Mission : France -> Bénin, Cotonou
HEAD OF MISSION
1- Transmission of family shiatsu and the main notions of Chinese medicine. Work in orphanages, rehabilitation centres and charities.
2- Teaching physiotherapists, nurses, educators, as well as anyone else who wants to learn.
3- Missions carried out by learners and experienced shiatsu practitioners.
4 years of missions
The missions in Benin started in 2016, on the initiative of Sidonie Louhounme, a student at the EST (School of Therapeutic Shiatsu created by Bernard Bouheret). With one or two missions per year, we went there for the last time in 2019, and we are looking forward to returning.
In 2016 and 2017, we worked mainly in the Sainte Elisabeth de la Trinité Medical and Social Centre. This centre is run by the Sisters (OCPSP located near Cotonou). We started by giving shiatsu in this centre on patients followed in physiotherapy. Very quickly, our treatments had a great success and after a few days, there was a strong demand. One gentleman even travelled 8OO km to receive a treatment. He was 88 years old and had not been able to walk for several months. After a first shiatsu treatment, this man started to walk again. The following days, the consultations were endless… We were victims of our success!
Very quickly the professionals wanted to learn shiatsu. In this Centre, we meet Sisters trained in physiotherapy, massage, speech therapy and orthopaedic equipment. 6 such centres exist in Benin. Our students are either physiotherapists or speech therapists and sometimes come from other places. These are people who are not comfortable with being touched, our language is new but we are accepted and welcomed wonderfully, and the qi gong to the rhythm of the tamtam ends up unlocking resistance.
During 2016/2017 we trained about ten people, four of whom reached a good level. We would have liked them to pass on their knowledge but as nuns, they left for other missions. In 2018, we tried to change the mission and to gather people from different backgrounds. We were helped by a Beninese on site who helped with the organisation. Then in 2019, we intervened in Ouidah, (a seaside town where slaves used to leave) in an association for disabled people. In this place, we expanded our partnership, with which we intend to continue the experience. This place is also linked to an institution in Belgium.
In each of our missions we have also been involved in orphanages, working with children in great need. We also went to remote villages, to the most destitute. We experienced moments of great intensity, working on mats on the ground and often in the heat. These were often marathon days, the energy of our hands exploring these painful bodies through the colourful patchwork of the pareos. We encountered great suffering, both physical and psychological. In fact, in this country, the slightest fracture can quickly cripple you because of the lack of expensive or sometimes inappropriate care. For those who can afford to buy medicines, it is not much better. There are a lot of scams, fake remedies, and many people are poisoning themselves instead of taking care of themselves. The pains are numerous, long-standing, and with many complications.
Each of these missions were rich and formative moments for the students that we were. An experience off the beaten track, faced with cases that we would never have encountered in the West. A lot of improvisation to make do with the means at hand but always the joy of the encounter.
As the days went by, it was a programme of treatments, qi gong and swimming (essential but beware of this dangerous sea), punctuated by frenetic traffic, African rhythms, and the music of two wonderful musicians who accompanied us on all these missions. What a joy to dance to the music of the Landry+ after a day of work. It was the whole memory of Africa that was told to us and that came to meet us.
This is how our missions in Benin unfolded. A bath in the colours and warmth of Africa. Stays of generally three weeks of dialogue between the heart and the hands. Three weeks to approach the African soul with its burdens and its strength of life always tinged with a formidable impetus. There have been some miracles in the orphanages that will reinforce the meaning of this trip: children who find joy again, others who stop being left out, but often today, I think of Aristide: this little man who arrives with a blank look in his eyes and a stiff body shaken by convulsions… When we left, he was no longer the same: his body had become supple again, he could sit up and could now grasp objects with his hand… Moreover, Aristide looked at us with eyes that no longer fled and sought a relationship… His very loving mother had also regained serenity.
And then, there was Angèle whose epileptic seizures became rarer and who began to be more present to the outside world… there was Jeremy, who was presented to us as handicapped and who discovered himself to be a beautiful baby capable of communicating and who found the desire to stand up again… so many beautiful testimonies from the children and adults who often found joy and smiles after the care. We sometimes had the feeling to be in the court of miracles, plunged in the heart of suffering and yet cradle of so much love… there was so much sharing and hearts speaking to each other that in us even a tree took off in an uncontrollable vertical thrust… the seed is the sincere shiatsu that Bernard transmitted to us and the branches that grow from Peru to Benin bear fruits more precious than gold…
*** Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***