Testimony of Julie, primate ecovolunteer in Benin

Tomorrow, Saturday June 24, 2017, is World Primate Day. For the occasion, Julie shares her experience as a volunteer with the ATO Benin association.

"Ecovolunteering at the ATO Benin primate conservation center is no picnic. To be honest, I thought I'd be visiting the country, discovering a new culture and having a good time with the monkeys. In reality, it was a lot harder than I imagined. I did all that, but in different proportions.

Above all, I saw a lot of the country on the bus that took me nine hours to get from the capital to the ATO center. I discovered Beninese culture by working daily with the locals, as they're called, simple, fun-loving people who have a much more positive outlook on life than I do. As for the monkeys, I have indeed spent some unforgettable moments with them, but most of the time I was cleaning up their garbage. But don't get me wrong, the month and a half I spent at ATO gave me a lot more than I thought it would. Of course, there were times when I was more tired than others. In those moments, the friends I made the trip with kept reminding me "you're here for the monkeys, everything you do is for them".

What I retain from this experience is my ability to surpass myself. To create something with my own hands from nothing. To see a wounded animal blossom a little more every day thanks to our work. To bond with these (small) animals, as adorable as they are unpredictable. And to re-examine my priorities in life. Because when you arrive in a place where people make do with the bare minimum and are happy, you realize that material things aren't all that important.

Today I'm back to my French routine, back to my good old habits. I know a little more about Beninese culture and that of primates. I know how to behave in front of these animals, which are childlike but can also be dangerous. I realize a little more how lucky I am to live in my own little comfort. And when I talk about my trip, I'm happy to look back on the work I've accomplished. To conclude, my eco-volunteering at ATO has made me proud. Proud to see what I was able to do with my hands, for the well-being of the Monkeys that Men unfortunately don't respect enough."

Julie Ménard

ATO Benin

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