Jackie Hernandez, Darwin Reyes, Bethany Saravia, David Norton, Biz Bomberger, Rhiannon Harrison and Shyane Strader enjoyed sightseeing and beach time in Ouidah, Benin. Photo by Bienvenue Kadja.
By Jane Morrow
Tuesday, August 15, 2023

​The Youth Venture Benin team left the United States on July 13 for a two-week service program in Benin, West Africa at La Casa Grande, a Mennonite Mission Network partner. Joining group leader Rhiannon Harrison, were two leaders-in-training, Bizayehu (Biz) Bomberger and David Norton, all from Goshen, Indiana.

Youth Venture, a short-term service program of Mission Network, connects young adults ages 15-22 with teams of peers and leaders to actively explore and engage in God's work in the world.

You can see all the photos and more information at the 2023 Youth Venture Benin blog.

 

 

Shyane Strader, Rhiannon Harrison, Bethany Saravia, Biz Bomberger, David Norton, Darwin Reyes, and Jackie Hernandez leaving the Chicago airport.

Pictured at O'Hare Airport in Chicago are (left to right) in the back row: Shyane Strader, Rhiannon Harrison, Biz Bomberger, Darwin Reyes, and Jackie Hernandez. Front row: Bethany Saravia and David Norton.

People worshipping

The first day at La Casa Grande, a children's home, started at 8:30 a.m. in worship.

"They were singing the song “Waymaker” but in French. It was lovely," wrote Darwin Reyes. Photo by Bienvenue Kadja.

Dancing with children at La Casa Grande.

"Bonjour! Today, I learned some African dance movements and I am in love with the African culture and the way they praise God. Their dance movements are the perfect way to glorify God," wrote Bethany Saravia. Photo by Bethany Saravia.

David Norton dances with Josephine after English class.

July 17 began with teaching English at La Casa Grande. "Today, we taught our first English class! We practiced Psalms 34:14 in English and in French. We also did a dance to go along with it," wrote Shyane Strader. Photo by Shyane Stader

La Casa Grande Benin household solid waste recovery center

Later in the day, Hippolyte Agoussin, director of La Casa Grande household solid waste recovery center, led the group on a tour describing how they convert trash to biogas and biocarbon. Two days later, the team returned to helped to work the compost and break down boxes for recycling. Photo by Shyane Strader.

  David Norton, Darwin Reyes and Shyane Strader play math games with students at La Casa Grande Benin.

July 18 was filled with teaching and learning. The Youth Venture team continued English language classes and played math games. Then, some of the students taught the team how to hand wash their clothing and to play African sports games. Pictured, David Norton, Darwin Reyes and Shyane Strader play math games with students at La Casa Grande. Photo provided.

A group of people in front of a building

The team attended a youth climate camp on July 21 in Bonou in the department of l'Oueme in Benin where Bienvenu Kadja, La Casa Grande's National Coordinator, spoke about La Casa Grande and the waste management site. Photo provided.

Youth Venture group in front of Benin Amazone

After the climate camp, the Youth Venture team stopped in Cotonou City, Benin, to see Benin Amazone, a 30-meter (98.5 feet) statue, by sculptor, Li Xiangqun. The statue represents an Agoodie, a member of a regional military corps entirely composed of women. The Agoodie participated in most of the military campaigns the Dahome Kingdom waged during the 1600-1800s. Pictured in back are Jackie Hernandez, Bethany Saravia, David Norton, Biz Bomberger, Shyane Strader, Rhiannon Harrison, Darwin Reyes. In front is Hippolyte Agoussin. Photo by Bienvenu Kadja.

The Door of No Return

On July 23, the team visited Ouidah, Benin, where they learned about the slave trade in that area. Rhiannon Harrison wrote, "Today, we walked on the land where people were loaded onto boats and travelled to the Americas where they were enslaved. It was incredible to learn their story!" This photo by Darwin Reyes is of "The Door of No Return, a concrete and bronze arch signifying the enslaved Africans who were taken from the slave port of Ouidah.

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​Jane Morrow is a writer and editor for Mennonite Mission Network

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