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The Gap Year Blog

Made in Madagascar

12 Nov 2019 13:05 PM
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The reason why I wanted to volunteer this summer was to widen my perspective about the world and step outside of my comfort zone. My volunteering experience with Frontier in Madagascar has done just that and has taught me many other things along the way.

The most important lesson, in my opinion, is that in order to be happy one does not need many things, or anything fancy. This is something people in Western countries know in theory, but it is often forgotten when juggling an everyday life that is saturated with material aspirations. For me, it was a humbling experience to get some distance from the Western culture of excessive acquirement; because in Madagascar, I saw how happy people were with their lives, and I learned to value what I have even more.

What helped with loosening my Western attitudes to life was our accommodation, which closely reflected how locals live (in terms of situation and living conditions). I grew to enjoy the stripped-back lifestyle, and it also helped us to be on the same level as the locals; which was something I truly appreciated.

Secondly, volunteering has taught me more about different cultures because during my stay we got to meet a lot with Malagasy people through teaching. The culture in Madagascar is much warmer and welcoming than in the UK. People are kind and friendly in Nosy Be, which made the volunteering experience even more enjoyable. Relaxed way of living is worlds away from hectic London, and I hope to bring some of that calmness with me back home.

When it comes to the teaching experience itself, I realised how crucial it is to know English and other languages. Language skills help people to connect, work and travel; but when studying them at school it's often taken for granted. However, volunteering as an English teacher in Madagascar made truly grateful for the opportunities I always had to learn languages. That made my volunteering experience amazing, because we were able to offer the locals skills, enabling them more options and opportunities in the future. Learning English will open doors for people in Madagascar, so I think Frontier's work is extremely important and more people should feel the need to help.

Overall, I will return home happy and hopefully wiser. Travelling is the best teacher, and volunteering made my experience even more thorough and educational. Many things can be forgotten when staying put in one place; so leaving one's comfort zone will always give more perspective on things, and that is something I definitely experienced.

By Pinja Ronka - Frontier Madagascar Community Project volunteer

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!