Benin Summer School 2019: Materialise volunteers and local students “work together on a dream”

October 8, 2019

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.

Benin Summer School 2019 logo in French
Introduction game played on the first day

In 2012, Materialise founders Fried Vancraen and Hilde Ingelaere partnered with the Hubi & Vinciane foundation to support the charity’s mission to “work together on a dream for Benin”. Ever since then, the annual summer school program has provided university scholarships to three Beninese students per year and powered initiatives that stimulate the local economy and social progress. These include Baobab Express, a public transportation company that provides reliable, safe cross-state transport, even to remote areas that had previously been difficult to reach. Launched by African Drive in 2014, Baobab Express has since become one of Benin’s top bus companies.

Every year, as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, Materialise employees volunteer to help mentor the young students that are selected in the Borgou Department based on grades obtained during their final year of secondary school. 16 students participate in the first phase of the summer school program; after a few intensive days of workshops, coaching, individual sessions, and evaluation with the Materialise volunteers and members of the local Hubi & Vinciane staff, the group is narrowed down to the final eight candidates who then do project-based work for the remainder of the program’s duration.

Meet the volunteers

This year saw an all-female group of volunteers head to Benin: Miranda Bastijns, Business Line Director of Prototyping for the Materialise Manufacturing department, Caroline Collard, Global Market Manager for Orthopedics, and Kim Pauwels, Market Access Manager, both from the Materialise Medical department. Although they didn’t know each other (well) prior to embarking on this experience together, the volunteers found that their various (soft) skill sets as well as distinctly diverging interests and personalities meshed well and even complemented each other.

The most important asset a volunteer can bring to the table? “A creative, flexible mindset,” all three agree. Although they spent several months preparing for the program – with the support of Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen, past Materialise volunteers as well as members of Hubi & Vinciane and African Drive – the three women quickly realized after arriving in Benin that remaining agile and being able to improvise was just as valuable as laying the groundwork and planning thoroughly.

Meet the students

The finalists

Having completed their trainings and field work, the eight students presented their projects to a jury composed of members of the Hubi & Vinciane foundation and Materialise. After some deliberation during which many factors were taken into account – overall performance, soft skills, psychological and familial considerations – the three best-performing students were selected: Romuald, who worked on Baobab Energy e-motorbikes; Latifou, who took on the challenge of investigating aquaponics, and Jérôme, who oversaw the feasibility analysis of cultivating the Artemisia plant as an alternative prevention and cure for malaria. All three students have been awarded scholarships to attend universities, and we wish them all the very best!

Working on the dream of a better and healthier world

Benin Summer School 2019 - Materialise volunteers and Summer School participants
Benin Summer School 2019 - Materialise volunteers and Summer School participants

As a participant of the UN Global Compact, one of the commitments we at Materialise have made is to support initiatives – including NGOs, non-profits, and grassroots organizations around the world – that empower people. That is what we strive to do with Hubi & Vinciane and our shared ‘dream’ for Benin and mission of working towards a better and healthier world.

The most impactful way of making a difference is to understand and help reevaluate a given mindset. This can be done be providing access to education. And that is what Materialise is doing by initiating the projects and giving students the opportunity to study so that they can have an impact on their communities and beyond.

— Kim Pauwels, Materialise volunteer for the Benin summer school program 2019

If this year’s three volunteers had to sum up their experience in a nutshell, the three women agree that it was simply ‘unforgettable’.

Sustainability is more than just a word for Materialise, it’s a pledge. Our mission to make the world a better and healthier place has been a defining factor of our company since the beginning. The Benin École de vacances (summer school) is part of Materialise’s broader Corporate Social Responsibility program which aims to help sustain the world in which we live and create the company and planet we envision. Read about our other social initiatives here.

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