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 and check out our group website at

Kai from Bénin

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