The Pope and I in Benin

It was a short trip this time around, only 4 days in country. On Wednesday, we participated in the official launch ceremony of A Call For Life, an initiative of CARE and the Sanofi Espoir Foundation. The Minister of Health herself was in attendance, as well as the director of maternal and newborn health, the country representative for Sanofi Pasteur, ORTB (Benin Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation), radio stations, and print journals, including Cotonou’s most popular print journal.

This trip included not only my first public address in French, but my first such one aired on national television as part of a 5-minute segment they did on our project. It was great to hear all the positive feedback from both the presentation and the TV clip… including from our concierge at the hotel, who called us ‘superstars’! They also performed a hilarious skit to introduce the project, which in itself isn’t unusual, but what blew me away is that the acting and the singing were actually *really good* – by any standards.

Big shout out to Nick Amland, who did an amazing job of throwing together a French version of the CommCare video for this with something like 24 hours notice and a few audio clips I recorded on my laptop at the hotel.

Thursday, we conducted site visits to a hospital, health center, and clinic, meeting various community and facility health workers as well as mayors and chiefs in the zone of intervention. While I thought this would be part of our regular data-gathering routine, at our first stop in the village we were met by over 400 people singing and dancing to welcome us, and had to kick around for another 2 hours for the skits and spoken word performances to wrap up.

I had to leave on Friday, but had I stuck around as late as 10:00 am, I would have seen the Pope drive by our office, since the episcopal college is just a few doors down from CARE Benin. Next time, I’ll have to stay longer!



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