Benetier is ready for Dar es Salaam challenge

Benetier is ready for Dar es Salaam challenge

Further, he is confident that he is able to handle the challenges ahead here in the commercial capital, where he arrived at the beginning of this month. By-the-way he is fully aware that his name Sullivan echoes the English language although Benetier does have the French sound and all that goes with it. 

This pleases him, for he refers to himself as being a citizen of the world, for he has visited a large number of countries since he first travelled out of France eight years ago. However, the fact remains that being born in France makes him a Frenchman, one of the criterions needed to be the director of this institute, along the Ali Hasssan Mwinyi Road, when going northward away from Dar es Salaam's City Centre.
 In fact the physically tall and agile Benetier was born in Roanne Town, which is 70.8 kilometres from the city of Lyon in the centre of the European country. He grew-up with his grandparent's, on his mother's side, who worked in the textile sector. Unfortunately for residents there, the industry suffered a swift decline over the last 50 years.  It failed to counter competition from Eastern Europe, where material was being produced at a lesser cost, therefore, dominated the market.

This caused mass unemployment in the French town, where he learnt about life from his "hard working" mother and her parents. Growing-up in difficult surroundings he says has helped him a lot. He has had to live an independent, responsible lifestyle since he was 15-years of age.

This is quite different from many of his friends, who had it easy when they were growing-up and now can't even think of travelling five kilometres away from where they are. This he believes might have something to do with him holding the position of director at the Alliance Francaise office, despite his relatively young age. In some ways it can be said that Benetier's road to Dar es Salaam started after he had finished his master's study, when he opened an NGO that worked with children, there in France, instead of going to sit in an office and pursue a career in business.

This he thought at the time and still holds to today, as quite unsuitable for him. Not too long after the idea of starting the ngo had taken root, it extended to encompass an expedition round the world. He saw travelling as a good school from which he would be able to find himself and what he should do with his life. Now he needed more money than that he could earn so pulled-in other people through the idea of sponsorship.

"Then I requested help from sponsors, which I got so was able to finance my trip. It did not cost me a lot because I did not stay in hotels but spent my time with families. My objective was to meet the people of the countries I went to and learn about their lives. There were times I slept in train stations or at the side of the street. So it was one fantastic year between 2006 and 2007 for me around the world," Benetier explained. From this expedition he now says he has got to understand the world better, although he still has many questions. Those answers he did get have provided him with a much needed help to continue. He chose to start in Mali then Burkina Faso followed with Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and New Zealand. Then he went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma. From there he moved on to Romania, Poland, England in United Kingdom and then back to France. It was while on these travels that he discovered Alliance Francaise, so on his return to home applied for a job there. However, he also talked about having difficulties adjusting to the mentality of people in France after his year going around the world. This proved to be more difficult than he thought it would be.

This is why on his return he accepted the post to go and head one of the 29 Alliance Francaise chapters in the Madagascar Island off the coast of South Africa. This proved to be just what the doctor ordered, he told the 'Daily News on Saturday' while on a visit to his new office during the week.

"Madagascar was the first time for me to settle in a country for two years, and so far from France, to work. It's different being based in one place as opposed to travelling through a country.

"It was fantastic because I discovered Alliance Francaise and what it meant to be a director, which was not easy," he admitted.
After Madagascar he returned to France and spent just over a year promoting his book: "Affranchis du Temps" (Not Slaves of Time), in which he explains how he lived for the year moving around with no wristwatch or mobile phone. He had started in March 2006 and finished March the following year.

The book was written between his return and the end of 2008. Before setting-out on the world expedition the agreement he had with the sponsors was to put their banners on his website, where he placed reports of his journey, while it was in progress.  This he says was good because it gave him the opportunity to share something he likes doing with the people.  At the same time he also doubled as a French teacher.

The differences between his work environment in Madagascr and here is part of the challenge, which he has accepted. He is very careful not to make the mistake and believe that because there is only one chapter of Alliance Francaise here, as opposed to 29 there, things will be any easier. After-all the branches there are very small, whereas the one here is relatively very big. As said earlier, Benetier grew-up with his single mother, younger brother and sister, close to their grandparents.

His parents never married but met when they were young and when his mother fell pregnant, opted to have the child, which was him, who she raised by herself.  He spent his first 20 years with her, his younger brother by five years and their younger sister, who is still schooling.

He told the 'Daily News on Saturday' that his brother is very different from him, in the sense that the former, as opposed to him is grounded to the place where he was born and has no desires to travel anywhere else. However, there is a possibility that he will pay a visit here to see his elder brother.

He maintains that he does know what it means to have a father figure as such but does know his Dad, with whom he has a very good relationship as close friends.  All of his formal education was obtained in public establishments there in Roanne Town, France, with the exception of the third year of his first degree course, which was done in Huddersfield, close to Leeds in West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom back in 2003.

This was the first time for him to live in another country, which has a different culture to the one he grew-up in and was used to. By now he has got used to it so expects an equally enjoyable and productive stint here in Dar es Salaam.  

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