Staff blog: A surprise from the youth club

It has been a very exciting and eventful couple of months as Frontier's Assistant Teaching Coordinator. I have grown very close to many individuals in Nosy be, something that has made me eternally grateful I am part of the community team here.

Last Saturday started off just like any other. We got back from camp, and made our way back to the community house. As we were cooking breakfast the doorbell began to ring, as I walked to the front of the house I was greeted by ten members of youth club standing outside our front door. This has been the first time a member of youth club, let alone ten, have showed up at our house. After the initial confusion they stated they were in an "English competition"  and needed our help for the day. We were to meet them outside of youth club at two that afternoon, about an hour earlier than we would normally meet for youth club. Of course we were excited about helping and quickly agreed to meet them, wanting to make it clear that we were impressed on a Saturday they were so eager to practice their English.

In typical Malagasy fashion we showed up promptly at youth club, only to have one person Damon sitting outside. Damon stated, "Mora Mora" a Malagasy word for slow, basically meaning it will happen eventually. As we waited about forty-five minutes for the rest of the members of youth club to arrive, we tried to get Damon to describe this so called "English competition." He would just smile slyly and say, "It is a surprise." Eventually everyone showed up and we headed off together to City Hall. As we walked up the steps I saw some kids that we taught English too at the local primary school. I waved and continued walking, thinking to myself that maybe they are a part of the English competition as well. We walked into a room to see a enough chairs set up for the Frontier volunteers, and the members of youth club.  A big sign in Malagasy stated "Day of Youth."

It turns out that they had wanted to surprise us, and say thank you for teaching them English. We were treated to presentations by all people who use the youth club. There was dancing, break dancing, kung fu, poetry, and an English essay read. It was so inspiring to see how proud the young people of Hellville were to show off the skills they have learned at the youth club. I could not remove the grin from my face as I thought, how amazing these young adults were. Thinking how many people in similar situations would be so proactive, and willing to spend their free time learning. As Damon walked up to the front of the room he read two poems that he specifically wrote for me and one for teaching volunteer Zoe. Mine was titled friendship, and in that moment you truly feel appreciated. Days like last Saturday are the reason I am so passionate about teaching overseas, and I was thrilled that the volunteers got to experiences it.

By Celia Zermatten, Assistant Teaching Coordinator

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.


Volunteer blog: First week in community

When I arrived in Madagascar I didn't know what to expect. I feel like I blended right into the environment, and being in contact with the local people allows to really perceive how life works here. Being a healthcare volunteer, I began by making a tippy-tap in the school, allowing the children to wash their hands in clean water with soap. I'd never constructed anything like it before so I found it to be very interesting as a first project. Throughout the week, I also went to the Centre Stella Maria twice, an orphanage for children polio survivors. They'd just had an operation, so were in their casts. We did drawings with them and tried to teach them a few English words despite the language barrier. It was nice seeing them so happy at our presence.

During the week I also got to see how the teaching at the school worked, the way the classes and schedule operated. Now that I feel more confident in the project I hope to do some teaching in relation to healthcare next week.

Apart from the work we had some free time which we used to go see some of the spots on the island. They were all beautiful, whether it be the neighboring island of Nosy Komba or the sunset view at the top of Mont Passot.

Overall, I had a very fulfilling first week and I want to make the most of next week to further that feeling.

By Theana Johnson 

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.


Volunteer blog: Felix Grant-Rennick

From the moment I decided to come to Madagascar I have had the support of the Frontier staff whether it was from London or Nosy Be. The first time I found myself needing to be advised from a member of staff was before I even arrived at camp: this was of course the dreaded Air Madagascar. Fortunately, all my miscommunications and troubles that I had with the airline was swiftly sorted out by the calm and collected Chris Sainsbury. The sound of his mellow voice was turned into the sight of a rather large hairy british man meeting me at the airport. On my arrival I found myself being taken to the main camp on a very slow yet incredibly beautiful boat trip, in which you pass around the exclusive Lokobe Nature Reserve.

During my time in Madagascar I was scheduled to spend one week foresting, one week teaching and one week diving although once I ventured into the community house that would change.

Upon entering the community house I was greeted by all of the volunteers and the very jolly Staff member Lindsey and then swiftly taken away with them to the school. At the school one is swarmed by the kids and prevented from  entering until every individual has had the opportunity to give you a high five. Once I entered the school I was given the opportunity to lead the class in which the kids where of varying age and ability. As I got to know the kids better I found myself growing an enormous respect for them as they were learning a third language at the age of 10 in conditions which were by no means ideal.

As time progressed I became more attached to the country and the people of Nosy Be. Overall the culture and the kindness of the people was amazing, yet a couple of experiences stand out. After playing and referring a football match with the kids in the afternoon a professional football team started playing on the pitch, and to my surprise they asked me and a couple of other volunteers to join in. I had no chance, by the time I had realised who was on what team, I came to the conclusion that there was no way I was going to come close to tackling one of these incredibly quick men. After a couple of minutes I took a break and allowed another volunteer to take my place and sitting there in a the court yard it took me a couple of minutes to realise where I actually was. To the front of me was an Australian attempting to kick a football, then there were two english nationals playing Duck Duck Goose with 10 year olds whilst local women were cooking some food in the corner and an Italian was painting a mural on hygiene. It must have been one of the most peculiar atmospheres yet I felt completely at home.

