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Volunteer stories: Chris's story

Chris - Pioneer Volunteer & Office intern

Chris with friends in Madagascar.

After finishing school in 2012, I wanted to travel and engage in overseas volunteering but was lost in the masses of opportunities touted by ‘voluntourism’ companies – how could I be sure that my presence would have a genuine impact? How would I know if the organisation is truly ethical and can create positive change? Would I be able to go somewhere that is exciting but challenging and completely different from anything I have seen before? Thankfully, my fears were put to rest as soon as I came across SEED Madagascar (or Azafady as it was known then)!

SEED is a charity that is truly embedded in community and place, its sensitivity to the needs of the environment and people of Fort Dauphin was immediately clear from a quick perusal of the experiences of those who had spent time with the organisation. My positive first impressions were justified and even surpassed by my experiences in the following ten weeks on the pioneer programme!

Throughout my time in southeast Madagascar, I assisted in a staggering variety of tasks, which allowed me to gain a full understanding of the diverse issues affecting the development of the region. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to contribute to conservation and climate change research, reforestation projects, community consultations, English teaching, sanitation projects, and construction. One memorable task involved trekking along an isolated river system in search of a critically endangered water palm!

The people I met in Madagascar, the experiences I had, and the memories I made mean that my time there was truly unforgettable; I wish I could go back and live through it all again! Even now after several years have passed, I still miss the rather acrid local Three Horses beer and the regular meals of rice and beans for which I foolishly failed to get the recipe for (If anyone knows what beans they were using, please get in contact!)

My experience provided me with an opportunity to find out more about the workings of an impressive NGO and gave me the desire to pursue a career in the charity sector. As a result, I will soon be commencing a master’s degree in International Development!

I have just recently returned to SEED, now volunteering at the London Office! What can I say about my experiences so far? To anyone who believes that a third sector job may be for them, I would say look no further than SEED Madagascar!