My stay in Madagascar was amazing! Madagascar is more touristy than I expected but I loved every minute. Although I would have liked to stay with a local family, the volunteer house was great too... the volunteers and staff made it fun. We were like a family watching movies together and playing interactive games we made up that involved everybody. I felt comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings with these people... I didn't think I would be being more reserved and shy.
At first I was a bit skeptical about leaving my stuff around but you soon learn to trust... No one would steal your stuff at camp and even in the village we taught at, the locals make sure your stuff is safe... they are so happy we're there. Everyone I have met in Madagascar has been nothing but nice and welcoming! Even the construction workers building the bungalows are really friendly and helpful and they work to make sure that the surroundings are safe and that there isn't material lying around.
We did only have one bathroom during my stay but it usually worked out... it's part of working/living together. It was a bit tricky walking down if you have to go the bathroom at night but I know more bathrooms were being built and there would be one closer to the bungalows that were higher up. As for the water, I don't think it's an issue... no one has ever gotten sick from it. In terms of power, I actually liked the fact that we only got it for a limited time... it is more environmentally friendly anyway and that's kind of the point if we believe in conservation efforts. The food was fine and we got zebu sometimes... It would help to have some more food on some days but I think the local staff realize that are working on improving the situation with the many new volunteers that are headed there.
I participated in the teaching project. It was very interesting to come up with lessons after assessing the needs of the students, the teachers and locals who also wanted to learn English. We had lots of time to plan, explore and engage with local people.
You can really tell that the students wanted to learn. They never act out and thanked us with songs, hugs, smiles and lots of little gifts. Because their level of English is very basic, being able to speak and write in French was really helpful. Our lesson plans aren't necessarily the most fun but the students were still eager to participate. I hope the lessons can get more interactive and be more discovery-based as they progress and improve in English.
Working with local teachers allowed me to learn a lot of Malagasy. I also found out that they sound things out quite differently so if we were to help students remember pronunciation of words in English, talking to the local teachers would definitely help. The teachers there are so nice and even invited us into their homes, shared their honey and snacks and one even played us a tune on his keyboard. I also played him a song... it was like a sharing of culture.
I am hopeful that we can have a huge impact on the students' learning. I loved teaching there... it was a very rewarding experience that solidified my desire to finish up my Education degree and teach. The students again are awesome and are happy for what we may think of as little things... like when we showed them funny moves, like when I decided I wanted to learn their jump rope game thing. They are excited for pictures and were super happy when I brought them stickers, supplies, a soccer ball and a basketball.
As a volunteer teacher, I was able to not only teach them but really interact with them outside of the classroom setting during recess and the sport sessions by the beach. I would have loved to stay longer and teach them some sport or tag games. Teaching is so community based there. I know we were making a difference just by being there and the locals have told me time and again how grateful they are. It makes everything worthwhile. I even ended up enjoying our walks to the village from camp every morning. The scenery is gorgeous along the way.
I also got to help out with the construction project also taking place in the same village during our free time. Students and locals also helped a bit and it became like a group effort to give the school a lift. The new blue paint gives the village more liveliness and energy. Even the tourists commented on how nice it is and asked us about the volunteer program. I am happy that we were helping the community in a variety of ways. The forest and marine conservation groups also talked about what they have done and I think it's great!
I loved Madagascar and the island life... learned to take things slowly and be in the moment. Many new experiences... got to see wonderful sunsets, swam with turtles, touched a jellyfish, of course there are the lemurs... I also liked how we could walk almost anywhere barefoot! Loved the weekend trips. All the volunteers are awesome people with different backgrounds and personalities but all wanting to help in their own way. We were really kind of like a family: looking out for each other, sharing clothes, fixing stuff for each other, joking around... I love them! I also love the kittens and I have learned to love the chickens that visit us and lay eggs in our bungalows.
Yes, there are some minor things that could be improved on but I think overall the program was great. I learned a great deal about myself. I found out I really don't need as much as I think... I don't need a lot to be happy. I also found out I was a lot more capable of doing things on my own than I give myself credit for and that positive thinking is really important and can lead to great changes. It was an amazing experience... I would go again in a heartbeat...