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Frequently asked questions about volunteering in Madagascar

What is the average age of a SEED Madagascar volunteer?

Our projects are open to anyone over the age of 18 and are suitable for people on gap years, career breaks, students or retirees. There is no upper age limit but volunteers over the age of 55 joining our volunteering programmes will be asked to get a doctor’s note, attesting to their fitness for the programme. With up to 20 volunteers on each team, you will always find a diverse mix of people from many walks of life although as a general rule of thumb, projects falling within university holidays (July schemes) tend to attract a slightly younger crowd.

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I am not a UK citizen, can I volunteer?

Yes - SEED Madagascar accepts volunteers from all over the world. Volunteers come to us from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and much of Western Europe. We have also recently welcomed our first volunteers from Costa Rica, Colombia and South Africa.

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What is the difference between an intern and a volunteer?

In addition to volunteering, our Conservation programme is also offered as an internship for those wishing to gain experience and/or credit for a college or university course. The major difference between an intern and a volunteer relates to the amount of mentorship and self-evaluation. We feel that there are several factors that are necessary in order to run a successful internship programme:

1. active participation;

2. full involvement in our projects;

3. weekly feedback and discussion with the Programme Supervisor; and

4. evaluation with the Programme Supervisor at the end of the scheme.

We understand that some colleges and universities may have special requirements for internships and it may be possible to adapt the programme to meet these needs. Please contact us for further details.

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Can I volunteer for longer than 10 weeks?

Ten weeks is the maximum amount of time we can accept volunteers on our one of our structured volunteer programmes although volunteers on all projects will have a 90 day visa, allowing some time for independent travel after the end of the programme, if you so wish. If you are interested in volunteering for periods of six months or more, please see our Jobs page.

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What are the living conditions like?

Camping facilities are provided for volunteers throughout their stay and where possible we request volunteers bring their own tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. We can offer you the option of hiring a tent from SEED Madagascar if required (we ask for £50 for up to 4 weeks hire and £75 for 5-10 week hire)

Facilities are basic, especially when working in rural areas. Electricity and piped water are available when in Fort Dauphin: in the field, water is collected and then treated from rivers and wells. On the camp in Sainte Luce we are now using rain water harvesting to supply clean fresh drinking water.

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What will I eat?

A resident cook travels with our volunteer teams and is responsible for preparing meals each day. Food is simple, but tasty and nutritionally balanced. Meals mainly consist of rice and beans supplemented with fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and eggs when available and there should always be enough honey or condensed milk to satisfy a sweet tooth. Chocolate, crisps, croissants and ice-cream are all available for sale in Fort Dauphin and there are some excellent restaurants serving well cooked Western and Malagasy dishes at reasonable prices – think zebu steak and chips, fresh seafood and even pizza! A plentiful supply of treated drinking water will always be available. However, it is often possible to purchase soft drinks, bottled water, beer and rum from local stores, even in the remoter locations.

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What language will I use?

Although French is one of the official languages of Madagascar, it is used rarely in the areas in which we work. Our staff will use English with volunteers but when working with local communities, Malagasy (the national language of Madagascar) is used. Volunteers on all our programmes are given lessons in Malagasy on a daily basis and are encouraged to speak it wherever possible with local people. If you choose to travel independently after the programme as many volunteers do (you will have a 90 day visa), you will have the opportunity to use French much more. French is spoken widely in the larger towns and cities such as the capital Antananarivo.

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Will I have any free time?

Volunteers should understand that they will be expected to work hard and that free time will be at a premium. Project sites are frequently remote so excursions will not often be possible. However, we want you to have a good time and see as many of the things that Madagascar has to offer as possible, and for that reason we will arrange times for visits to sights of local interest as the programmes allow. There will also be opportunities to visit local markets or simply relax and surf on the stunning beaches surrounding Fort Dauphin and enjoy the restaurants and bars the town has to offer. We will endeavour as best we can to make sure you see as much local wildlife and experience as much local culture as possible within the context of the programmes and we are happy to advise you on what to do in your free time if you want more.

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How will I stay in touch with home?

Communications in Madagascar these days are much improved and it will be possible for you to stay in touch with home at intervals throughout your time with us. There is mobile phone reception in Fort Dauphin and it is possible to make calls and texts relatively cheaply if you purchase a Malagasy mobile. There is also a mobile phone at the campsite in Fort Dauphin which can receive incoming calls from family and friends. E-mails can be accessed at the local internet café and friends and relatives can also send e-mails or post via the SEED Madagascar office in Madagascar. Whilst  in the bush and out at Sainte Luce it is possible to find a mobile signal - our staff use WhatsApp to send texts and photos to friends and family. A staff phone travels with volunteers at all times meaning that the team can always be contacted in the event of an emergency.

