– By Chrystel Vert-Pré, Chairman and on the ground consultant –
The seed of “Bee the solution” was planted in my heart some 30 years ago, during my first trip to Africa as a child. When I came back, I thought «one day, I will come to Africa… with a Land Rover». Like every child, we dream about what we will do when we grow up. And my dream was not directly related to doing something like this. I grew up, went to university to study chemistry and biology, and started a job that I thoroughly enjoyed. But at the back on my mind was always that dream. And so, while enjoying my work, I planned for the other dream: Travelling to Africa, to start getting to know it a little – Saving funds – Studying – I even had the great opportunity to work for a NGO for 6-months.
When the opportunity arose, I eventually bought the Land Rover and once ready to be my house and office, I shipped it to South Africa. The choice of starting in South Africa was mainly due to circumstances in other part of the continent in the years that preceeded.
At the time, I did not have a route. My philosophy for “Bee the solution” was not to have ready-made solutions and arrive with projects that might not be the right ones. I have seen very good projects from a Western perspective that did not work because local communities did not see the need (but wanted something else). I have seen costly projects spending little in-country. And yet, I have met local people wanting to do something. And they have the local knowledge of the issue and what would work. Yet, I would only work on project that I believe in.
Africa is a simple and complex continent. And I can only speak for those countries where I have been. People are the same everywhere but cultures change from village to village. Not two are exactly the same. Even if they bear great similarities in the same regions. The constant everywhere I have been through, is the creativity. People can do wonders with nothing/anything. Yet on the other hand, the other constant is the lack of confidence and motivation that they can achieve it.
I started by travelling to places I knew. And meet people. Locals, travellers, volunteers. My route was shaped by the people I met. The discussions I had. Some will call it chance. Some will call it adventure. I simply think that I learnt on the ground, through the encounters I had. And then I built upon it.
The main reason for not having a plan was to create one based on local customs and needs and adapt it to the local circumstances.
The other reason for going without a plan was to test the idea and the set-up. It all looks good on paper (and in your mind), but is it feasible in the real world? So I wanted to ensure that this way of living and working would be feasible for me in the long run.
After over 3 years in Africa, 9 countries, a full passport and close to 100’000 km, I have met numerous people, had some very interesting experiences, set-up a small network of routes and lined-up different projects that I believe in. It has not been an easy journey over the last 3 years, by far, but I still believe in it. Maybe even more than before.
So now it is time to launch officially “Bee the solution” and share my dream and vision so that it can grow and help local communities to help themselves to grow.