Another highlight of my trip was being able to talk and help out in Youth Club. Youth Club was a forum in which older kids of age 16 to 22 attended and we would talk about topic in which we would help improve their English or try to educate them on something we deem appropriate. Throughout the numerous sessions I found myself knowing some of them by their first name s and even having  chats on the street if I bumped into them. (By the end I had the nickname Chris Brown which made no sense to me.)More to the point I was able to pass on some knowledge that I have although they seemed to be teaching me more then I could ever teach them, which really took me back. 

Throughout my trip I have made amazing friends for life and have generated a memory that will last forever.

By Felix Grant-Rennick, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.


Volunteer blog: Cristina

Fatigue, anxiety, curiosity and an irresistible urge to find out what was waiting for me on arrival: these, the emotions that have characterized my trip to Nosy Be.

I knew I was catapulted into a completely different reality from the one in which I was born and have always lived, and although many times I tried to imagine what I would have seen when I arrived, the impact with the new world was touching. A natural paradise, pristine, populated by people who know how to greet you with a smile, despite their precarious situation and their lifestyle is far from what western comforts.

Suddenly a feeling of loss and homesickness gripped me, however once I arrived at Frontier’s Community House in Hell Ville, I was  greeted by the friendly staff and volunteers. They quickly made me a new member of their little family, making me feel immediately at ease, whilst sweeping away any negative frame of thought.

There was still a part- the bigger one actually-of my emotional burden to be satisfied. This was of course, the curiosity to know the children!! It was absolutely indescribable seeing the energy and positivity that characterizes them with their desire to learn English standing alongside their enthusiasm to see you arrive. No sooner than venturing to school than did the children gather around us, smiling and greeting us with a welcoming "Hello" or "High Five".

In an ordinary day in Nosy Be as a volunteer, after the morning class, a break for lunch and a nap, comes the time to spend the afternoon drawing and playing together with the kids  and its right here that another plane of emotions, symbolically speaking, reached me, leaving me speechless and making me very grateful to be here. While we were all together painting and creating objects with sheets of paper a little girl came to me, asked my name showing me her airplane that she intended to color. At the end of the afternoon, the same girl came back to me, handing me her work she had colored as Malgasy’s flag, and on which she had written my name! At that, an irresistible joy filled me, an indescribable emotion that will remain' forever in my mind and in my heart, and the only thought that I had was “I’m so glad to be here”.

I often imagine the plane taking me home. It will be a journey filled with emotions, yet different to those with which that I arrived. Being here has filled me with irreplaceable experiences, whilst making my life that little bit more meaningful.

By Cristina, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.


Volunteer Blog: Michael Botha

I was greeted with a warm tropical breeze as I descended from my homely plane and onto the glistening tarmac of Antananarivo airport. The sun, however, was hiding behind the sheltering clouds, whilst the familiar sound of raindrops could be heard hitting the tin roof of the international terminal. Unfortunately, I had brought the Melbourne winter weather with me.

The leisurely ground crew guided us to our shuttle; fitting every passenger inside, which seemed something similar to a Tetris exercise. A few minutes later, we set off and were quickly brought to the arrivals hall. Needless-to-say the airport door was equidistant to the bus as it was to the airplane.

After bypassing the enthusiastic taxi drivers and collecting some local currency on the way, I was met by my hotel’s driver. Between my broken French and his keenly developing English, I was shown around the bustling centre-of-town and delivered to my home for the night. Nestled in the hills of Antananarivo, or as the locals call it “Tana,” I was warmly welcomed by the owner, who speedily presented me with a Malagasy style dinner. On each of the four corners of my tasty plate, rested a different local cuisine. Ox tong, might I add, is a lot tastier that what I would have imagined.

The next morning, I wandered to the top of the hill toward the old Queen’s Palace, and was met by two local tour guides who eagerly showed me around. Unfortunately, the majority of the 19th century building, also known as “Rova”, was burnt down in 1995, however it is slowly being reconstructed to its original state.

I continued my Madagascan journey by flying to the island of Nosy Be. Here, I was energetically met by Frontier staff member Linsey, who had waited patiently as my day-time flight had morphed into a night-time arrival. It was in this instance that I came to understand the frequently murmured Malagasy phrase of ‘mora, mora,” meaning “take it slow”.

My first day on the Nosy Be began with meeting the neighborhood primary school children who were eager to expand on their quickly growing English vocabulary. The focussed lessons were interspersed with sports activities, the only distraction being their excitement of perfecting camera “selfies”.

For the afternoon activity, the group set out to an orphanage on the outskirts of town. Getting there was an experience in itself as the taxi driver attempted to break the record on how many people he could fit in his 1970s vintage Citroen. Thus we were all very well acquainted by the end of our scenic adventure. We were met by immobilized children recovering from leg surgery, who were keenly engaged in television. Leaving them to rest, we ventured to the nearby beach and were lucky to sight dolphins splashing in the waves afar.

In my first two days abroad I have been spoilt by the beauty and culture of Madagascar. From the island’s friendly people to the engaging activities co-ordinated by Frontier, it has been an exhilarating start to a keenly awaited adventure.

By Michael Botha, Teaching Volunteer 

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.