"Seeing how enthusiastic the kids were, realising they were starting to understand what you were teaching them and gain a better grasp of English was extremely rewarding" - read about Rosie's experience on our Madagascar Community Adventure Project.
1) Why did you choose this particular project?
I chose this project because I've always wanted to go to Madagascar and I'd been teaching in a lycée in France for 7 months before this - I thought it would be interesting to continue this experience but in a completely different environment and in a primary school instead.
2) What kind of work and activities did you do during your project?
I mainly worked in the local primary school in Hellville, assisting with lessons in my first week and then teaching English independently for the next 3 weeks. I also helped out at youth club 3 times a week, encouraging local older students to practise their spoken English. We also visited an orphanage in Manga Be for an afternoon once a week and played with the children which was really inspiring.
3) How did the culture differ to home, and what were the local people like?
The locals were much more friendly and welcoming than back home and always willing to chat. You get used to them shouting at you in English pretty quickly, they're not being rude, they just really want to practise! Likewise when they call you 'vassa' (white person) it's not an insult, they're just intrigued by the colour of your skin. I loved trying the local street food such as banana fritters, spaghetti baguettis and zebu steak. We managed to take part and dance in the local parade whilst we were there and also watched a chicken fight (a local, controversial, source of entertainment).
4) What was the accommodation like?
I was living in the community volunteer house which was a lot better equipped than I was expecting, all of us had our own beds with fans and mosquito nets and access to running water and a stove to cook our meals. On Fridays we went to camp on the other side of the island for our weekly meetings which was a lot more basic (we slept on the floor of beach huts with sand everywhere) but definitely a unique experience.
5) What were the staff and other volunteers like?
I got on well with the other community volunteers and think we all worked well together, sharing our workload and helping each other out if anyone was sick. I really admired the fact that despite our range of ages and backgrounds we all had similar ideas of what we wanted to get out of the trip. I hope to stay in touch with all of them.
6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
Going snorkelling by Nosy Iranja and seeing dolphins and rainbow fish was definitely a highlight, as was swimming under a waterfall.
7) Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?
I definitely think the work we were doing was worthwhile. Seeing how enthusiastic the kids were, realising they were starting to understand what you were teaching them and gain a better grasp of English was extremely rewarding. The students at the youth club especially seemed to appreciate our help and told us so many times.
8) What sort of wildlife did you encounter?
We saw lots of lizards and zebus, some lemurs at beach camp sticking their heads out of the lemur boxes and dolphins and various fish whilst snorkelling.
9) What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?
I was hoping to gain a better insight into community life and also gain more teaching experience. I feel I achieved both of these goals.
10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?
Remember to take your malaria tablets, drink lots of water, re-apply sun cream every few hours, watch the sunrise and set at least once and be on time for work! Don't forget to stop and take in your surrounding every once in a while. Also try to learn a bit of Malagasy whilst you're there, the locals will really appreciate your effort even if you think it sounds very broken.
11) What do you have planned next?
I'm enjoying some downtime at home for most of the summer after travelling all year, before going back for my final year of university in September.