Wednesday
Oct292014

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

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

Check out what volunteers in Madagascar are up to right now!

Wednesday
Oct222014

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

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

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Friday
Oct172014

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

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

Check out what volunteers in Madagascar are up to right now!

 

Wednesday
Sep102014

Staff blog: Top 5 reasons to teach abroad 

There are many reasons one decides to travel and teach abroad. I have compiled a list of the top 5 reasons why I enjoy teaching overseas, and reasons why you might want to consider teaching abroad.

Top 5 reasons to teach abroad

  1. Children are genuinely happy
  2. Everyone is enthusiastic to learn
  3. You'll experience a new culture
  4. You will meet new and exciting people
  5. It will change your life

1. In the developing countries I have taught in children are just genuinely happy,  it doesn't take much to get a laugh or a smile from one of your students. They can play for hours, even though they do not have cell phones, iPods, or other instant entertainment options. A simple game of duck duck goose or football is enough to get everyone involved and having a great time. Their enthusiasm for life and fun is contagious, and I always leave with a smile on my face after spending the morning with them.

2. Everyone one is enthusiastic to learn. From my primary students, to the young adult English class, to the taxi driver on the street. It doesn't matter that all you have is a chalk board or a piece of paper and a marker, you have people show up everyday willing to learn. Currently it is a holiday break in Madagascar, so school is not in session. We created a summer school program for students from the local primary school. For the last eight weeks I have had students show up to the school, by their own choice, everyday. It is refreshing to have so many young people interested in bettering themselves through knowledge and education, and they are always very appreciative of your time.

3. Wherever you go you will be thrust into a new culture. Life seems to move at a slower pace in the developing countries I have taught in, but it gives you a chance to stop and really appreciate where you are. Whether it is seeing local women walking around with baskets on their heads, men getting a cart pulled down the street by a zebu (Madagascar cow), eight people piling out of a taxi collective, a pickup game of football on the street, a local street fair, the bustling market, or countless students heading to school shouting hello. By living and teaching abroad you really get to understand and become part of the culture. Not just a tourist, but a member of the community.

4. You will meet amazing people when you teach abroad. Ranging from local friends to other travelers, the people you meet will always have an interesting story to tell. I am now lucky to say I have friends all over the world. The longer you spend teaching in a different country the more people you will meet from other cultures and walks of life, which means countless couches to sleep on if you decide to continue to travel.

5. Finally, teaching abroad will change your life. If you have never left the comfort of western culture, I'd definitely say take the opportunity to travel and volunteer abroad.  For all the reasons listed above, you will leave the country you volunteered in a different person. You will have experienced a new culture, seen the honest joy and happiness of countless people, and formed new friendships. If anything you will realize that stressing over the little things is not important, because there are so many other things that matter in life. So give a little bit of your time, because what you will get out of teaching in a developing country will change your life.

By Lindsey Fulton, Assistant Teaching Coordinator 

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

Check out what volunteers in Madagascar are up to right now! 

Wednesday
Sep032014

Volunteer blog: Being a Community volunteer

When I decided to join Frontier Madagascar as a Community volunteer, I expected to teach English to children and youths of Nosy Be. I thought that passing on my knowledge would be a great way to give them a better start in their personal and professional life. Thanks to the project, they would gain in skills, confidence and most importantly motivation. In summary, I thought I would be the teacher, the one that gives, and they would learn from me.

After being two weeks on the project, I can definitely say that I am not only teaching but also...learning! Being a community volunteer does not mean being a "foreigner that gives a bit of her time and knowledge to the community" but rather being a real member of the community. Day after day, you get to know each of the children and youths a bit better. You teach English during the class hours, but YOU are the student during the rest of the day... Every interaction (before or after the class, during conversation games, when you meet students at the market or in the street, etc.) is a real opportunity to learn more about their personal life, their customs, their family, their dreams (among which being the president of Madagascar, producing a video-clip in the US or being fluent in English!) - in a nutshell, everything that makes the beautiful community of Nosy Be!

I will always remember this very special day when students from youth club invited Lindsey and I to go to the local carnival "Somaroho" with them. After one hour walk (being a real member of the community also means to slow down your walking speed...), we arrived at the football stadium where thousands of locals were enjoying music, dancing, eating street food, playing improvised games. Even if it was impressive to be the only "non-local" people there

At that moment, something came clear to my mind: if I arrived saying "Hi my students!", I would leave saying "Goodbye my friends!".

By Celia, Teaching Volunteer 

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