Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Wood


Give us an intro!

Daniel is a 27-year-old Web Developer from the UK. A keen traveller and amateur photographer, he also enjoys watching rugby and playing football. He finds croissants very distressing.

Why did you pick this program?

Two things stuck out to me when I was looking at Azafady. First off, they work in Madagascar! I’d heard bits and pieces about the enigmatic “eighth continent” here and there, and the idea of seeing it for myself while volunteering really appealed to me. I wanted to see the forest, I wanted to see a completely different part of Africa, and I really wanted to see the lemurs.

Just as important though was how Azafady presented themselves. It was clear from the outset that making a difference and achieving their aims as a charity, rather than providing an exciting holiday for gap year tourists (though in my experience that came next!). They had a formal application process more thorough than some jobs I’ve applied for - reassuringly professional.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

While we were still acclimatizing to the temperature and local customs, a group of us went to a local nature reserve to see the wildlife. It was raining heavily for much of the afternoon and the following days (our tents were actually floating for a while!), but we had a great time anyway.

I will never forget the moment when one of the ring-tailed lemurs, dangling off a branch, reached down to take some guava fruit I offered it, soft hands taking the fruit while its bright eyes looked into mine.

What made this experience unique and special?

Mountains in the distance, with lush green rice paddies, traditional wooden huts, and a variety of local plants and trees in all directions. Cinematic is probably the best word for it - and comparisons to Jurassic Park (incidentally, the original film is the best by a country mile) were frequently made.

I didn’t get a lot of time to explore the rest of the island after my volunteering scheme ended, but I’ve done a little on a subsequent trip and it just gets better.

Most people don’t realize how big Madagascar is - they assume it’s just a little place off the coast of Africa - but in fact it’s the fourth largest island in the World, and has a tremendous variety of ecosystems.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Take it easy! The first thing they tell you on arrival is that things don’t always go to plan. The domestic airline is infamously chaotic, in the rainy season roads and bridges may be washed out, and sometimes building supplies just don’t turn up on time.

Life follows a different pace to what we’re used to in the West, but it can be an enjoyable change. Use the unexpected spare time to find out more about the local culture, meet the friendly local people, or learn capoeira (talk to the local guides!).

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

To put it simply, Azafady helped me to rediscover my love for travel and volunteering. Life-changing is a clichéd phrase in reviews for volunteering experiences, but in this case it definitely applies.

A year later I was in Botswana on a wildlife conservation project, and just a few months after that I found myself back in Madagascar again. Never dreaming I’d get it, I had applied for the job as co-ordinator for the very program I’d been on back in 2012, and partly thanks to my previous experience with the charity, I was accepted!

I spent an amazing year in country, working with the international volunteers to build schools, carry out environmental research, teach English and much more. I’m still involved with Azafady now and it’s likely I’ll go back to Madagascar a third time!