Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas from Allada, Bénin!

This year I'll be spending the holiday in Bénin as I continue on my Canada World Youth exchange for the final phase of the program. With a team of ten Canadians and ten Béninois it's been quite the adventure as my first time on the continent of Africa.

Today we'll be at the local orphanage where we have organized Christmas events and gifts for all of the children.

Enjoy your holiday with family and friends.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2010!


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Second phase of exchange begins


One month into the second phase of my Canada World Youth (CWY) exchange takes me to Allada, Bénin, located one hour north of Cotonou, the economic capital of the country.

Bénin, located on the West Coast of Africa, has a population of more than nine million people and is often referred to as one of the more stable democracies on the continent. Through the influence and affects of French colonization, Bénin’s official language is French, although there are various local dialects such as Fon, which is spoken in the southern region of the country.

After a four-day orientation session where we toured Cotonou and settled into a new culture and environment, we arrived in Allada and visited each volunteer project before greeting our new host families.

Our family is well respected within the community as its original ties to the kingdom of Abomey, the largest royal kingdom in Bénin, lends itself to the their pride and traditional role as the official fabricator of all cast metals. Royal rings, bracelets, necklaces, figures and even the money of the royal kingdom were cast out of precious metals and made exclusively by the family. Although this function is no longer carried out directly by my immediate host family, the original link through an ancient king’s brother tells a history of handed down customs and legends.

Once during a time of war within the territory, the king wanted to make sure his children were protected from the injustices of fighting. He sent an order to distinguish his children by marking two scars on each side of the forehead beside their eyes. These ancestral markings have been carried on for generations, but this tradition seems to be declining as the grandparents begin to deny the ceremony given the growth of the family.

Along with the knowledge passed down by my host grandmother, there have been many interesting first impressions during the initial month.

The local market comes to Allada every fifth day as it rotates each surrounding community, bringing commerce from around the region. With the market comes an influx of people buying the freshly displayed foods and local produce, tables of bright coloured fabrics and homemade carts full of a variety of products. The flurry of activity and movement of goods around Allada flies by as sacks of rice piled on a motorcycle, a basket of peanuts perched on a woman’s head or a car jammed to the roof full of oranges. The fruit is endless and the dust is everywhere.

With just two months left we are already planning our midway project evaluation where we’ll travel north for a four-day retreat. As the Béninois phase began with a new sense of energy for the program, our involvement within the community through our volunteer projects will continue to grow over the coming weeks as we discover a new culture and country.

Remember you can follow my exchange and CWY experience as my adventures continue in Allada, Bénin at http://www.nestman.ca/.

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The Beginnings in Bénin

A fon an! Bonjour depuis le Bénin!

It’s been a while since I last sent out an email update! I know that I owe quite a few replies so hopefully this email counts towards some as our internet here in Allada, Bénin isn’t very dependable. And…if you’ve recently sent me an email don’t worry as I’ll get to it soon!

Leaving our Canadian host community of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec, was a sure sign that we had past the half way point of our exchange. It was the compilation of our Canadian program where we had been hosted by a welcoming community and host families that truly embraced the program.

We left for Montreal during the early morning of October 30 where we had a final orientation on health with another group that was hosted in Terrebonne, Québec and headed to Dassa, Bénin. Before making sure everyone was good to go with the baggage restrictions we left for the airport to start our wait and travel with a changeover in Paris. It couldn’t have been an easy trip through the Air France ticket counter as there were four of us in the group who didn’t exactly have assured tickets for the remaining trip from Paris to Cotonou, Bénin. It ended up that there was just a ticket issuing error and in the end we caught the same plane as the group, but that never stopped us from hoping for a free night in Paris!

We arrived in Bénin during the night of Halloween and headed for what would be our compound for the next few days as we attended an orientation retreat. We had a session on the environment and its relation to our program, explored the city, the beach, and just had some time to adjust to the new time zone, heat, environment and culture.

