Country of origin: Benin
Hosting GLEN/ ASA participants since 2003
Occupation: Pépiniériste. And Coordinator of the NGO “Progrès-Solidarité”
I hosted GLEN and ASA volunteers for the first time in 2003. The contact was established through the German association „Pro Benin“. When I first received an e-mail from a German student who said he wanted to do an internship in my organization it made me a little bit nervous to be honest. The young man wrote to me that he didn’t have enough money to rent his own house and that he would like to stay with me and my family. I was a little bit worried whether he would be able to adapt to our way of living here in Benin. At that time I didn’t even have a proper shower. But I stopped to worry when the interns actually arrived. It became clear very quickly that they easily adapted to our living conditions. From that point on our cooperation was very fruitful and we could focus on our work. Since then I’ve hosted GLEN volunteers every year. The main problems that occur are health issues. The young Europeans are used to very different hygienic conditions. They often get infections, sometimes even Malaria. Then there are also always some cultural conflicts. The interns are used to a very independent lifestyle in their home countries and sometimes they underestimate the degree of responsibility their visit means for their hosts. When me or my colleagues host volunteers we feel responsible for their health and security and we need to be informed about the activities of our guests. This sometimes leads to misunderstandings, but open communication always helps to solve these kind of problems. In general I have to say that I see GLEN as a very positive influence in my live. I like the exchange I have with our foreign guests. They come here to give courses in environmental awareness to the school children. The interns are responsible for the content and the planning of these courses and their ideas are very valuable input for us. In return we teach the interns our local techniques of sustainable agriculture. While here there has been a lot of talking going on, I believe that real cooperation and real learning starts, when you actually do something. This is why I find it so fruitfull to exchange with the young Europeans while working together.
If I could make a wish to the GLEN program I would wish for an exchange that goes even a little bit further. As much as we like receiving European interns: we would also like to send interns from Benin to Europe. I would be really interested to see how a German tree nursery works, for example.
Being at this seminar made me understand a lot better how the network functions. And it gave me the opportunity to meet some of my former interns again. One of them has a child now and he brought it to the seminar, just so that I and the little boy could meet. This obviously made me very happy!