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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