Partnerships with humanitarian organizations
As a part of its sustainable development policy, Fives offers its staff a chance to actively participate in humanitarian projects.
The Group has established partnerships with two Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which offer Fives employees the opportunity to get involved in international humanitarian and sustainable development missions. Employees therefore have the chance to take part in the fight against inequalities and the protection of the environment.
Based on a principle of joint-investment, employees offer their skills and their time (short-term leaves of 2 or 3 weeks) to participate in a humanitarian mission funded by Fives.
Romain - Teaching English to children from San Cristobal Island (Galapagos Archipelago)
Romain - Providing classroom support and socio-educational coordination at a kindergarten in Tanguieta (Benin)
Romain, who works in the Fives Nordon Information Systems Department as a Project Manager, took two weeks of paid leave to provide classroom support and socio-educational coordination at a kindergarten in Tanguieta in northern Benin.
Reading the information about Fives humanitarian partnerships and hearing about some of my colleagues’ missions made me want to do something myself. I decided to volunteer for an assignment in a French-speaking country, preferably helping children, although my only educational experience was when I was 18 as coach in a football club. After a 48-hour journey from Nancy to Cotonou, crossing Benin from South to North in a deafeningly loud bus, which broke down with engine problems and went nowhere for a whole day, I finally arrived in Tanguiéta. The aim of my visit was to help a teacher in the town’s public kindergarten as part of improving teaching conditions and providing personal supervision of around fifty children aged four and five.
Soon accepted by the children, I worked with another French volunteer to run workshops designed to interest them in books and counting rhymes through games, drawing, coloring and collage. We also made animal masks and produced a mime show to which parents were invited and attended in large numbers, which was something rather out of the ordinary there.
I couldn’t truthfully say that I saw any progress amongst these children, because they are very young and I was only there for a short time, but their smiles and the thanks of their parents made it feel as if we'd accomplished something extraordinary, and the sendoff I received from little Kemal, who came specially to say goodbye to me on the Sunday morning, was a perfect thank you.
This first experience of Africa has given me a much clearer idea of just what differences there are between continents: yes, I was really surprised to see four years old children walking home after school unaccompanied along a busy road. Yes, I felt surprised by the hygiene advice given by the teacher: “Make sure you wash your hands properly before eating, and don't forget to tell your parents to do the same.” And yes, I was surprised to see that handing out the three little balls I brought with me in my luggage could bring such joy to these children: little things we think nothing of here are treasures there.
I'm a realist, but the experience has definitely changed me: I feel more self-assured, I focus on the essentials more quickly, and I'm also more confident.
I now want to go back to Tanguiéta, because I keep in touch with the people at the Action et Développement NGO in Benin, who bent over backwards to make sure that our visit was a success.
Anne Laure - Teaching French in a Public High School in Cordoba (Argentina)
Anne Laure, who works in the Fives Nordon finance department, took four weeks of paid leave to teach French in Cordoba, Argentina.
Partnerships developed by Fives allowed me to combine two passions by going on an international solidarity mission to teach French in a Spanish-speaking country – a dream for a language lover with a Master’s in Applied Foreign Languages (English and Spanish) – and to immerse myself in Latin-American culture, which I have adored since I explored the region as a backpacker.
I arrived in Argentina after a 31-hour trip from Nancy (France), to assist a French teacher in a public high school in Cordoba for four weeks.
The lack of structure was difficult to get used to at first, but I was helped by the teacher who prepared exercises and gave them to me the day before each lesson.
I worked with children aged from 14 to 18 on grammar exercises, pronunciation, slow reading, sometimes involving games or singing, although I had to compromise on my music choices – Georges Brassens grudgingly gave way to Stromae, who is better known over there!
My timetable was enhanced with extra lessons over the course of my stay, as I met other teachers and was offered the chance to help in two other high schools, one of them private. This gave me a chance to see the difference in resources between the two sectors and to observe that it is only in state schools that classrooms are unheated when it is below 0°C outside!
Argentina is struggling to recover from the financial crisis of the 1990s, but the people are proud, open and very considerate. The assignment exceeded all my expectations. I learnt about being a teacher and formed very good friendships with both teachers and pupils. I was often invited out, I was taught to dance and was introduced to the atmosphere of the Cancha, the football stadium, which is a real institution in the country!
I feel I have done something useful by trying to instill in the pupils the benefits of learning foreign languages. But the most enriching thing was the feeling of having learnt as much from other people as I taught them.