Some first impressions of Bénin include the endless amount of street vendors and little shops set up along the path of the road that sometimes sell the largest variety of items. The ‘zims’ or motortaxis are everywhere. Imagine 40 Canada World Youth participants all following each other as a pack weaving throughout Cotonou. Actually there are quite a few comparisons to my Rotary Youth Exchange year in Thailand.

Our arrival in our new host community of Allada on Tuesday November 3 was met with a grand welcome from all the new host families and an introduction to the community. We quickly toured each volunteer project to understand the organizations and their objectives so that everyone could choose their project for the next three months.

The volunteer project that I chose didn’t turn out to be the best project to learn from, but rather a project to pass our time and work for a company. I had been working with a pineapple juice cooperative known as IRA and took the last two weeks to learn each stage of the process. After trying to get the administration to allow us to spend more time looking into how we could support the cooperative with new initiatives such as an entrance in the European Union or an evaluation of the production efficiencies, the four of us who had been volunteering will move to a new project in the coming week.

There are several different volunteer projects, but I’ll get into the details of them in future updates.

My host family has been super since our arrival and always ready to cook a variety of new dishes for me to taste. The family that immediately lives with us includes our host mom, two sisters (14 and 3), a grandma, an uncle and his wife, and their son who is 1. Our other uncles and aunts visit often, but also many people from within the community drop by to get council from our grandma who is looked upon as an elder and advisor.

Also….Movember lives on in Africa and for the second year in a row I’m growing out a moustache to support the Movember campaign to raise awareness and education on prostate cancer. For over a week it was a handlebar moustache, but now it’s down to a regular old moustache….HA!

Anyways I will try and write an update at least every two weeks where I could post an article, write some thoughts, or just post some photos.

Remember to follow my updates at www.nestman.ca and check out our group website at www.cwyjcm.org.

Kai from Bénin Read More!

Canadian exchange nearing an end

Recently we hosted our educational activity day. Each counterpart team that is made up of one Canadian and one Béninois will host a full day that covers a specific theme and present information to the group while developing the topic. My team’s focus was on the economy, and we specified our subject on food economy. The activity that launched our theme was based on product research at a local grocery store. We had the group take an hour to research products and find out more information on their origin, whether the store carried local products or products of Bénin, and note where the products were made or fabricated.

The results made for some interesting debate. There was not one product that was marked ‘Made in Bénin’ and we were hard-pressed to find local products, although some could be made locally, but were marked ‘Made in Montréal.’ We discussed the effects of food transportation and outlined its relation to the environment. The group talked about food security and the need for more locally grown and fabricated products both in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and across Canada.

The educational activity days are just one facet of our exchange, while we spend the majority of our time working on our volunteer project.

Since the beginning of August there have been two of us, one Canadian and one Béninois, working on our volunteer project known as “Coupez le Moteur” (Cut the Motor).

The objective of the program is to create a platform for an idle-free community. Through the development of educational programs that outline the effects of an idling car and its relation to greenhouse gas emissions, the program will reduce wasted idling hours while decreasing the environmental footprint of the municipality. Education is a key component, as there are many myths linked to idling, especially during the cold winter months in Québec.

Idling wastes money and fuel and contributes to climate change. If a vehicle is going to be parked for more than 60 seconds, the engine should be turned off as long as the driver is not in traffic. Even during the cold days of winter, a vehicle can be warmed up by driving rather than idling, and during the coldest of days, only two to three minutes of idling is necessary. The program will be implemented by autumn 2010 along with a new municipal bylaw and promotional campaign.

Remember that there are many youth opportunities available and we should encourage this involvement through the communication of these experiences.

Youth from around the Sunshine Coast should participate in programs such as CWY, Rotary International Youth Exchange and Katimavik — programs that develop an appreciation of culture, language, community development and volunteering, and essentially an understanding of differences. As a community, we can only grow together by supporting our youth through these experiential educative programs as we bring our understanding and knowledge directly back to the Sunshine Coast.

For more information on my exchange and CWY experience, you can follow me at http://www.nestman.ca.

