Earlier this year I spent a fantastic month in Madagascar with Azafady. Arriving in Madagascar I was struck by the difference in wealth and lifestyle, even though I have previously travelled to similarly developed countries. At the same time though, the Malagasy were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and always cheerful despite the daily hardships many of them endure. I also saw a variety of amazing animals during the trip, including several species of the famous lemur, which cannot be found anywhere else in the World.
We spent the majority of our trip out in the bush, working to repair and improve a primary school. With the help of experienced local builders, we worked hard on the school repairs every day, getting about 1 day off a week. Work hours are from straight after breakfast (sweet rice and bananas, surprisingly tasty!) through to lunch, then there is a break during the hottest part of the day, before more work in the afternoon. It is hard work, particularly in the heat, but very rewarding. We spent the evenings out under the stars, with refreshingly cold bucket showers and rice & beans for tea. One difficulty we did all have was traveller's sickness - obviously this is to be expected when on a trip like this though, and the staff/other volunteers were good about taking care of those who did get ill.
During our trip there was also time to visit the nearby town a few times, attending the opening day of a secondary school also built by Azafady, and taking part in events on World Malaria Day. The local children were all extremely friendly and excited, and on one particularly memorable day we even had the chance to teach lessons on English, Health & Hygiene and Environment.
Support from staff both in country and before the trip was outstanding - although Azafady is a charity and does things on a smaller budget than commercial operators, you wouldn't know it. Having done similar trips before I was very impressed at the support given beforehand, and in country they don't disappoint either.
Though it is a cliche, I found my time with Azafady to be an unforgettable, life-changing experience. I don't usually return to the same country twice, but in this case I'm seriously considering it, and if I do, it will be with Azafady.
Occasionally the communication between the builders overseeing the work and the volunteers didn't work too well, so we'd do a task only to have to do it slightly differently or redo it the following day. I think more explanation of the overall plan at the beginning might have helped here.