David - Manning a community center for talibé street children in Saint Louis (Senegal)
David, General Services manager with Fives, used his paid leave to work in a community center for talibé street children in Senegal.
I had been in love with Africa for a long time without ever going there! I am a big fan of Malian music and literature and wanted to experience the culture while offering practical help, if possible to children. In the absence of any humanitarian missions in the country, I decided on Saint Louis, in northern Senegal, and a role involving working in an infant school in the morning and manning a community center to help talibé street children in the afternoon. These boys, aged from three to 14, were originally sent by poor parents to marabouts (religious leaders) to study the Koran and have a practical introduction to community life in a daara (school). But this practice has become a source of income for some marabouts based in cities, who not only make the children live in deplorable sanitary conditions, but force them to beg in the streets to pay for their food and bring in money. Given the scale of the task, my role soon refocused solely on these talibé children, to provide them with food aid and medical care, to prevent certain diseases by teaching them basic hygiene rules, and to supervise them in recreational activities to make them forget their life of begging.
My days were structured at an African pace: a one hour journey on foot to the charity’s community center, a tour of eight daaras each housing 20 to 60 talibé children, cleaning what served as their "living space" which was unspeakably dirty, assessment of their health, distribution of drugs, particularly against malaria, treatment of their numerous wounds, then distribution of decent meals, followed by activities.
After the shock of their living conditions had worn off, it was these children’s resilience which made the biggest impression on me, and their seriousness although still so young. I am still stunned by it.
It would be a lie to say the experience wasn’t overwhelming, but this plunge into African life and culture was every bit what I expected – I wasn’t disappointed. I would love to repeat the experience, perhaps in Mali, which still appeals to me, but the most difficult thing would definitely be convincing my wife to let me go!
Perrine - Accountancy training (Cameroon)
Perrine, Commodity Buyer at Fives Stein, took part in an Accountancy training project within a women’s rural development charity based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
In the context of my role as Purchaser, I travelled to Asia and saw the working and living conditions in “Low Cost” countries. That is undoubtedly what made me want to give a little of my time to work to improve working conditions in a Southern country, while choosing a project based around professional training.
I thus provided Accountancy training to a Cameroonian women’s rural development charity based in Yaoundé. Mainly made up of female agricultural engineers, ACAFIA is a place for discussion and reflection which contributes to improving the living conditions of rural communities, for example by funding training courses in planting and harvesting techniques and initiatives to improve productivity. It supports the role of rural women in agriculture to strengthen their involvement in the country’s economic development. ACAFIA has also set up a system of payments into a welfare fund to offer support in specific situations such as marriage, illness or death.
All this work requires faultless accounting, especially to make the charity’s management transparent so it can attract external funding.
There were three stages to my work: conducting an audit of the charity’s permanent staff to assess needs, training in accountancy and the establishment of monitoring tools and procedures, and simulation exercises in relation to the charity’s accounts.
I also took part in the inauguration of a banana plantation donated by Cameroon’s first lady, attended by a female minister who is a member of the charity, and visited farms. I received a rather unusual present during my trip – a live chicken!
I found this experience extremely satisfying: as well as the pleasure of being in a new country and discovering the Sub-Saharan African culture which I was unfamiliar with, I was happy to help proactive women by supporting them in identifying practical solutions to their needs. I will always remember the wonderful conversations with very welcoming people and feel myself very lucky to have taken part in such an adventure.
Anne Laure - Supporting an orphanage in Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
Anne Laure, Purchasing Director at Fives Nordon, has used her paid leave to travel to Cambodia and provide her help in an orphanage in Phnom Penh.
For many years, I have been attracted by humanitarian work but my sole experience as a Red Cross volunteer went back to my high-school days. The partnerships developed by the Fives group have provided me with a dream opportunity: To travel to a region in which I travelled extensively as a child, Asia, and offer my help to the local population. I thus spent two weeks in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, in a Christian orphanage sheltering some twenty young children, aged between 6 months and 5 years, all suffering from a mental or physical handicap. I have no experience of children and I was a little panicked when I learned of this specificity, but right from the very first visit, everything came together: When three little ones run towards you asking to be held in your arms, everything becomes so natural.
And yet in the beginning I felt overwhelmed, not always knowing how to deal with severely handicapped children, who can sometimes harm themselves, or for example by not noticing that the little girl I was trying to give a drink to had a cleft lip and palate. It is perhaps better not to ask oneself too many questions, trying to find rational answers, but simply act.
