Work placement in Benin: an experience for life

Since 1 May, Tessa Lismont, trainee at Solar Zonder Grenzen, is back in Belgium. She did a 6-month work placement at Solergie Benin in Natitingou. "A memorable experience".

Culture shock

In the beginning, Tessa had some difficulties adjusting. In the village where she stayed, there was very little luxury. "No sanitary facilities and often no running water. And to think that in this respect, we were in the best part of the country. Luckily, my host family always had water in the house."

Tessa was heartily welcomed by her host parents. "We really shared the same values. I had an especially good relationship with my host mother. She is a very strong woman, who runs her own shop. Although there is a gap between men and women in Benin, she is certainly independent." 

Contribution to several projects

Of course, Tessa did not go to Benin just to get to know the culture. She went there to draw up a financial plan for Solergie Benin. This company works together with Solar Zonder Grenzen, that devotes itself to sustainable lighting by means of solar energy. "I developed a few economic basic concepts and solved some problems. This plan fits in with a school assignment, for which I wanted to check whether Solergie Benin can become self-sufficient." Because 6 months is kind of short to realise the entire plan, the kiosk managers will continue the financial plan now Tessa is Back in Belgium.

Tessa also did market research to check what the population thought of the project and what could still be improved. She talked with the committee that is responsible for managing the kiosk. "I noticed they really need electricity because people in the villages also wanted to watch TV. The research enabled me to solve a number of technical problems in the kiosks." Tessa is now finishing her investigation and when she will be done, she will send her results to the project supervisor so they can set to work.

The last part of Tessa's assignment was training kiosk managers in technique and marketing. Indeed, the kiosk managers wanted people to come to the kiosk more. "I gave them tips to make the lamps more popular. Today, they take the lamps to events in the village and they have made advertising boards."

Language barrier

Naturally, not everything went like clockwork. Tessa noticed there was a language barrier. Lots of people in the villages do not speak French. So she often asked an interpreter to accompany her. "But even then, some people did not want to be interviewed because they were working in the field. Luckily, people in the cities all speak French."

Instructive experience

Tessa worked hard, but also enjoyed a 3-week holiday. She mostly travelled with other trainees of UCLL who were in Benin. "A safari, visit waterfalls ... I was able to do it all." But that is not the only reason why Tessa feels good when she looks back on her work placement. "I have really learned to take care of myself and I am very grateful for the opportunities given to me."

Read more about our solar kiosks project in Benin here.

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