This is what we get up to in our classes

Hi, my name is Ines, I started volunteering for the community/teaching program about a week ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the motivation of all the students (both adults and children). Nurturing mums, school children, young adults and even the president of the villages around camp! Some even come to classes just to be exposed to the language even though they are clearly too good. For me personally, the adult classes are the best. We can interact, play games and they ask a lot of really good questions that challenge both of us. I have had questions like “Are you married?” “Do you have brothers and sisters?” “What’s your favourite food?” The children’s classes we teach are at schools in Hellville and a small village called Atafondro, which are also great fun. We teach English and Sport in the school in Hellville which is run by nuns who are very strict, the classes are only half an hour which means the days are always busy and packed with lots of smiling faces, “Hello’s” and high fives!

The other school is a lot smaller and classes here are run entirely by frontier volunteers and staff. This means we can interact more with individual children who are incredibly cute. We are currently teaching them about the human body and body parts. Teaching them the words like “buttocks” and “armpit” makes them laugh very loudly. We’ve also taught them the song; “head, shoulders, knees and toes”. They love singing the head, shoulders knees and toes bit, but are very quiet during the and eyes and ears etc. part. We’ll have to work on that some more.

Due to the upcoming holidays I’m currently dividing my time between Hellville and Atafondro. Monday and Tuesday I’m teaching at the elementary school and youth club in Hellville. On Wednesday I’ll take the boat back to camp and in the surrounding villages for three days. I spend my mornings in Atafondru (after a beautiful walk through the jungle to get there) with the kids and at night I teach beginners and advanced classes in the church in Ambalahonko. I’ll return to Hellville on Saturday morning in order to attend the youth club. Every week is different and adjusting to the Malagasy lifestyle requires a lot of flexibility, but the friendly people and beautiful country make it more than worth it. Ill be staying here for 6 weeks and I’m looking forward to spend some more time with my students. I’m especially looking forward to learning from the students’ copious motivation.

By Ines, Teaching Volunteer

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Teachers vs. Frontier 

In Madagascar we take our sports very seriously, and recently old rivalries were rekindled in a heated contest between Frontier and the staff at the school in Hell-Ville. The basketball game, played in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 1,000 screaming fans, was a great spectacle of sporting endeavour and particularly height as the brutish team deployed by Frontier towered over the opposition.

In the end Frontier used this impressive physical advantage to win the match convincingly by 11 baskets to 1. However the victory did not come easily as complacency at the net undermined the team’s efforts. By using their strength and height advantages the Frontier cohort dominated possession in the early stages but due to their offensive profligacy they were unable to capitalise, and then, half-way through the first half and with the score tied at 0 – 0, the teachers broke to score an unlikely opener to take the lead.

For the teachers though that was as good as it was going to get. With Frontier in control of the middle of the park it was only a matter of time before the floodgates opened, and duly the men and women in baby blue took a solid lead into the second half. By the final whistle Frontier had orchestrated a commanding result, more than adequately living up to their mantra before the game of “victory is not enough, only annihilation will do”.

In the post-match summary the score read 1 to 11 in favour of Frontier, but even that score line didn’t fully convey their dominance as the team squandered a further 15 or more easy chances to score. The charismatic Chris Sainsbury led the way in scoring, but man-of-the-match went to our Canadian representative Fenner Dalley, who dominated the centre of the park with his 8”2’ frame (vertically and horizontally) making telling contributions both offensively and defensively.

This result continues Frontier’s dominance in this particular rivalry, with the teachers yet to record a win as they succumbed to their heaviest defeat in this traditional contest. Said one onlooker,“we should play mixed teams, this is unfair. These foreigners are giants. Perhaps we should use ladders”. And so it was unfair but little did the Frontier team care.

By Chris, Project Manager

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Jumps, hoops, Frontier Fireflies & nuns!

Even though we have only been in Madagascar for about three weeks, there have already been many experiences that I will never forget.  Whether it be the exuberance of the children, the raw natural beauty of the landscape, or the incredibly extensive wildlife, Madagascar offers a truly unique experience.  The most recent event though that I will remember for a long time was a basketball game that we played last Friday against the nuns that run our school. 

When Chris our project manager told us that it is a bit of a tradition for the Frontier community volunteers to play against the nuns in football, basketball, volleyball or whatever other sports they propose, we were all both excited and a bit confused.  Not only had none of us played a sport against a team of nuns, but there would also be about 1,500 screaming students surrounding the pitch as the matched happened.  As Chris was the only person who had ever played in one of these matches before, this was going to be a very new experience for almost everybody involved.