The daily tasks were essentially to distribute meals, 5 per day, with play sessions in between, but always inside the orphanage, without courtyard or garden. Some children therefore spend their day on the balcony, the only way to observe the outside world. An yet these children, which were looked after by Sisters, personnel and volunteers, often French, were always clean, well-fed and better treated than elsewhere.
This experience, which came as quite a shock to me, also allowed me to understand just how lucky we are; very quickly, things are placed into perspective and their true value appreciated.
Almost 6 months after my return, I am still quite shaken by the memory of these children, but I dream of repeating the experience. To give a little more of my time and energy. I went there to give but in the end I was the one that received.
Pascal - Performing a socio-economic study and surveying the needs of village residents in the Benoue National Park (Cameroon)
Pascal, deputy manager of the Cinetic Machining Northern Agency, left on a mission to northern Cameroun to perform a socio-economic study and survey the needs of village residents in the Benoue National Park.
The Benoue National Park has implemented a development plan that aims to improve the living conditions of the resident populations whilst at the same time involving them in the protection of the Park. As part of the application of this plan, I conducted a socio-economic study on the inhabitants of one of the 23 Park villages, and surveyed their needs and expectations with regard to the park. The Park co-finances part of the village projects in exchange for the participation of the villagers in its operation.
After the customary presentation to the village elder and the involvement of the villagers through the definition of the participative map (each villager locates his dwelling and field by marking them on a map drawn on the ground), I conducted face-to-face interviews with each of the 230 inhabitants of Ganani Dina, aided by my interpreter, according to a predefined order: First the men, then the women and finally the young villagers less than 20 years old. The goal of the survey was to evaluate the standard of living, needs, relations with the other villages, the impact of living next to the animal park... It also represented an opportunity to conduct a population census. With the help of my interpreter, some interviews led to comical situations, such as a couple of a man of 35 and woman of 18 declaring a 12-year-old child!
At the end of the study, a report was presented to the villagers and project sheets (cost estimation, time required, financial contribution of each party) defined for the implementation of certain projects such as the drilling of wells, the repair of a grain mill and the creation of a Healthcare Fund in the village.
I found this mission, my second as a Planète Urgence volunteer, even more fulfilling than the first in the Benin Natural Park. It allowed me to enter the daily lives of the villagers and understand their way of thinking and therefore to share their concerns. One of my best memories is certainly the exchange of gifts after the presentation of our report to the villagers: 50 kg of rice for them; a live hen for us and the most memorable, the jubilation of the youngest villagers when we gave them a football!
When such simple things can bring so much joy, there is really only one thing one wants to do: Go back as quickly as possible!
Philippe - Setting up of ecotouristic tours to promote Tata Somba dwellings (Benin)
Philippe, in charge of system startup within the Electrical Department at Cinetic Automation SA, participated in an eco-tourism mission to promote the Tata Sombas, traditional multi-storey dwellings found in northern Benin and built from mud and cow dung.
The architectural heritage of Benin is made up of a wide variety of dwelling types, the most famous of which is the Tata Somba (mud castle or multi-storey dwelling) constructed from mud and protected by cow dung.
A limited number of touristic tours focus on villages with traditional Tata Sombas dwellings, but as yet they are not very well known and the local communities do not profit enough from the touristic activities.
Through the support given to an association for the development of eco-tourism, I helped the residents of Koussoukoingou, a village of traditional Tata Sombas dwellings, to make the most of their assets, promote their heritage in the touring circuits and ensure that the resulting profits went to the owners within these communities.
My mission was organized in cooperation with the association "La Perle de l’Atacora" (The Pearl of Atacora), which brings together Tata owners and guides: I assisted the members of the association in their administrative tasks, in particular the creation of a book of traditional tales and the promotion of the village in hotels and on the Internet.
I also took part in a certain number of hikes with the eco-guides to build on their existing training, raise their awareness with regard to safety recommendations to be given to tourists and improve routes whenever necessary. Incidentally, it was possible to immediately put this advice into practice during my stay thanks to the arrival of 6 coaches of US tourists.
Road signs have also been developed to encourage tourists to discover the local cultural heritage and promote local handicrafts.
Children represent an excellent conduit to motivate their parents and communicate certain information within the households. They are aware that it is important for the village to stay clean and to be homey. Tata owners are encouraged to dig 1m3 trash-holes, used to burn garbage to avoid it being blown away and/or strewn on around the village.
