
In early August, I reached Benin with my partner Lotte, Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen and Executive Vice President Hilde Ingelaere. The goal for the next month was to conduct a summer school at the hospital in Papané, with 17 students—the best performers from four high schools in the region—and guide them through the developmental projects they had chosen to work on. At the end of three weeks, three students would be chosen to receive a scholarship to aid their further education. Looking back at my notes over the following month, I think we had as much to learn as the students did.
Late every summer at Materialise, there comes a day when professionally dressed people suddenly transform into runners in full gear. That’s when you know it’s the day to Run4Benin. The race, which takes a route through in the green fields around Materialise HQ, raises funds to co-organize a summer school in the small West African country Benin. It also gets people off their office chairs and into their running shoes, which is great.