I chose to volunteer in Madagascar as it has fantastic and unique wildlife, a great climate (especially in the dry season), and is somewhere different! I decided to go to Madagascar via the Leap as this is a very hands on company that guarantee a safe and adventure filled program.
Average girl from Earth.
follow but I probably won't follow back...
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The Leap are very good in helping to give options for flights, insurance, advice on the destination, and packing requirements and suggestions. They also sorted transport to and from the airport.
When booking flights for the trip, if done through the Leap, they nearly 100% of the time succeed in getting everyone who is on the same program at the same time, onto the same flights, which is brilliant to know that you won't be alone, and will have peers starting the adventure at the same time!
The Leap are also great at answering any questions and queries, from advice on what to pack, to what the local culture is like, and even firsthand descriptions from staff and volunteers who have been to the destination before.
The only thing I really had to organize was getting to and from the airport at home, which is simple enough to do!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Bring a good head torch! Incredibly handy to have!
You will create some incredible memories, with some amazing people, who you undoubtedly will still be in contact with on returning home!
You will lose some things, gain others, and realize that actually, you don't need that thing. Mundane things at home, will seem either insignificant, or such a luxury, for example, the variety of food! Cold showers will become the norm, and make you appreciate hot water, but also realize you can easily adapt.
Your eyes will be opened, so take the chance, grab the opportunity with both hands, and jump in!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Monday to Friday on the camp in Madagascar (the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute) you wake up around 5-6 am if on Marine or Forest Surveys, a bit later if Teaching. On Forest, you eat breakfast, put your walking boots and go out on a 3-5 hour walk, surveying either lemurs, birds, or reptiles, dependent on what walk you have been put on.
After lunch, (beans and rice, maybe some chicken, maybe some zebu, maybe some pasta), you do data entry to input the mornings survey results and findings into the database, ready to be sent off. It is also important to use any free time to revise birds and reptiles species, to be able to identify them on walks, as well as to pass the small test!
Dinner is around 6pm, and afterwards is free time until 10, usually filled with guitar playing and card games!
If you are on teaching, your day is filled with planning for your class or classes in advance, and then teaching 1 or 2 classes. The classes range in skill levels, and can be kids classes, teenagers, or adults - all are great fun, eager to learn, and really friendly!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
Once I was there I was fine - being able to board planes with people doing the same thing as you, eases some tension and nervousness that may exist!
When on camp, I found it easy to settle in and create routines, but when it comes to doing the programs I found teaching a challenge. The confidence I needed to stand in front of a class and try to teach English eventually arrived after shadowing a lesson, and teaching with some friends.
It helps to have people around who've had slightly more experience than you and so it spreads to everyone; the ability to stand in front of strangers and teach!
What's it like to live in a different way of life than you're used to?
For at least two weeks I found Madagascar completely surreal - the views, the people, the colors, and the differences! From bright yellow tuk tuks, which try and overcharge us "tourists", to fitting 7 people in a taxi, not to forget eating fresh mangos and jackfruit straight from the tree, as well as getting a pirogue home from class!
Surprisingly, after not very long, these things become normal, and after 10 weeks, it definitely feels like home! So immerse yourself in this new way of life, learn the language, chat to the locals, and have some fun!