Wednesday
Aug202014

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.

Wednesday
Aug132014

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.

Wednesday
Aug062014

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.

Tuesday
Jul292014

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.

Tuesday
Jul222014

Volunteer Blog: Emma Black

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Volunteer

The day generally starts quite early for the teaching volunteers. We have breakfast either at home or at Oasis in town which does amazing fresh juices  and then plan and prepare for the day ahead of us. As its the summer holidays in Hellville at the moment, the Frontier teaching team are running summer school for the children at the school which starts at 9.30 am.

When we arrive at school its very similar to a normal day of school here, we are surrounded by children shouting 'hello' and wanting high fives and they immediately run towards the classrooms. During the holidays we are going through and reviewing everything they have done over the past year, and expanding all of their vocabulary. For example, this week we are re teaching numbers, days of the weeks and months of the year. After two and a half hours of teaching, we have a lunch break and come back to the community house for pasta or noodles and then we are back to the school for sports in the afternoon.

After school has finished at 4pm we head back to the house for a quick break before going to Youth Club where we teach English at a much higher level to seventeen and eighteen year olds. Youth Club can involve anything from talking about healthcare, conversation exercises about our home countries, games of 'Darling I love you' and sometimes even dancing along to English songs like 'The Cha Cha Slide' and 'Time Warp' which is far more relaxed and enjoyable. The complete range of different things which go on during a day here shows how much of a difference the Community Frontier Volunteers are making in Madagascar, from the four year olds at school in the day, to improving the English of people our own age at Youth Club, developing friendships as well as just being a teacher figure. I also really enjoy seeing how utterly opposite the experiences of those at youth club's are to my own and it is really a learning experience for all of us.

Whilst we do have to spend a lot of time preparing for the next weeks lessons, we do have a couple of hours off a day and a free day on Sunday. This Sunday we were able to travel to a nearby resort where we spent the day on the beach, swimming, sunbathing and reading as well as playing volleyball with some Italian Medical Volunteers and eventually watching the beautiful sunset from the beach. As well as our free Sunday, we spent Thursday evening at Mount Passot, the highest point of the island on a huge viewing platform to watch the sunset which was absolutely breathtaking and one of the defining moments of our time in Madagascar. On Saturday after an early start from camp we also travelled half an hour in a taxi to visit Nosy Be's sacred waterfalls, under which is a deep lagoon we were able to swim in. Despite not always being around the beautiful wildlife surrounding camp, being a teaching volunteer based in Hellville does give you the opportunities to see things others may not be able to, which is a real benefit to the project.  

By Emma Black, Teaching Volunteer

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

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