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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