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Univers Fusalp

MEETING I Laure Bernou and Antoine Bonnefille-Roualet, Founders of the Baskets aux Pieds Foundation

 

 
As part of its Philanthropy project for the development of long-term initiatives, Fusalp is committed to working alongside the “Baskets Aux Pieds – Foundation“.

This non-profit organization assists and supports the daily lives of children in hospital by offering them a breath of fresh air.
Its concept? To share captivating images of nature as seen from the sky with the young patients, thanks to virtual reality technology.

Fusalp s’Engage supports the Tour de France of Hospitals, organized by the association, in order to share this technology with as many children as possible.
This bold project came about thanks to the will and perseverance of Laure Bernou and Antoine Bonnefille-Roualet, two sports and outdoors enthusiasts. We met up with them.

 
Can you please introduce yourselves ?

My name is Antoine Bonnefille-Roualet, President and Founder of BAP, and I am 34 years old. I am an actor, author and mountain runner (Ultra-Trail). My partner Laure Bernou is General Secretary and co-founder of BAP, she is 35 years old. She is an expert in digital marketing and innovation and also a mountain runner. We have a 2-year-old daughter, Bonnie, of whom we are very proud; she is a real source of inspiration !

 

 
How did the Baskets aux Pieds Foundation start ?
 
In 2018, after many years of running for an association (wearing a solidarity bib), I wanted to create an innovative and philanthropic collective project inspired by those sportsmen and women who are passionate about nature and the mountains.

This is how Baskets aux Pieds was came to be, a sports and solidarity association, through which we aim to bond through nature and sports. We bring together those who live and breathe the mountains for the benefit of children with serious illnesses. Baskets aux Pieds supports and assists hospitalized children with serious illnesses by bringing them nature, seen from the sky, by employing Virtual Reality masks.

It was certainly a challenge. We started by designing, testing and developing the concept, which has become a real point of convergence of our values. A meeting place for our ideas, our desires and our duties, nourished by a common future of solidarity. Through hard work, research and daring, my partner Laure and I created Baskets aux Pieds. It is a non-profit association.

On the “technical” side, we haven’t invented anything, since VR (virtual reality) already existed. On the other hand, the content that we propose—nature seen from the sky and used for medical purposes—is a first. In order to facilitate the implementation of the project as an association, we chose to use VR to process images that have already been shot.

Thus, since 2018, no less than four audiovisual production companies have committed themselves to working with us, sharing all the aerial images of their various productions (documentaries, special reports, magazines). This is a viable economic model since it does not incur any production nor image production costs on our part. Moreover, this model considerably limits our environmental impact since we give a second life to images that have already been shot. In a way, it is a tribute to the work of image professionals who can offer a breath of fresh air to those who are fighting diseases.

 

 
What are the objectives of your foundation and how do you realize your goals ?

In order to meet the demands of French hospitals, as well as the needs of thousands of sick children, Baskets aux Pieds has been fully involved, since its creation, in a national solidarity drive. Like disease, BAP has no borders and strives to offer all children in need a breath of fresh air. Over the years, the association has continued to grow and brings us to the point of large-scale and, “unfortunately”, indispensable deployment starting in 2021.

To this end, we are delighted to open up our concept and our skills to large parts of the country, and thus guarantee regular involvement with the greatest possible number of children, allowing them to discover nature and the mountains from above. Starting in 2021, we are therefore going to work with 15 new hospitals, managed by as many local operators. These BAP volunteers are carefully recruited, trained and accompanied, in the spirit of offering a dignified, responsible and encouraging encounter with the children.

On the other hand, the year 2021 will also be an opportunity for BAP to go and meet those who are closely or remotely involved in this wonderful adventure. On the roads of France, we will go and introduce ourselves to our patrons, partners and solidarity partners; a mission that is essential for the strong development of the association and in order to successfully pursue our fundraising work.

 

 
Thanks to the concept of virtual reality, you push back the walls of hospital rooms and take sick children with you on a journey of discovery through extraordinary landscapes. In concrete terms, how does a session unfold ?

Virtual reality indeed offers us a relatively wide field of possibilities, in which escape is key and dreams take shape. Children hospitalized for a serious condition find themselves caught between their lives as kids and their status as patients. They have to fight against the disease, no question about it.

