Kathy's 2023 Trip to Madagascar
April 5, 2023
Finally a Chance to get Back to Madagascar!
Two years of pandemic and then catching Covid myself kept me from Madagascar for too long! Our last volunteer had to leave after only two weeks, (in March 2020) as the airports closed. I’m happy to say that the team there is doing an excellent job and I had only positive surprises when I arrived!
A great swarm of students and teachers greeted me as we drove up to the school on November 26th. It was so good to see their smiling faces again! New babies had been born to staff members. Everyone welcoming me so clearly felt proud to be a part of the project.
A group of youngsters (mainly teacher’s children), who live nearby, took me on a tour to see the gardens and all the young trees that have been planted over the past three years. Between them, they were able to identify each type and helped me learn. They showed me the beautiful new carpentry workshop that was just being finished, and took a spot in the classroom pretending to be students.
Visiting classes I witnessed the welcoming nature of the teachers towards the students and the fun they had during circle time, beginning their day with whole group activities. They love the songs and actions that they share, helping them all feel a sense of belonging to the class. During the day, everyone’s voice is heard and the relationships I witnessed between teachers and students is one of comfort and security. Our teachers tell me how honoured they feel to be trusted and counted on by their students, who often call them ‘mum’ by mistake.
While I would have liked to spend all my time in our many classrooms, there were always folks standing outside my door, waiting to have a chat with me. These were people who had come from far and wide, hoping to get some help from the Madagascar School Project for troubles they had. They were seeking help to get surgery for health issues (cleft palate, hernia, cancer of the leg), acquire much-needed medications or treatments (epileptic and disabled children), some hoping for scholarship help to go to university, and some for just a little food to feed their families.
Life is very hard right now in Madagascar because of the rising cost of rice, due to inflation. It is the staple of the diet for these people and it went from 300 to 900 ariary per cup. Many children had to quit school as the fees were no longer possible for families to manage. Luckily, our parents can come and work in the garden instead of paying tuition if that’s beyond their means.
By February the MSP was feeding all our staff and students breakfast as well as lunch, as 90% of students were only eating one meal a day, the one they received at school. This has meant teachers and cooks arriving at the school at 4 am to get a meal prepared for students who begin class at 8 am. Our cooks and teachers are producing 1,800 hot meals per day!
We also have been giving 7 cups of rice a week to 131 elderly people in the villages surrounding our school. Our teachers brought us the story and pictures of these folks who are struggling. We feel very lucky that our donors are generous enough to allow us the opportunity to provide food for these hungry souls.
The other great thing about my trip was being able to work, in-person, with the circles (committees) which we had started over zoom calls during the pandemic, and train four new groups of people from the project. More and more we are getting the structures in place that help everyone to have an equal voice and bring their ideas forward for project improvement. What a joy to hear their initiatives and enable them in their various missions - growing chickens, fish, gardens, vermiculture, building shelters, sharing teaching methods, sharing language & music learning and planning festivals!
There is great excitement this year, as we, The Madagascar School Project are celebrating our 15th anniversary! Stay tuned for celebration news and events.