Future politician reports on African experience


Future politician reports on African experience

CATHIE ROY PHOTO--Kai Nestman, CWY alumni, gave a presentation to the Sunshine Coast Rotary Club on March 4; here Rotary president Darcy Long thanks him. His colourful shirt is indicative of Béninois clothing.

What do you do if you want to become fully fluent in French? If you’re Kai Nestman, you find a way to fully immerse yourself in the language and help humanity at the same time.

Nestman, a young Sunshine Coast man, recently returned from the African country of Bénin where he was part of an exchange sponsored by Canada World Youth (CWY).

On March 4, he updated the Rotary Club of the Sunshine Coast on his adventures with CWY. Along with many other groups on the Sunshine Coast, the Rotary Club had contributed to Nestman’s participation in the youth program.

CWY is based on a six month program. For the first three months, the Canadian youth and their counterparts from various foreign countries spend their time in Canada. The following three months are spent in their partners’ homelands. The emphasis of the program is volunteer work and community building.

Prior to going to the impoverished African country on the Atlantic Coast, Nestman spent three months in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec. The city of roughly 40,000 is situated on an island in the Saint Lawrence River.

While in Quebec, Nestman and Timothée, his Béninois counterpart, spent time with the rest of their group working on environmental projects, the primary one being a community idle-free plan, where signage and education were aimed at average citizens to convince them to cut down on idling their vehicles. Provincial and federal funding helped the CWY group achieve their objectives.

While in Quebec, Nestman and Timothée stayed with a family of five — three children and two adults. All day-today living was conducted in French, an excellent learning opportunity for Nestman, who hopes to be a federal politician one day. He was also fortunate to be able to go to Ottawa with the CWY group. And while he has taken two years of political science at the Ottawa University, so this wasn’t a first visit for Nestman, he was proud to show off our Parliament to his African mates.

Bénin was an eye opener for the Canadian youth. The county of about nine million people is ranked 187th in the world in terms of quality of life. The average life expectancy is 59, and only 48 per cent of men over the age of 15 can read and write. The statistic for women is even more dismal — only 23 per cent are literate.

The official language is French. Religions practiced include Islam, Christianity, Voodoo and various tribal beliefs. Growing pineapples is a prime industry in the poor country. The average wage is $2 per day and in the pineapple juice-manufacturing sector, it’s nothing for women to work a mind-numbing 12 hours a day, six days a week putting labels on bottles. As a community job, this didn’t sit well with the Canadian contingent of the CWY.

Culture differences in Canada and Bénin were most pronounced in regard to women, according to Nestman.

He told of the treatment of the grandmother of his host family in Bénin. The woman, a counsellor of some repute, was regularly approached by men in the town for answers to their problems. Yet, Nestman said the men would not look the woman in the eyes.

“It was as if they were ashamed to talk to a woman for advice,” he explained.

While in Bénin, Nestman saw several instances of Rotary help.

One project was a large ferryboat that took children to school every day. One hope there is for the Béninois is to change their pineapple farming from the present chemical-dependent style to organic, a concept that would require a complete 18-month growing season with no product to market — a tough sell in a desperately poor country.

Over the past six years, Nestman has travelled extensively on both humanitarian and personal development. A Rotary exchange student with the Sechelt Rotary Club in 2004, Nestman spent almost a year in Thailand, a country he said bore similarities to Bénin in the farming style. He has also spent a year in France as an au pair learning French.

Right now he’s looking to become a project leader in the Katimavik program. Similar to CWY in scope but national rather than international, Katimavik concentrates on dispersing Canadian youth to areas in Canada to help with social programs. And currently he plans to return to university in the fall.

Should his future plans in government materialize, it’s safe to say Nestman’s constituents will be in well-rounded hands. Read More!

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay

February 4, 2010
98th Day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Sechelt, British Columbia.
Torch Bearer number 027!

Check out the photos and video below!

Capture your Vancouver 2010 Olympic spirit!

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Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Sechelt, BC

January 27, 2010

MONTREAL – With only one day left on my Canada World Youth exchange I’ll be participating in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay presented by Coca-Cola and RBC and supported by the Government of Canada on February 4, 2010, in Sechelt, British Columbia.

Come cheer me on as I carry the torch for the 98th day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay!

February 4, 2010, 10:18:57 AM PST
Relay segment starting along: Northwest Bay Road at Julmar Road
Sechelt, British Columbia

For more information check out the relay website:
http://www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay Read More!

Unearthing all things voodoo


Driving down a red-earth, unpaved road with 19 Canada World Youth (CWY) participants jammed into a minivan winding and turning to miss the potholes, we head to Ouidah, the capital of all things voodoo.

Marking the celebration each year on Jan. 10, the people of Bénin commemorate their traditional religion known as voodoo — a religion commonly overshadowed through the Hollywood image of voodoo dolls full of pins.

A number of divinities make up the religion and are specific to different regions and represented in their local languages with a costume and dance. The divinity of the future and the oracle known as Fa, the divinity of thunder known in its local language as Chango, and the divinity of riches and money known as Dan are just a few examples of the variety of voodoo.

At the beach, venders lined the shore around the festivities ready to capture the influx of tourism and even the odd foreigner innocently willing to pay a bit more than the going price, as the more wise barter around for a deal. Sounds of drumming mixed with other instruments and chanting gave life to the dance of each voodoo fetish. Artists set up makeshift galleries to showcase their work, while sunlight and heat beamed down onto the spectators. Dignitaries, local kings and chiefs, and even the president’s wife attended the day-long ceremony.

Located along the coast 90 minutes from my host community of Allada, the national celebration of voodoo took place on the beach and in front of the historical Porte de non Retour (door of no return).

Ouidah is also known for its historical link to the slave trade and as the past major port of trade for the French and Portuguese.

We travelled the route of a slave as we headed through Ouidah making our way to the shore and the Porte de non Retour. The route begins with a slave market known as Place Chacha where the strongest men and women were sold in their last few days in what is now known as Bénin. Along the way is a famous tree where the slaves would circle nine times for men and seven times for women as a symbol to forget the memories of life in Africa before they headed on their last journey to the Americas. The route was bare and full of monuments to mark the terrible history.

With only one week left in Bénin, we are gearing up for our return to Canada. We will host a thank you party in our host community and a final program evaluation before we return to Montréal for a rebound orientation with other Canadian participants.

You can follow my CWY experience as my adventures continue in Allada, Bénin at www.nestman.ca.

© 2010 blog.KaiNestman.ca Read More!