On Thursday, 4 March, Piet Van Assche died at 88 after a long illness. Piet Van Assche, our father, this wise, passionate, and committed man. The founder and inspiration behind the Hubi & Vinciane Foundation. During his last visit in 2010, the then President of Benin awarded him the title of ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Bénin’, recognizing his “unfailing” commitment.
This commitment began on 16 November 1981, following a tragic plane crash. Our sister Vinciane and her companion Hubert (Hubi) did not survive the crash. At that time, Hubi was the medical director of the bush hospital in Papané. Our sister Vinciane visited him regularly and taught mathematics and science at the college in Tchaourou.
The sadness in our family was immense. As teenagers, we participated in creating the Hubi & Vinciane Foundation: it was mainly dad who ran it, together with mum and Hubi’s parents, of course. It gave them the strength and courage to continue their commitment and dream for Benin in memory of their children.
It became his life’s work. For his busy job as a nuclear physics researcher, he worked long hours and travelled worldwide. At weekends he was there for us, the apple of his eye, and for his wife, the great love of his life. After his eldest daughter’s accident, he devoted all his free time to fundraising and setting up the Foundation’s many projects.
In 2008, when Dad’s health no longer allowed him to do so, I (Pascale) took over the presidency. With Dad’s passion and enthusiasm, I continue to work with a great team to realise Hubi and Vinciane’s dream of improving the quality of life of the people of the Borgou region.
Dad passed away the day I was about to go to Benin with a Belgian delegation. I hesitated for a while, but I went anyway. It was the only good thing I could do for Dad, Hubi & Vinciane, and the Beninese people.
Thank you, dear Dad.
From your daughters Pascale and Mary-Ann Van Assche – Vinciane’s sisters.
On 04 March 2022, like wildfire, the news of the death of Mr. Piet VAN ASSCHE was received and shared by all: local staff, members, friends, and supporters of the Hubi and Vinciane Foundation. Despite his age, one could hear and read the regret of having lost a Great Man in words. Who is this great man that everyone speaks so highly of?
The late Piet VAN ASSCHE is a great visionary, the man with a big heart who had the initiative to transform an unfortunate event into an opportunity to immortalise the names of DR Hubert ADRIAENS and his daughter Vinciane VAN ASSCHE on the one hand and to give hope to the deprived populations of the Borgou region on the other hand. Thanks to the foundation that he created together with the members of Hubi’s and Vinciane’s families in 1982, thousands of people in the communes of Tchaourou, Parakou, and N’dali have had the right to quality health care in the hospitals of Papané and Boko to reduce the number of deaths, thousands of peasant populations have seen their economic power strengthened to better feed themselves, educate their children, pay for health care …
This great visionary is the one who first believed that it was possible to start from nothing (a hundred or so members and 25,000 euros collected in the first few years) to go very far (more than 1,000 supporters and more than 300,000 euros mobilised every year for nearly ten years). He believed in his project and put all his physical, material, and financial energies into it. Today, the Hubi and Vinciane Foundation is operating on a solid basis, thanks to the men and women he was able to pass on his convictions in time.
Fortunately, the Beninese state recognised this merit by elevating him to the rank of Chevalier de L’Ordre National in 2011, during his last trip to Benin.
All Beninese who met him at least once will keep the image of the great generous person they knew. His example inspires many. All those who listen and will listen to the story of the Foundation’s creation will regret not having known him.
From his eternal resting place, we remain convinced that he will continue to watch over his small Van Assche family and allies and the large Hubi and Vinciane Foundation family.
Peace to the soul of the Great Departed
Marcienne Houenou – Director of the Foundation in Benin