On the morning of the match we were informed by Soeur Jaquline (the head of the school) that the sport would be basketball and the match would take place just after their morning break.  We rounded up a squad of seven Frontier Fireflies (we were told that this is what we had been called in the past) and approached the match with a great deal of excitement.  As the student’s morning break was coming to an end we ventured into the school yard.  You could tell how excited all of the children were for the match as we were instantly swarmed by hundreds of students looking for high-fives, props, hugs, or to be lifted up into the air.  This frenzy set the scene for the atmosphere in which the match would be played under.

As we approached opening-tipoff, there was a guarded sense of optimism running through our squad.  Though none of us were particularly experienced or skilful in basketball, we did have three players above 6’ tall where-as it seemed to be an anomaly for any of the nuns we were playing against to be over 5’5”.  Though they were fierce and quick, we managed to use our size to our advantage and we emerged with an 11-1 victory.  Even though we prevailed, this didn’t seem to dampen the smiles on any of the faces of the nuns or the students.

The score didn’t seem to matter to the students either way.  They cheered equally hard for both teams and stormed the pitch after the final whistle.  Their energy and excitement made this match very memorable for all of the players on our squad.  It seemed as though all of the students hardly came up for a breath the entire game.  This was also the final day in Madagascar for our sports coach Thomas, so they ended the game with an incredibly kind ceremony in which Soeur Jaquline made a speech, all the students sung to him, and then they presented him a gift.  It was a perfect ending to Thomas’s time in Hellville and match against the nuns.  Hopefully there’s a few more in the following weeks before we have to head off as well.

By Fenner, Teaching Assistant

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Madagascar Community Adventure

Without a doubt the hardest part of leaving is saying goodbye. That stands true for Madagascar, Frontier, and the people I have met while living and teaching in Nosy-be. I have had some truly amazing experiences that I will never forget. Writing about them in no way captures those memories, so enjoy this short video montage of some of my favorite times working with Frontier.

Lindsey Fulton

Assistant Teaching and Community Project Coordinator

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Volunteer blog: Neil

The flight into Nosy Be airport gave me the impression I was about to enter paradise. A view dominated by tropical islands filled with white sandy beaches, crystal blue water and, to my imagination, smiling and happy children. “This is going to be easy!” I thought to myself and, to be fair, I found all four of these things in abundance on Nosy Be. However, there is a lot more to the island than my first impression would have me believe…this is Africa after all. The drive from Fascene airport into the ominously named ‘Hell-Ville’ gave me a reality check as we passed tiny wooden homes on stilts without running water let alone electricity…from this point I knew that life on Nosy Be is not all smiles and white sandy beaches for everybody. And of course, that is what brought me here to teach English.

After being given a few hours to settle in I was plunged headfirst into teaching as I helped out at a local youth group English class. The age range at this class was as varied as their standard of English and it gave me a taste of what the next 8 weeks are going to offer up; hard work, lots of confused faces and plenty of laughs!

The next morning I was at the local primary school stood in front of seventy-something eight year olds all waving their hands and saying ‘elloooooo!’ with unbelievable enthusiasm whilst I naively asked each of them ‘How are you?, ‘How are you?”, “How are you?” Did someone say this was going to be easy? Following a full morning and afternoon of primary school teaching, and once I was satisfied that all of the kids had the capacity to say ‘I’m fine thank you’ in some form or another, it is fair to say I was exhausted but also fairly content with my day’s work. Indeed, the children had learned some English from me; but I had learned a whole lot more from them about going to primary school in Africa.

Perhaps the most obvious lesson is that the sight of a skinny, pasty, freckled and somehow already sunburnt Scotsman speaking gibberish is utterly enthralling and trumps almost anything else that could take the children’s attention away from English. After realising this fact, my half an hour classes really haven’t seemed that hard at all. Furthermore, I learned that the African sun will not deter a hundred or so Malagasy primary school children from going absolutely crazy at break time; and that going absolutely crazy at break time will not deter them from wanting to learn English. I really do get the impression that these kids appreciate the education they are being given far more than many do back home; and this makes it all the easier to get up at 6.30 each morning, have a cold shower, and head off to teach some really inspirational people!

By Neil, Teaching Volunteer

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