© 2009 blog.KaiNestman.ca

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Nuit des Sans Abris-Valleyfield-de-Salaberry 2009

Nuit des Sans Abris-Valleyfield-de-Salaberry 2009 ($-Gratuit)


Le soir de Octobre le 16 (2009) La Nuit des Sans Abri se tiendra auparc Salaberry. Tout le monde et bienvenue de tous les âges.

Il y aura des feux pour tenir tout le monde au chaud. Il y aura aussi des chansons, des présentation et discussions. Des bénévoles distribuera des vêtements d’hiver pour ceux qui sont moins fortunés.

Le groupe de Jeunesse Canada Monde vont être présente et favorable. On va aidé avec plusieurs aspect diffèrent de la nuit.
Le point culminant étant un spectacle.

Si vous besoin plus d`information SVP appeler (450) 373-1333

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Environmental theme takes centre stage

SEPTEMBER 25, 2009

Sechelt – Through my Canada World Youth (CWY) exchange, our environmental theme has taken centre stage as we live our lives in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Qué.

As each day goes on during our volunteer projects, our experience is constantly demanding more and more as we strive to live as eco-friendly citizens.

Salaberry-de-Valleyfield is an environmentally-conscious municipality. It has taken on new initiatives to create an eco-friendly community through education and the development of programs to make it easy for the average citizen to participate and make their positive mark on the environment.

One program that especially makes its impact on the ground is the Escouade Verte also known as the Green Squad. It is set up through returning university students during the summer months and provides employment opportunities for youth. The Green Squad’s mission is to educate residents on recycling, pesticide use, composting, and water preservation. The group takes appointments with interested citizens wanting to know how they can implement best practices in their home and garden. There is also another team that does education throughout the community, while holding presentations at festivals and education at the elementary school level. These types of programs are the most practical as it starts with education at the most basic level and allows access to resources for residents.

We can make a difference one step at a time as we strive to incorporate smart environmental thinking into our daily lives. Timothée, my counterpart from Bénin, was the first to point out to our host family that they needed a compost for organic waste. We would notice each night while preparing dinner how much organic waste was thrown out into the garbage and headed straight to the local waste management site. Our host family has now pledged to have a compost by the time we finish our Canadian stage of the program. It’s just a simple move in the right direction and one that most host families have now made since their involvement with CWY.

We also encouraged our host family to install bottles of water into the reservoir of their over-consuming toilets to displace water usage. Old toilets can flush as much as 20 litres of fresh water down the drain.

Communities on the Sunshine Coast need to take a step further and embrace the environment throughout our daily lives. There needs to be a growing involvement with the municipalities to create the link between local government and residents as we develop high tier environmental programs that work best for the Coast. Let us work together to implement a higher standard of environmental awareness within our neighbourhood.

For more information on my exchange follow me at http://www.nestman.ca.

© 2009 blog.KaiNestman.ca
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Journée d'activité éducative - Économie Alimentaire

We held our Journée d'activité éducative - Économie Alimentaire (Educational Activity Day - Food Economy). Timothée and I presented various ideas that sparked long debates among the group as we strived to reach solutions and answers to out theme. Check out some examples of our slides below.

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Coupez le Moteur

Get some research of your own going for my volunteer project in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec! Check out these websites to learn more about an idle free project and Coupez le Moteur:
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A whirlwind first few weeks

Sechelt – The past three weeks and the beginning of my experience with Canada World Youth (CWY) have been busy — from Montréal to Val-David to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

Through various orientations and welcoming events, we’ve been able to get to know each other, our host families and our host community.

Starting off in Montréal at the end of July, I met up with some volunteers who arrived early. We headed to the airport to welcome the other Canadians flying in from all over the country, and once all together, we waited for the Béninois to clear customs. With a grand welcome, we were off and ready to share the next six months together, focusing on our CWY exchange — based on the environment.

We had five days of orientation in the town of Val-David along with another team that is stationed in Québec and exchanging with Bénin. Through various cultural exercises, group building activities and reflection on the upcoming adventure, we ended with an activity to pair the Canadians with a counterpart from Bénin.

