Tips & advice for anyone planning to join a community project in Madagascar

Currently being the longest serving volunteer in the community house, I have seen many new volunteers arrive, being ill prepared to survive life in our humble lodging. So I thought I’d write some top tips, so that if you are one of those awesome people who decides to come and do community, you’ll be better prepared and have an even more awesome time here.

First things first – not everything that is essential is written as ‘essential’ on the kit list. For example, extra food items is labelled as ‘optional.’ Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here to give you extra tips. Extra food items are most certainly essential. Do not make the mistake of arriving unarmed as I did. I suggest bringing items such as marmite, chocolate spread, peanut butter, Ribena and truckloads of chocolate. You will not regret it.

Secondly, speakers do not make the cut on the kit list, but are an amazing addition to the community house. When we have speakers, most nights turn into karaoke, lipsync and dance off competitions. If you would like to share in this joy, please bring speakers.

Thirdly, don’t think about not bringing a laptop. You must bring a laptop – unless you want to write your weekly blog articles on Helena’s Croatian laptop. If you don’t know anything about Croatian laptops, basically the Y and Z keys are switched around, meaning every time I try to write ‘Youth Club’ it comes out as ‘Zouth Club,’

Next, you should practice your cooking skills before you come. More specifically, perfect the art of cooking rice before you arrive, as well as the skill of peeling and cutting a pineapple.

Lastly, if you will be doing teaching here (which, by the way, you all should because it’s the best thing ever) learn how to write cursively before you arrive. It can be a bit embarrassing when students can’t read your handwriting.

I hope these top tips help you, and I look forward to seeing many videos and photos of you all on the Facebook page, laden with laptops, speakers, food, perfectly cut pineapple and neat handwriting.

By Hannah Steel

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Things are always bound to get better

Whoever says flying is not stressful, you are wrong, especially with Air Madagascar! After a 10 hour long and extremely tedious flight from Paris, the thought of finally getting on the last flight to Nosy Be was a rewarding one. However, Air Madagascar had the ‘brilliant’ idea to reschedule the flight later than previously planned, leaving me with a 13 hour wait at Antananarivo Airport.


With no phone battery, no book or any source of entertainment, all I could do for the first few hours was stare at an old man sweep a curb that didn’t even need sweeping. However, things did eventually get better. Speaking to interesting local Malagasy people about anything from crocodile burgers to why Messi is a better footballer than Ronaldo, helped pass the time accordingly. It even got to the point where I was sad to leave my new mates and catch the flight to Nosy Be.

The moral of this story is that firstly, as bad as things may first seem, they are always bound to get better. Secondly, Malagasy people are very friendly and made me feel so welcome giving me the sympathy needed for a bored and stressed out English traveller…although might give the crocodile burgers a miss this time! And lastly, never expect an Air Madagascar flight to be on time!

I am currently at the volunteer house is Nosy Be, and everything has been fantastic so far. Been teaching young children P.E lessons at the local school, went to the beach to meet some lovely children with polio, giving them a chance to have fun and improve their ability to walk, which only a part of my 6 week project. Good times ahead!

By Alex van der Hooft, volunteer on Physiotherapy project

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My Madagascar experience so far

On arriving in Hellville, I was immediately overwhelmed by how different and exciting it was compared to home. My senses were pleasantly assaulted by the vibrant Malagasi life that surrounded me. Having been escorted to the Bellevue Hotel by the very friendly and welcoming Pete, I was then met by the lovely Helena who gave me a tour of the town that was to be my home for the next four weeks.  On Monday, I was officially able to begin and to meet my fellow volunteers. Hannah and Guy were both so nice and welcoming to me, who had initally felt like the outsider, that I was immediately assured that I was in for a good time.

Once I had settled in and passed my health and safety and medical tests, I was able to get my first taste of teaching through watching Hannah teach English at the youth club. The guys there were very funny and it was great to have a chance to get to know the locals. Later that evening we had an exciting new addition to the house in the form of Alex who has added even more fun to the team.

Since then I have been able to teach a few lessons at the school (hugely rewarding but MUCH more difficult than Hannah made it look!), enjoyed the unexpected luxury of internet and excellent food at the Oasis café and have learnt to adapt to life without the luggage I lost at Réunion Airport (who really needs clothes and anti-malaria pills anyway?)! I am very excited to discover what the next three months hold in store for me!

By Lydia McCallum, Community Projects Teaching Volunteer

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Wednesday in the Community House  

My third night in the community house was a rather eventful one. The evening started off like any other, we had just finished our extra English lessons with a couple of the boys from the youth club and had come back to the house for some home-cooked dinnner and relaxation.

Hannah had her music playing throughout the meal and we got a little carried away. What initially began as an innocent sing-along slowly turned into a broom-wielding , two man concert performed to me by Helena and Hannah as I finished off supper.

However, this was not nearly the end of it. In fact, it was only the beginning. Our concert/sing-along then escalated even further as Hannah performed Mark Ronson's ˝Uptown Funk˝dance for us in the community  kitchen and then proceeded to teach us the dance.

After about four to five attempts of the dance, Helena and I kind of got the hang of it. Having a camera quick to hand meant that a rather ˝Funky˝music video was made. It only being my third night in Madagascar, I would say it was a rather unique welcome into the team.  Our dancing careers have not ended yet as Hannah and I attempt to try and learn the traditional Madagasy dance as well as the dance of the famous african artist Guetta from the students in Youth club.

Hannah, being significantly better than me at both of the dances, showed off her moves at Victor's Place in Ambalahonko on Friday night. On Saturday night, we go to Discotec No.1 (Hellville's leading Discoteque) to get more dancing lessons from locals!

By Kullatorn Guy Sawamiphakdi, Teaching and Adventure Volunteer

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A Valentines Day in Nosy Be

A Valentines day in Australia usually goes two ways for most – the lucky ones being showered with roses, chocolate and romantic gestures from their one and only. However the less fortunate portion of the population stand by and watch, often finding a quiet place to eat insane amounts of chocolate that their imaginary lover gave them.

However Valentines Day in Madagascar was very different, and instead of going two ways as in Australia, it was an occasion for all – whether you were in a relationship or as they say 'single and ready to mingle.'

Valentines Day began early at camp, with a game of 'peg' whereby the person with the peg must subtly place it on someone without them noticing. If successful, the person who was pegged must then buy a drink for a member of the opposite sex, or alternatively kiss them.

The next morning, us community people returned to Hellville. On the way back from the port we unknowingly walked along 'St Valentine Street.' Quite fitting.

In the afternoon, we had Youth Club, and I planned a Valentines themed lesson. We started by telling the group whether or we were single – the boys got quite a thrill when they found out about Helena and I being single. It turned out that just about everyone in the room was single – they explained that if they weren't they certainly wouldn't be Youth club! We practiced using different tenses by discussing what we would do if we had a partner on Valentines Day. They are definitely a romantic bunch – with many of them describing long walks on the beach and candle lit dinners.

We then played a game suggested by staff member Pete. It involves one person in the middle of a circle, who must choose someone and say 'Darling I love you and i would like you to smile.' The other person must then respond 'Darling I love you too but I cannot smile. If they smile, they are then in the middle. The game created a lot of awkwardness, but many, many laughs.

The Youth Club members then walked us home – in true romantic form.
What followed was a romantic dinner at our secondhome – Oasis Cafe. The waiter at the cafe provided us half price cocktails and cheeky winks for the occasion.

All in all, it was probably my best ever valentine day, and by far the funniest.

By, Hannah Steel, Madagascar Community Teaching Volunteer

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