This two week mission took place during the first half of October and was joined by Dr Lorrie Vandeginste (coordinator), Jan Leemans (logistics) and Lieve Vanrusselt (transformation of local produce and product development).
Please find below a summary of our activities and achievements:
As is the case during each mission, we paid close attention to all our standardised production processes, quality control and hygiene in the three parts of our factory e.g. the soy milk production, the bakery and the kitchen. We checked that all recipes and procedures were being followed correctly and any issues that had arisen were being resolved. 'Test' recipes, if ready for production, were put into actual production.
We spent time on explaining the organisation and cleaning of a freezer since this appliance is unfamiliar to most of our employees i.e. bread and fruits need to be frozen in separate freezers, some produce is best not frozen (e.g. chilli) and the importance of regular defrosting and cleaning of the freezing compartments.
We analysed the sales figures since our last mission (March 2019) and specifically the sales figures of our recently opened second shop ('Kiosque'). We had to modify our current labelling system and procedure since humidity and temperature differences have been causing some problems (i.e. print is fading and labels seem to detach). We are currently waiting for our newly designed labels to be finalised and to be delivered in the coming months. With the problems of the local conditions in mind, we are double checking the right label material and ink. As a test, we put our new label designs on our products (sauces and jams) to gauge the reaction of our customers; the feedback was very positive.
Also during this mission, we developed a few new products i.e. peanut milk and papaya juice. Since these two products were so well appreciated, we put them straightaway into production. Separate tests were carried out on the addition of spirulina to peanut milk; this test was done in coordination with OVO (Ondernemers voor Ondernemers, Belgium) to check whether this could become a saleable product. The 'deep green' milk was actually well received by our employees and their children and maybe this could be a way to make the peanut milk even more protein rich!
We were pleasantly surprised to see a number of local salespeople passing by our factory to check whether they could sell our bread rolls ("gateaux"); it shows again that these rolls are popular with the people of Kisantu. We were able to make a deal with them so that profits were being shared fairly. This arrangement is very welcome and convenient to us; we can now increase and expand the sale of our products while we do not have to take care of the delivery ourselves.
Our new consultation room for incontinent patients has now been opened; the room is situated within the compounds of Hospital St Luc.
The design and making of two new types of washable material have been shown and taught to our local seamstress. These designs are better suited to the needs of our incontinent patients than the washable materials we had designed initially: this is our very first design which we have called "system 1". During the previous months, we have developed a new 'light' system that is made with a washable pad and flannel inlays ("system 2") and a 'heavy' system that consists of a washable adult diaper with flannel inlays ("system 3"). Especially 'system 2' is a more flexible system that can be used with any type of underwear and should be more user friendly. 'System 1' will be used until the stock is depleted.
During these two weeks we have been able to help 13 incontinent patients by providing them with our washable materials. These women showed different degrees of incontinence and had come to the hospital for the fistula surgery mission organised by UNFPA at Hospital St Luc. We also put together a new Solfa incontinence dossier which will be used by the maternity nurses and which should give us a better view on the evolution of each patient (improvement of their incontinence condition), on the usefulness of our materials and on the improvement of our patients' emotional wellbeing. We also emphasized the importance of patient follow up i.e. a follow up telephone call after two weeks and a follow up consultation after three months. In case of a surgical intervention, a follow up telephone call has to be done two weeks after patients coming home. We asked the nurses to keep these incontinence dossiers safely in our consultation room so they can always be consulted there.
Our seamstress will now be present in our consultation room every Wednesday; she will produce our washable materials and give explanation and advice on our systems to the nurses and patients (ex. it is necessary to wash the flannel inlays at least three times before use to guarantee good absorption of the urine).
Since some time we have been producing liquid laundry soap from wood ashes and this works really well; therefore we have filmed the making of the soap so we can show the video material to our patients when they come for consultation.
Medical missions: two missions have been planned during first quarter of 2020:
- 26th January in Mikalayi (East Kasai): mission led by Prof Gunter Dewin (UZA); this will be the first mission in this remote 'Zone de Santé'. This regio has already been included since 2017 in our prevention campaign which means that we have provided posters and illustrative booklets on 'safe birth' to a large number of the health centres there.
- March Kisantu (Kongo Central): mission led by Prof Dirk De Ridder (KUL); this mission will focus on new patients but also on complex fistula cases that were too complex to be operated on during the recent UNFPA surgical mission.
We met with two teachers of the Jesuits School in Kisantu (Collège Kubama) to discuss the possibility of launching an educational project whereby Solfa would provide a study space outside of school hours for students of the three final years of secondary. The objective of this initiative is to offer students the opportunity to work independently in this space in order to do remedial work or to deepen and/or widen their skills in french and maths. Pupils will be asked to sign up for one or more one-hour sessions and will have access to a laptop and internet connection. After obtaining (written) permission from their parents, Solfa will carry out a simple selection on pupils' motivation by asking them to provide a short written description of the aim of their study time in our class. The two teachers from the Jesuits school will take turns in supervising the study sessions and in supporting them with the topic they will be working on. During the coming months we will communicate with the teachers about possible resources (online and written/printed) and we will investigate the project in greater detail with regard to location of our class, other required materials and infrastructure, required authorisation, cost estimate etc.
Our next mission to our social enterprise in Kisantu is planned for March/April 2020 with as main objective to put our new pasteurisation and sterilisation unit into use for our healthy drinks (milks and juices) and our jams+sauces respectively.