Generally, the first few days consists of orientation sessions in Fort Dauphin followed by 2-3 weeks supporting the current building project which is often in a rural location, returning to Fort Dauphin to support our international team in the office for the next 2-3 weeks and finally heading out to our conservation site to assist with the research projects for the final few weeks of your programme. Below is an example of the sort of itinerary you could expect from your time in Madagascar.
Fort Dauphin (or Tolagnaro as it is also known) is the major town in south-east Madagascar. It enjoys one of the most pleasant climates on the east coast. Built on a small peninsula, the town is bordered on three sides by beaches and backed by lush green mountains. It is a lively town offering a variety of restaurants and nightlife. When in Fort Dauphin, volunteers camp at the stunning lakeside site of Lanirano, a short walk away from town.
Before volunteers head out to work with local communities, we feel it is vital that they are fully briefed on the work of SEED Madagascar and the Malagasy culture. For this reason, during your first few days of Community Development Programme, you will undergo a detailed orientation about Madagascar, the Anosy region, local customs as well as an introduction to the work you will be doing over the next ten weeks. Advice will also be given on the need for cultural sensitivity when working in village communities - Malagasy communities have a complex system of fady (taboos) which it is important that volunteers observe.
Below are a few examples of projects that may be undertaken whilst on the scheme. Volunteers usually spend 2-3 weeks at a time working on projects in the bush, interspersed with a few days in Fort Dauphin to allow catching up on e-mail, shopping, eating out, etc. Only those volunteers joining for the full 10 week programme will have the opportunity to take part in the wider variety of the projects and activities listed!
Volunteers are currently helping SEED Madagascar to address the high demand for schools, classrooms and latrine blocks, in the rural communes of Manambaro and Mahatalaky both some 20 km from Fort Dauphin. These communes cover a vast area and the small hamlets, or fokontany as they are known in Madagascar are quite isolated from each other. Many fokontany have no formal educational services and children are forced to walk up to 20km per day to attend school in other communities. Volunteers help in all aspects of the building process from clearing the site, digging foundations, building walls and cementing floors, through to giving the walls several coats of brilliant white lime wash. Activities will vary according to the build stage reached at the time of your volunteering scheme. Most volunteers will also assist in the construction of desks and benches for use in the classrooms, as well as in the provision of latrine blocks and hand washing stations. Occasionally volunteers may be involved in building or carrying out renovations or essential maintenance work to other community buildings in Fort Dauphin town.
There is a severe lack of improved hygiene facilities throughout Madagascar. In Fort Dauphin itself, many of the poorer families have no access to latrines at all, whilst others may be sharing a single latrine amongst as many as 30 people. Volunteers help to build "flat-pack" latrine kits, which can then be installed by the families with a little help from our construction team. Volunteers also assist with ongoing education efforts, trying to improve handwashing practices and knowledge of everyday hygiene, which thus helps combat disease. You may be involved in painting educational murals on the side of the town or school latrine blocks as a means of reinforcing these messages!
Each itinerary includes an educational component. This may be teaching English to children in rural villages or unemployed young people in Fort Dauphin, health education in the form of songs and role-play to inform children about the benefits of hand washing and using latrines, or environmental education to raise awareness of the need for conservation of local forests.
Community Development also includes a visit to the SEED Madagascar Conservation Programme camp in Sainte Luce, where the volunteers assist with fieldwork, studying and monitoring lemurs, frogs, lizards and much more. This usually includes opportunities for more teaching, as well as providing a change of scene from the construction site.