When international collaboration meets nursing: Innovative partnerships between HELHa, Cameroon, and Rwanda

A unique international cooperation project between HELHa, CISMED-Santé in Douala (Cameroon), and the University of Rwanda. The goal? To promote international mobility for nursing students and strengthen skills through cultural and professional exchanges. This article shares the story of this special union.

Project Initiation

In October 2022, Dr. Carel Ndjoumachoua, president of PONTEA Asbl, was contacted by CISMED-Santé in Douala (Cameroon) to open their department to international mobility. He reached out to Gaëtane Couteau, local coordinatinor of international mobility for the Nursing department at HELHa in Tournai, who invited Céline Masy (HELHa in Jolimont) and Martine Watelet (HELHa in Gilly) to participate. Cécile Leroy, HELHa mobility coordinator, joined them as well.

Teams meetings helped define the skills to be developed, the desires, and the objectives. In January 2023, Gaëtane, Céline, and Martine traveled to Douala to launch the project. They met a dynamic team: Thérèse Tchadeu, Roland Jethro, Fabrice Yimga, and Alain Tchadie. They visited several hospitals and dispensaries to help HELHa students develop their skills.

Cultural Discoveries and Exchanges

The reception and organization of CISMED-Santé were remarkable. Gaëtane, Céline and Martine discovered Cameroonian culture by visiting sites such as the Dika Akwa Palace and the Lobé Falls. They were impressed by the multilingualism of Cameroonians and shared local expressions.

Jeanne Fofack Kenfack, a student at HELHa in Jolimont, ensured, with the help of her family living in Douala, the reception and accommodation of the visitors. She is now hosting five HELHa students for an intercultural internship in 2024. This internship allows students to adapt to a new culture and gain autonomy.

In March and April 2024, Roland Jethro (CISMED-Santé) and Fulgence Maniriho (University of Kigali) visited HELHa to discover its nursing and midwifery sections. Their program included simulations, conferences, and pedagogical activities.

Partnership with Rwanda

The intercultural internship in Rwanda started a few years ago. Sister Epiphanie Mukabaranga, a HELHa graduate in 1999, remained in contact with the school. In 2008, Nathalie Descheemaeker and Gaëtane Couteau went on a mission to Rwanda. In 2013, a partnership was established between the schools of Rwamagana and Tournai. Since then, several groups of students have gone to Rwanda for internships each year.

In 2023, thanks to ARES scholarships, two Rwandan nuns completed a skills enhancement internship in Tournai. Sister Epiphanie focused on palliative care, which she aims to develop in Rwanda.

Strengthening Bonds

On April 30, 2024, Gaëtane Couteau and Nathalie Descheemaeker returned to Rwanda to strengthen ties with the University of Rwanda and Rwamagana Hospital.

This academic cooperation project aims, among others, to raise students’ awareness of different international cultures and to treat each patient with intercultural intelligence.

Published on 27 May 2024

HELHa Santé