October 11, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: White Mountain Independent : Alyson Beste is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : The Peace Corps in Benin: October 11, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: White Mountain Independent : Alyson Beste is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

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Alyson Beste is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

Alyson Beste is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

Alyson spends her time in her village teaching the Beninois about health issues and childcare. AIDS, water-born diseases, and malnutrition are all grist for Alysonís mill. Interestingly enough, one of the things she encourages the natives to use is one of their own fruits that has great nutritional and restorative properties. Yes, it seems strange for a foreign girl to be teaching people about something they should be teaching her about.

Alyson Beste is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin

Local woman fulfills African dream

Special to the Independent 10/11/2005

Caption: Alyson dancing with villagers in Adja Ouere, Benin. Ina Africa, music is meant to be moved to, not just listened to.

When she was just a pre-teen, Blue Ridge High School graduate Alyson Beste developed a fixation: Africa.

She also developed a fixation for tigers, and for several years tried to figure out a way to find tigers in Africa.

Her interest was strong enough for her to join the International Studies program at the University of Arizona. And, in spite of the fact that she studied German from her father at Blue Ridge High School, she decided to study French in college, because more countries in Africa have French as their official language.

Alyson had her dream-come-true in 2003 when she was able to go to Ghana with a U of A study group for six weeks. She came back with African drums, a ton of snapshots, new friends and an even greater love for the continent and its people.

She also came back with an additional dream. She decided to become a member of the Peace Corps and return to Africa.

Following her graduation in December of 2003, she began to pursue that dream.

Finally, in August of the next year, she was in Cotonou, the capital of Benin (formerly Dahomey) where she spent three months in training with the Corps. By November, she was in her village. Adja Ouere is a somewhat small town north of the coastal Cotonou, near the eastern border of Benin and Nigeria. She will be posted there for another year until she leaves in November of 2006.

Alyson spends her time in her village teaching the Beninois about health issues and childcare. AIDS, water-born diseases, and malnutrition are all grist for Alysonís mill. Interestingly enough, one of the things she encourages the natives to use is one of their own fruits that has great nutritional and restorative properties. Yes, it seems strange for a foreign girl to be teaching people about something they should be teaching her about.

Her French is coming in handy, although most of the people in her area only speak their tribal or regional language. Those with some education do speak French and have served as her translators. Her abilities in the local dialect of Yoruban are improving, however. The people are accepting her more and more, as she participates with them in many of their village functions. Alyson has always been interested in dancing. Salsa and African dancing have been part of her passions. While still in Tucson, she taught an African dance aerobic class for a gym: Afri-cize with Aly! She can often be found dancing with "her" people in their village celebrations.

She was recently home for a Beste family reunion in Utah where she pestered everyone until they gave her clothes and any other items she could fit into her extra suitcase that she could take back to Benin for gifts for all of her friends. They will often ask for gifts, and are surprised but quite pleased when you have one for them. The simplest things, such as a T-shirt are graciously received.

She gets into the capital every few weeks to see her Peace Corps leaders and to go to church. She makes the trip by taxi (car or motor scooter). While there, she also meets with other Peace Corps compatriots. She says that the Peace Corps is a truly enriching experience and would encourage anyone else who might have a desire to really serve to consider it.

Sheís not the only Blue Ridge High School alumnus serving with the corps in Africa. Lizzie Edmondson, who also graduated from the U of A, is in Africa as well, although a few countries away.

Alyson does miss her family and friends here in the states, and knows Adja Ouere is not the easiest place to visit. She loves the work and the people, and, according to reports, the people love her, too. In fact, she has been proposed to several times, but itís always as a second or third wife. Thatís not for her.

ēAlyson would like to hear from her friends in the White Mountains. She can be reached by email at tiger_rarr@hotmail.com.





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Story Source: White Mountain Independent

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