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.

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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.

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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.


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

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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.