“These are impressions you’ll remember for the rest of your life”
Christian Alt, a shift supervisor in chemical production at the Chemical Site Ingelheim (Human Pharma Supply), first heard about Making More Health from his manager, Marco Oenning, who had participated in the 2019 MMH Insights Week in India. Oenning described his experiences on this trip with such enthusiasm that Christian decided to participate in a MMH project himself. His manager fully supported the idea, and a short time later the trip was confirmed: Christian will be spending a week in Webuye, West Africa, where he will be working with our partner, Chrisantus Ongulo, to teach people with albinism (PwAs) how to make soap. PwAs in rural regions of Africa face severe social exclusion, poverty and stigmatization. Therefore, we have worked with our local partner GASAAP in our MMH region to launch a few activities that would help PwAs in the long term, alongside our projects with farmers and schools. Among other things, the MMH House offers them a safe space for personal interaction. They can participate in many helpful training sessions that promote health and provide an income, such as the soap-making workshop that Christian has planned. One challenge is that, until a short time ago, Christian himself had never made soap. “Of course, I learned the theoretical principles behind making soap in school, but I had never actually done it,” he says. But he did not let this stand in his way: Christian tried out the chemical process in a BI laboratory. After one unsuccessful attempt, the process worked smoothly. In addition, Christian was able to see for himself what aspects of the task might be challenging for his future students.
The travel preparations are many and varied
Christian has created a number of pictures and warning signs to help the workshop run as smoothly as possible. He also had to compile a list of materials to ensure that everything would be on hand when needed. Even resources that we take for granted, such as running water and electricity, are not necessarily available there. “The first major learning experience has been collaborating with a social worker to organize a workshop like this so it would run as smoothly as possible in a completely foreign environment,” Christian says. He also had a checklist of the preparations that travelers have to make for a trip like this one: vaccinations, travel documents – after all, this isn’t a journey you make every day. But that’s exactly what has attracted Christian Alt to the project: “I’ve never been to Africa, and I’m really looking forward to the experience. I’m not really worried about anything. I’ll just let myself be surprised, and I look forward to seeing how the people there react to me.” Christian hopes to be able to help them with their daily hygiene and also make it possible for them to build their own business making soap. Because people with albinism have difficulty finding a job in rural settings, they tend to earn very little. By producing soap, which is hard to come by for people living on the verge of poverty in Webuye, the local people will be able to build their own business model that independently generates income for them.
At MMH, we are delighted with the deep commitment of our colleagues, such as Christian Alt, who are helping to grow Making More Health into a global movement while broadening their own horizons in the framework of the project. We wish him all the best for his journey and the work on-site, and we look forward to hearing what he has to share about the experience.
Author: Roxana Frey