To face this difficult situation, it is important to support the child in the most sensitive way. First and foremost, through the care teams who analyze and treat them. Then by the parents who accompany, console and support. And finally, by associations like ours, which offer a different kind of accompaniment, a moment of entertainment, breathing and well-being. We are convinced, and doctors confirm it: the well-being of hospitalized patients has a major influence on the smooth running of their care and multiplies their chances of recovery. It is with this objective in mind that we take great care in our visits, as well as in the recruitment of our staff.

We train our teams according to a very precise and strict dynamic on two major axes—pedagogy and hygiene. Both are of crucial importance, but the main focus is on hygiene, which constitutes a large part of our attention at the hospital. In fact, throughout the day of an event and before entering each room, more than 10 minutes are spent cleaning our equipment, protecting the staff and therefore the child. Some rooms in specific departments are said to be “contaminated”, so we must protect ourselves there. Other rooms are said to be “sterile”, so we have to protect the patient from bacterial parameters and other external disturbances through very strict measures. In all cases, we use specific equipment dedicated to this kind of service and intervention: medical trousers and gown, scrubs, cap, gloves, mask, goggles, disinfectant.

All days of BAP interventions begin with a medical briefing between our staff and the care team. Together we establish a precise and confidential inventory of parameters, allowing us to prepare for each of our visits as well as possible and in advance (the psychological state of the child and parents, physical state, past diagnoses, changes in the course of treatment, relapses). Following this, we visit each child, sometimes in a precise order depending on their treatments, visiting regime and daily routine (nap, meals, other activities). It is important to respect the daily rhythm used by the child and the teams, because the markers at the hospital are no longer the same as at home, with many obligations, restrictions and little freedom possible. All this sometimes means we have to manage complex psychological situations, due to the loss of reference points, comfort and habits. The children’s confinement is nothing like ours in Covid times; it is brutal, cruel and uncompromising.

Once in the room, we spend some time getting to know the child, with his or her parents. We are also free to share this moment alone with the patient as this can contribute to the child’s “letting go” and to their comfort so, that they experience it as a moment of their own. Just like the medical professionals, we have to manage the dynamics of families without making distinctions, respecting rules, habits, ways of seeing but also of thinking (cultures, origins, religions). BAP’s intervention can also be a moment for the parents to have some time for themselves and to take a breather.

 

 
Once the relationship with the patient has been established, we offer him or her a peaceful virtual journey, comprised of gentleness and beauty, the key to which only nature can provide. No written or verbal information is given, there is only music to accompany the imagery, and both together offer a perfect alchemy that leads to well-being and total immersion. A few minutes are enough (between 10 and 20 minutes) for our little patient to live a new and soothing experience. Once back from the trip, we discuss the emotions we have experienced, the overall feeling, the waking dreams and the return to the world after the illness. Overall, we spend between 30 and 45 minutes per room. When we leave, it is the turn of the parents and caregivers to relive the journey through the eyes of the child. The stories come alive, stimulate, provoke and recreate an exchange that makes us forget the illness for a while longer.

After a busy day (sometimes up to 15 patients), it is time to debrief on the day’s experience, the possible difficulties encountered, moments of happiness, exchange and sharing. This is an important aspect of the work, which allows our professionals to put the day’s experiences into words and conclusions. We must return home “without emotional baggage”, without shared destinies, without lasting bonds and with only one feeling: that of a mission and a duty accomplished.

We are convinced that the magic of our journeys is also and above all the way we realize them, explain and share them. It is a way for us to place the human being at the very heart of our actions and to utilize technology as a simple support mechanism for virtual escape !

 
You also provide important assistance to caregivers. Can you tell us more ?

Initially, BAP’s only vocation was to accompany patients in their daily lives and to promote their well-being. However, as time went by and the doctors’ curiosity was aroused, we had longer discussions with the medical teams and concluded that it would sometimes be appropriate to combine BAP interventions with certain complex and painful treatments (such as the catheter placement or chemotherapy injections…). Since then, a few treatments have been carried out with the mask worn and we have concluded with the doctors that it brings comfort, a reduction in anxiety and stress, as well as relief and a shortening of the time required for certain procedures. Indeed, a patient who is afraid of a painful and/or scary treatment can create a source of further complications for the medical teams. We therefore work more and more with the clinical staff in order to establish a long-term project such as the integration of permanent equipment, managed by a reference person. This can facilitate many types of care separate from BAP sessions and can optimize the patient’s comfort, as well as the working time of the caregivers, in addition to our traditional exercises

 
Find out more about the association