Over and above the generally harsh living conditions, without running water or electricity, I was particularly moved by the hardships faced by women: despite their arduous working days (wood and water collection, keeping a market stand, meal preparation, childcare and labor in the fields), they were highly committed to the work of the association. The women and their children were the first to grasp the benefits that they could derive from this approach.
Laurent - French language school support in Tanguieta (Benin)
Laurent, Equipment Design Engineer for Fives Cail, participated in a school tutoring program for reading and French expression in a school in the centre of Tanguiéta in the north of Benin.
In Tanguiéta, crowded classes often prevent teachers from tailoring their teaching to each student’s level and providing personalised personalized assistance. Therefore, my mission was to tutor a group of 18 children between the ages of 8 and 11 with difficulties between the ages of 8 and 11 years during their school holidays. The goal: to help them to better master the French language, which is the key to success in school as it is the language used in schools and by administration, and to learn to read following the Beninese educational programme.
My days started at around 8.00 a.m. with reviews and reading comprehension exercises, using books of fairytales, games and school supplies acquired through donations from Fives Cail’s personnel.
During the afternoon, our activities were more recreational: word games, songs, manual projects and sports.
As the level of the students was rather low, I was forced to return to the basics: teaching the alphabet, the distinction between consonants and vowels and the construction of syllables. The motivation and conscientiousness of the children and their respect for teachers made my job a lot easier.
Aside from the numerous invitations from families, the teacher and the director (all of and which I was unfortunately not unable to accept all of them due to a lack of time), my “teacher status” also gave me the opportunity to take part in the festivities for the Beninese National Holiday as a noteworthy guest behind with the village chiefs!
This was my first experience as a tutor and teacher for children and allowed me to discover African culture as well as meet warm and welcoming people. It was very rewarding for me:. the The children’s children have a cheerful disposition despite their difficult living conditions and that really makes one think. And, if I’m to believe one family which asked me not to leave and said that they no longer recognised recognized their daughter since I had arrivedmy arrival, I think that my classes were very beneficial: Mission accomplished!
Thierry - Training teachers and shop foremen in a Technical Education Centre in Natitingou (Benin)
Thierry, Fitter/Mechanical Engineer on customers’ site for Cinetic Machining, used his paid leave to set off to train teachers and shop supervisors at the vocational junior high-school (CET) of Natitingou in Benin.
The CET school in Natitingou provides a 3-year program leading to a Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) to train skilled technicians in general mechanical engineering and automotive mechanics.
My own assignment initially involved providing technical support to teachers and shop supervisors at the Vocational Junior High School of Natitingou for practical training of apprentice-level students in general mechanical engineering and automotive mechanics. Due to the lack and obsolescence of the machinery, my job quickly turned into machine repairs and training in machinery maintenance.
Every day, I found myself tapping my technical knowledge to dismantle, clean and manufacture spare parts. I lubricated, tuned and reassembled a dozen faulty machines, from the small lathe to the drill invaded by bees and mice, all the way to the auto-hoist which, once repaired and tested with the school vehicle, immediately became the big attraction for people who had never actually seen it work since its installation 13 years ago!
Although this experience was rewarding, it left me with a feeling of things left halfway done; I would have liked to do more, but there was not enough time, as just replacing a broken pins in the drill means a 310 miles bus ride taking 7 hours! As a rule, everything is missing, so I continue to help by sending them spare parts, machine installation manuals and school supplies, as a way of contributing to improve the schooling conditions for these deserving students.
Karine - Enhancing and promoting scientific education (Madagascar)
Karine, Processing Lines Technical Project Manager at Fives DMS, took advantage of her paid leave to set off to Madagascar to lead scientific workshops in the frame of an enhancing and promoting French-speaking scientific education programme, in partnership with the European Union (SBM - Support to Bilingualism in Madagascar).
Madagascar is in dire need of qualified engineers, technicians and scientists; yet because of a lack of school resources (manuals, materials, equipment for practical training), the Malagasy students are seriously losing interest in scientific and technological disciplines.
My mission consisted of training future educators for scientific clubs within the network of Francophone resource centers (CLEF) created in remote regions of the island. The goal was to disseminate scientific and technical knowledge, fuel an interest for science, raise awareness of its benefits on daily life, and promote environmental sustainability, while working with a diversified public of children, school teachers and professors, as well as uneducated farmers, craftsmen and women.
