92 FoFo Niger is an organization that assists the disadvantaged population of Niamey, the capital of Niger. It has 5 active and deeply committed core members, supported by about thirty additional members. The “Coup de pouce” (Helping Hand) programme is supporting a project to create a hospital wing for malnourished children at C.R.E.N.I. (the Intensive Nutritional Recovery Centre) in the capital.
We spoke to Doriane Derly, an employee of the Group who received a funding from “Coup de pouce”, and Françoise Wauquier, President of 92 FoFo Niger.
What is your role in this organization?
Doriane: I’ve been the secretary for 12 years. I take care of administrative tasks and of managing the accounts, as well as designing and executing projects. Each year, I return to Niamey to visit the facilities that we’ve created and to meet the people that we’re helping.
I also devote time to organising and participating in the private sales of hand-made crafts that have been our only source of funding in recent years. We buy local crafts in Niamey for resale in Paris, and reinvest the profits in our activities. We do this at much lower prices than you’ll find in small Paris boutiques, and, most importantly, the money we raise returns to benefit the country: this is our sales pitch in a nutshell.
Does your work as a volunteer give you an opportunity to put your professional skills to good use?
Doriane: Yes, absolutely. I work in finance, and my professional skills have been very helpful to me in managing the organization’s accounts and in monitoring projects. Although the context is quite different, I use the organizational skills that I’ve developed in my professional life for the benefit of the organization. Finally, I travel a lot for my job, and I’m in contact with different cultures and habits. To be a volunteer in a humanitarian organisation, it’s essential to have an open mind and not to be judgemental.
What is your most striking memory from your involvement with this organisation?
Doriane: During a mission to Niamey in 2009, I met a little 7 year-old girl: she was in her mother’s arms, and weighed only 8 kilos. The look in the mother’s eyes when she looked at her smiling child was one of unconditional love. I was deeply moved by this little girl, and I managed to convince a medical facility to give her emergency care. Today, that little girl is still alive; she can smile at her mother and give her a child’s love. But I’d rather focus on the idea that the best memories are the ones that we’re making for the future. I’d also like to give you a different image of Niger: a very attractive country that’s bursting with human potential. I discovered Niger in 1997. It was my first major trip outside of Europe; it was a shock, and love at first sight! I hope that this “helping hand” doesn’t end with financial assistance, but also inspires others to join us. We need more good volunteers!
Why was 92 FoFo Niger created?
Françoise: The organization was founded in 1993 by 12 members of the socio-medical staff of the General Council (GC) of Hauts de Seine, after returning from a canoe trip on the Niger River. While bivouacking from village to village, we were very struck by how few resources the local residents had, despite the fact that they had the benefits of access to the river, a very valuable asset in a country marked by significant water shortages. These people had no health or social welfare coverage. Having lived in Niger, I had African friends who had set up a local organization staffed by doctors and nurses. They asked for our help from France, and on our returned we created 92 FoFo Niger (which means “Hauts-de-Seine says hello to Niger”).
In its early years, the organization received grants from the Institut des Hauts de Seine, which comes under the authority of the GC. Its first mission was to collect, sort and distribute medicines. Next, we completely outfitted a free health clinic on the outskirts of Niamey, in the village of Liboré. We then began to address the needs of disabled people and malnourished children.
Is there a particular activity that was supported by the organization that you feel has had an especially positive result?
Françoise: 11 years ago, we equipped the free clinic at Liboré with a hydraulic solar pump that provides running water. Over the years, we have also completely rebuilt the school for the blind in Niamey. Today, this school is well managed and we continue to supply the school with books in Braille on a regular basis.
What are the organization’s plans for the future?
Françoise: We support a charity for women and children affected by mental or motor disabilities, AFEAH (the Organization of Women and Children with Disabilities). This organization, based in Niamey, has created discussion groups where women can share their ideas and feel less alone. 92 FoFo Niger subsidises their weekly meetings, which are also an opportunity for the women and their children to meet with a physiotherapist and a psychiatrist. Our priority is to continue our involvement with this organization that we’re particularly attached to, especially given our awareness of the degree to which disabilities are misunderstood in this culture that sees disabilities as divine punishment: disabled people are marginalised and shunned.
Doriane: Provided that we’re able to find grants, we also plan to open a women’s centre focusing on education and on promoting a form of microcredit known as a “tontine”. This is a self-organised system of savings and credit that allows women to start small businesses by pooling their funds. The idea is to extend this practice to enable women to develop income-generating activities and to increase their independence. This project is still at a preliminary stage, but it fits in well with the local culture and practices.
The BNP Paribas Foundation’s “Coup de Pouce for Employee Projects” programme provides support for projects run by not-for-profit organizations of broad general interest, with which BNP Paribas employees are involved as volunteers. Since its creation in 2003, the Foundation has provided support for more than 380 health and solidarity projects in France and abroad.