I am a French citizen born 37 years ago close to the border between Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. It has now been quite a long time since I left the Northeast side of France.
After a completely normal childhood and teenage years fully dedicated to cycling, I left home and the area where I grew up after high School to join the French Elite Permanent Training Center in Bordeaux, a big city in the Southwest of France renowned for its wine. There, as a young eighteen-year old country boy, I discovered at once independence from the familiar environment, life as a student, the all-year-round temperate weather, and the ambivalent relationship between cycling, professionalism, and doping...
With all my dreams of becoming a successful, professional sportsman ruined, I returned the year after that to the Northeast side of France to study business at a decent-sized city called Nancy.
Two years later, after graduation and as I was ready to move to England for extensive studies, I got called by the national service… A ten-month compulsory service in the French army was the rule for all young French men at the time. Not interested at all in the army and especially spending ten dreary months not doing anything interesting with very little money (around 100 USD/month), I took the risk of applying for an extensive period with the possibility of being stationed abroad in exchange!
Having been fascinated by Africa since I was a child, I of course applied for a position in the black continent among all other choices.
I don’t remember being happier than the day I saw these two words in the letter asking me to be in the closest Air Force base to my parents’ home on January 4th, 1996. As I had expected and dreamt many times before, I spent two years in pure heaven in West Africa. As lucky as I was to get a fascinating job as a private secretary of the Chief of the French army Head Quarters there, I was also allowed a chance to take regular four-month holidays. Traveling for about three weeks every three to four months during these two years, I got to discover and experience much more than I had ever thought was possible.
By the end of 1998, upon my return to the civilian life in France, I knew that one day I would work as humanitarian worker.
Strangely enough, it was as a manager of a supermarket that I started my professional life… I spent three years in Paris followed by two years in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies, Caribbean, where I realized it was time to revisit my initial idea of joining the humanitarian world. Once again, however, reality turned my plan around completely, and I ended up living in Copenhagen, Denmark for seven years before finally working for JEN in Haiti as a humanitarian worker.
Program officer since March 6th 2010, I have to say I am actually glad that it took me a long time to join the NGO world. I realize everyday how all the different experiences I have accumulated in my background are extremely useful.