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How is my minimum donation spent?

The minimum donation is used to support the charitable work of SEED Madagascar. Funds generated by our volunteer programmes support SEED Madagascar's projects, with some 90% of all donations to being spent in direct pursuit of our charitable aims. Your donation provides vital support to our ongoing projects in the areas of conservation, sustainable livelihoods, and health and sanitation.

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What does my minimum donation include?

Your minimum donation is inclusive of all in-country travel costs (excluding flights), project costs, training, meals and plenty of safe water, use of campsite facilities/basic accommodation, excursions where detailed, and a dedicated team to guide you in Madagascar, plus a full-time London-based staff member to answer all your pre-project questions.

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What extra costs do I have to pay for?

Additional costs that volunteers need to cover are their own pre-departure costs including flights, visa, personal equipment, medical preparations and vaccinations, which are typically in the region of £1,000 - £1,500, and volunteers will also need to ensure that they have appropriate travel insurance for the duration of their project.

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How much spending money should I need?

We recommend that £250 should be sufficient spending money for the duration of your stay in Madagascar. This very much depends on how long you stay and what other activities you would want to participate in (please refer to page 15 in the survival guide for further information). Remember if you are planning to travel independently after your programme, you will need more.

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What happens if I cancel my placement?

Unfortunately, charitable donations (including the deposit and balance of your minimum donation) can not be refunded. However, if your circumstances change, we can transfer you and any portion of your minimum donation paid, to an alternative team or programme where there is space available.

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What support will I receive?

SEED Madagascar will provide you with full support prior to your departure to enable you to make the necessary preparations for your time in Madagascar. Whilst volunteers will need to make their own flight arrangements, we will give you contact details for recommended travel agents and flight companies and detail the possible routes you can consider. We will also offer you advice about medications, inoculations and travel insurance as well as providing you with all the necessary paperwork you need to complete the visa application. Once you have confirmed your place on one of our programmes, we will send you a copy of our “Survival Guide” packed full of useful information from previous volunteers. SEED Madagascar staff are always on hand to answer any pre-programme questions you may have.

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Can I be put in touch with past volunteers?

Yes, please just ask and we will send you the e-mail addresses of past volunteers who can share with you their experiences of volunteering with SEED Madagascar.

We also have a Facebook group which you can join to speak to many previous volunteers.

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Will I be able to contact my fellow volunteers before the project starts?

You will be put in e-mail contact with the other members of your team approximately 6-8 weeks prior to departure, giving you the opportunity to co-ordinate your travel plans and discuss any last minute questions you may have.

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How do I get to Madagascar?

SEED Madagascar is able to advise you on the best routes, flight companies and travel agents to use when traveling to Madagascar. There are regular flights from Paris, Milan, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Mauritius to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The main flight companies serving these routes include Air Madagascar, Air France, Air Mauritius, Corsair, Kenya Airways and South African Airways. From Antananarivo, you will then need to take an internal flight to Fort Dauphin (Tolagnaro) with Air Madagascar.

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How safe is travelling in Madagascar?

Madagascar is, relative to many African countries, a very stable, safe country in which to travel and work. We have not had any major security issues with volunteers in the past and all our returning volunteers comment on the warmth and hospitality of the Malagasy people. It is very rare to encounter any opposition from local people.

For those interested in further information on safety in Madagascar, please do look at the UK Foreign Office website. However, by the nature of this website they will emphasise negatives more than positives and therefore it is important to keep the information in context.

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How does SEED Madagascar ensure the safety of its volunteers?

For SEED Madagascar, your health and safety is a priority whilst you are volunteering with us and we do everything possible to mitigate any risk factors. Prior to your departure, you will receive comprehensive briefing materials advising on all aspects of medical preparation including malaria prophylaxis, vaccinations, and general tips for staying fit and healthy. You will also be expected to bring a comprehensive medical kit with you for minor ailments in the field.

With more than ten years experience of operating in Madagascar, our well-trained and experienced Malagasy guides who accompany our volunteers are adept at recognizing the early signs of common illnesses. Volunteers are accompanied by at least one of our guides 24 hours a day, even in periods of “time off” meaning that help is always on hand should it be needed. A satellite phone travels with the team at all times meaning that the team can always be contacted in the event of an emergency. A requirement of the programme is that each volunteer has comprehensive insurance which in the event of any serious medical issue would repatriate the person to a suitable medical facility.

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Do I need vaccinations to visit Madagascar?

A compulsory requirement for all volunteers is that they have been vaccinated against tetanus and are taking a suitable malaria prophylaxis. A number of other vaccinations are recommended, details of which will be sent to you prior to departure.

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