Since 2005, volunteers from the Energy Assistance France association have been working tirelessly to make energy accessible to the most isolated populations. As it publishes its 2019 annual report, let's take a closer look at an association that perfectly encapsulates ENGIE's raison d'être, acting every day to make a positive impact on people and the planet.
With more than 250 volunteers - both active and retired ENGIE Group employees - Energy Assistance France hinges its operations around three objectives: education, health and support for local actions to help people become more independent. Supplying electricity to health centres in Madagascar or schools and community buildings in Senegal, electrification of bush schools in Côte d'Ivoire, connecting a health centre in Laos to the grid... these were some of the missions successfully carried out in 2019 by volunteers, made up of ENGIE technicians as well as other Group employees. And their work is far from over! The association has continued to make progress in 2020, despite the current situation, and has multiple projects in the pipeline for 2021, as Borhane Mzita, Operations Manager and board member of Energy Assistance France, explains.
3 questions to Borhane Mzita, operation manager at Energy Assistance France
How would you sum up the year 2019 for Energy Assistance France?
Borhane Mzita: In addition to the 23 projects carried out in five countries outlined in our annual report, I am very happy to see that never before have so many women been involved! They now account for nearly a third of the volunteers mobilised and we hope to achieve parity soon, proving that prejudices about jobs that are supposedly only for men are losing ground. Another specific feature of 2019 is the increased integration of local ENGIE volunteers, real facilitators who help drive projects forward.
Did the pandemic affect progress in 2020?
B. M.: We managed to successfully supply electricity to a school and a health centre in Senegal just before lockdown and were able to donate a thousand pairs of safety glasses to the Bégin military hospital, but overall, missions have been on hold. That does not prevent us from making progress on technical studies, cost estimations and volunteer training. However, in September, after the devastating explosion in Beirut, we carried out an evaluation mission with the support of the ENGIE Foundation. We were then able to initiate three concrete projects to help a population in great difficulty: the installation of solar-powered public lighting by Christmas in a district close to the port, and the installation of photovoltaic systems to supply electricity to the hospital’s paediatric department and a school next year. Finally, four volunteers will travel to Casamance in Senegal in November - taking all the necessary health precautions, obviously - to carry out an audit of photovoltaic installations as part of a project we are running in collaboration with the Energies pour le Monde Foundation (Fondem).
And what about next year?
B. M.: We are in the starting blocks for the many projects that will unfold as soon as conditions allow! One of them is particularly important to me: the electrification of a school and a health centre in the bush, in Senegal, a project in which around thirty French, Senegalese and Tunisian high school students will participate!
Energy Assistance France in figures: