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.
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.
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.
Wakati by Arne Pauwels solves an age old problem in an efficient way. In hot climates, fruit and vegetables start to wilt as soon as they are picked. But putting refrigeration out on the fields to slow down this process would be extremely expensive and wasteful. Instead of wondering how to keep produce cool, Arne Pauwels, a young Belgian product developer, rethought this entire problem and asked: What exactly happens in produce that makes it spoil?
It was hard to believe that our time in Benin was already coming to an end. You could feel that the “heat was on” as every student worked on their computers every minute that was possible. They all clearly were dedicated to their projects and hoped they would be selected for one of the three available scholarships.
“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.
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…