Each participant received two pieces of paper, one on which we wrote what we could give to our counterpart and on the other, our needs. We placed what we could give on our chest and our needs on our back and went around discovering what everyone was looking for in a counterpart. In the end we made our top three choices and it was narrowed down from there.

Timothée, my counterpart, is 27 and from a small town in Bénin called Djougou. He has completed his undergraduate degree in land management.

Counterparts are paired together for the duration of the exchange and share host families both in Canada and abroad.

With our arrival in Salaberry-de-Valley-field we were greeted by all of the host families and given a key to find our selected family who was holding our bike lock. It was interesting walking around the circle, speaking to all the families and not knowing which lock our key would open.

Our host father works for the Ministry of Transportation for Québec and our host mom is a French teacher. We also have two host brothers aged 15 and 18 and a host sister who 19 years old.

We had a second orientation specific to our group and host community and were paired with a different partner for our volunteer project; the group had to come to a consensus with each project.

Our team of 18 is dispersed around the city, working on projects such as energy efficiency, ragweed control, an environmental education group, river research and history and my project — the creation of an idle-free community that is conscious of vehicle emissions and driving habits.

Salaberry-de-Valleyfield is a busy community during the summer months with boating and water sport traffic surrounding the island. Using the old canal, boaters can access the city centre and walk along boardwalks, through parks and stroll the main street.

In the coming weeks, we will develop our knowledge and involvement within our specific volunteer project as the experience grows and as my French becomes stronger.

For more information on my exchange and CWY experience, you can follow me at http://www.nestman.ca.

© 2009 blog.KaiNestman.ca

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Salaberry-de-Valleyfield - Our Team

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Jeunesse Canada Monde - Beginnings

Sechelt – After growing up on the Sunshine Coast, I attended the University of Ottawa for two years before taking the past year to develop my French while working in France and travelling around Europe.

Last autumn I applied through Canada World Youth (CWY) for their ‘Youth Leaders in Action’ exchange and was accepted for a Québec/Bénin team.

CWY has been developing international programs for youth ages 15 to 25 since 1971. Participants are involved in a six-month, two-phase program where the first phase occurs in Canada and the second phase in an exchange country. Each team of 20 volunteers are selected individually based on multiple demographic and socio-economic factors. The team is meant to represent a diverse group of youth, half from Canada and the other half from the exchange country.

CWY programs are based on a unique model that involves the two-part exchange, advocating an experiential-based learning environment while being paired with an exchange counterpart for the full duration of the experience. Youth develop through their involvement in grass-roots volunteer programs in host communities and work on group dynamics, leadership, and personal development. Each team has a focus while participating in their exchange and our team’s focus is the environment.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is a major partner with CWY and funds exchanges throughout the world.

My first exchange phase of three months takes place in Valleyfield, Québec and began on July 30. Located just 50 minutes from Montréal on the island of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield with the Saint Lawrence River to the south and Lac Saint-Louis to the north, Valleyfield has a population of around 40,000 people.

The second phase of the exchange will begin at the end of October in Allada, Bénin — a country situated on the West Coast of Africa and bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Togo, and Burkina Faso.

Bénin, commonly known as Dahomey before 1975, has a population of roughly nine million people and is about nine times smaller than B.C.

Through the partnership and generous support of the Rotary Clubs of Sechelt, Sunshine Coast, and Squamish, and the Lions Club of the Sunshine Coast, I will be able to participate in this upcoming experience.

Youth in our community need to take advantage of the numerous opportunities both within Canada and abroad while they have the time to participate and get involved. We must communicate these experiences in order to encourage more youth participation and to take advantage of the valuable education through different cultures and the world around us.

Communities on the Sunshine Coast, such as Sechelt and Powell River have hosted exchange teams in the past and this year Sechelt will host a new team.

For more information on my exchange and Canada World Youth experience you can follow me at www.nestman.ca.

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