Cotonou, Benin

Posted by martin.parnell |

Quest completed:

  • Comrades Quest 87

  • The Comrades Marathon (87km)
  • Sunday May 29th 2011
  • Durban to Pietermaritzburg
  • South Africa
  • Finish Time (target): 11hrs 59 mins 59secs
  • Finish Time (actual): 11hrs 51min 23sec
  • Course: Stats and map
  • Video: Comrades in 8 1/2 mins

In late November 2010, I received a call from Sarah Stern. Sarah works for Right To Play in Toronto and had been my contact during Marathon Quest 250. She told me that I was invited to go to the country of Benin in West Africa, with two RTP Athletic Ambassadors, and visit a number of schools that used the Right To Play programs. My immediate answer was yes. My next thought was, I've never heard of Benin. I thanked Sarah and quickly went to the source of all knowledge: Wikipedia. There I learnt that Benin gained its full independence from France in 1960. It has a population of 9.3 million and is the size of the Island of Newfoundland. Its capital is Porto-Novo and its largest city is Cotonou, the location of our visit. The life expectancy is 59 years and the literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world at 35%. In fact, most children in Benin do not complete their primary school education, with slightly more than half of enrolled kids completing the fifth grade.

Right To Play have been in Benin since 2001. They've used three main sports and play-based education programs: Red Ball Child Play, Live Safe Play Safe and Early Child Play. Also, in 2011, after piloting and ongoing teacher training, Right To Play, together with Benin's Ministry of Early Childhood and Primary Education, is introducing an early childhood play-based curriculum for 80,000 children.

My introduction to Benin started on Monday May 30th. I landed at Cotonou airport and, on stepping out of the aircraft, was hit by a wall of heat. It had been warm in Durban, but this was a furnace. I was met in arrivals by Himi, who works for Right To Play. The ride to Hotel Ibis was pretty hair-raising, with hundreds of motorbikes and scooters zipping around us and weaving in and out of the traffic. Fortunately, we arrived in one piece. I love air-conditioning.

I received a call later in the evening to say that Robert Witchel, Caroline Ouellette and Heather Moyse had arrived and I headed down to meet them. Robert is the Director of Right To Play in Canada and was a great help during MQ 250. Caroline is a three time hockey Olympic gold medal winner and has played in eight world championships. She's reputed to have one of the hardest shots in the women's game. Heather is a bobsleigh Olympic gold medalist and has represented Canada as a member of the National Senior Women's Rugby team. Heather also spent three years in Trinidad and Tobago developing and establishing a camp for deaf and hearing-impaired children.

In my next two blogs I will tell you about visiting King Allada 16th with a group of five students, who would be making a presentation to him on children rights. Going to several schools, including one for the deaf and participating in Right To Play programs. Learning about the history of the slave trade and leading a marathon with a group of kids who wanted to start a running club. I had never run a marathon at 40C!

Dr Randolph Randolph's book of animal jokes

Q: What powerful reptile is found in the Sydney opera house?
A: The Lizard of Oz!

Quote of the Day

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cotonou, Benin: Balance is the key to this operation


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