My work initially focused on teaching scientific approach and pedagogy (defining of hypotheses, getting informed, experimenting and verifying hypotheses, interpreting results, concluding and broadening the subject). Then I started doing simple concrete experiments: making a compass out of a magnet and a needle in a water tub, designing a mini-rocket with a spring, a tube of aspirin, a PVC tube and a nail to demonstrate the transformation of the potential energy in the spring into kinetic energy to power the mini-rocket. This was nothing new to me, since during my university years at the Technology Institute in Compiègne (France), I conducted scientific workshops with children from surrounding schools on Science Festival Day.
This mission has left me with unforgettable memories. In addition to the extreme kindness of the population and the warmth of their hospitality, what I will mostly keep from this experience is the memory of the children’s eyes, twinkling with their thirst to learn, and also the desire to to return to Madagascar on my own to offer help to local association.
Régis - Office software training in Dakar (Senegal)
Régis, Automation Project Leader, took part in a computer training project in Dakar, Senegal.
My role was to teach a group of nine people, employed or not, how to use Word and Excel office software so as to be able to draft letters and gain access to the job market. They also wanted to learn how to use the Internet and have an email address. Their relatively low level of schooling meant that I had to adapt my teaching methods, for instance by providing the texts on a memory stick rather than dictating them. I also had to cope with frequent power cuts by using my own computer. At the end of the training course, I set a short test consisting of page layout exercises that each student had to send me by email. It was very satisfying to see the progress that had been made by the students, many of whom had never touched a computer before. This experience has added to my determination to help people in difficulty in Senegal, a country I was already familiar with and to which I am extremely attached.
Vincent - Office software training for Dalits in Pondichery (India)
Vincent, Purchaser Subcontracting Manager at Cinetic Assembly, took advantage of his paid leave to set off to south-eastern India to provide office software training to Dalits.
As part of an association which assists Dalits – the “Intouchables” in the Indian cast system which determines individuals’ social hierarchy – my task was to train young volunteers in office software so that they could, in turn, train local people and give them access to posts requiring qualifications in this field.
In Pondichery, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, staying in an ashram, a retreat for meditation far from the hustle and bustle of the world, I hired a bicycle to travel to the association’s premises everyday at 9am. Training in Word, Excel and PowerPoint lasted until 2pm. The afternoon was spent preparing for the following day’s courses. Trainees’ rapid understanding enabled me to go further than expected with the training programme, despite the barrier of the language – Tamil.
In India, meeting a lot of people is easy; people are curious and come up to speak to you spontaneously. Contacts are made very fast.
I had a great time as an assistant at a “Bollywood” cinema showing – it was very likely! The solidarity demonstrated by the Dalits among themselves also impressed me a lot. They could turn their back on poverty when they manage to escape it but prefer to offer help to others like them. It is a wonderful lesson in life.
Frédéric - Inventorying of animal species in Waza National Park (Cameroon)
Frédéric, in charge of IT Purchasing for Fives Nordon, used his “Epargne-Temps account” (holiday savings from over-time) to set off to inventory animal species in the Waza National Park in Cameroon.
To understand the behaviour of groups of animals, manage the number of animals according to available space and reveal any anomalies (poaching, epidemics, invading species, etc.), the Waza National Park - a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1982 – regularly organizes the inventorying of the animal species living on the 420,000 acres of Savannah and forests of acacias.
In a two-man team accompanied by a guide, we had to list all the animal species in the park using a variety of methods: an inventory of all animals spotted within a radius of 200m by walking on special paths, called transects; observation for an entire day, from a position under a tree, of the animals that came to drink at watering holes, and ecological reporting onboard 4x4 vehicles over distances of 150km – the best way to get close to lots of species: giraffes, wart hogs, monkeys, gazelles, kob antelopes, mongooses, ostriches, , numerous birds and one lioness. My only regret is not having seen any elephants, which had gone to look for water outside of the park as it was the end of the dry season.
The other aspect of the mission involved giving literacy and French lessons to guides. Endowed with a high sense and knowledge of the nature, they want to be able to give clear information to the visitors.
As well as discovering wild Africa in great conditions, this mission enabled me to realize how important this kind of programme is. The information is used by international organizations and the States involved in management of endangered species. It also make it possible to measure the impact of animals on the environment and the life of neighbouring villages.
The mission involves not only inventorying animals, but also developing the local economic life so that the local populations can benefit.