I travelled a bit before, but I was younger and it was with my family or I made some touristic trips with my friends. So, Madagascar was the first »responsible« travel for me. I was a co-leader of a 10 people group and we went there to work with kids. In Slovenia, we have that amazing program of international volunteering, it is called POTA. Random people gather together to do something good in the summer, prepare for the journey for 6 months before (working on communication, relationships in the group, good values, researching and gathering money with charity events for those in need; in our case Madagascar people). So our journey began in January 2014. We flew to Madagascar in July 2014 and we spent 5 amazing weeks there. I was finishing college (preschool education) and I had to write a diploma. I combined the volunteering and work, so beside working with kids I was doing a small reasearch on Malagasy educational values and practices.
I REALLY recommend you to volunteer. Anywhere. Anyhow. Why?
- It broadens your mind.
- You develop a sense of empathy.
- You don’t complain about unimportant stuff anymore. You change your priorities.
- You get a new meaning of happiness. It’s not about the things you own, it’s about beauty you see in the world. Malagasy people have nothing (talking about material welfare), but they are happy; they are dancing, singing, laughing every time they can. They know that being alive is a gift. We often forget that.
- You realize some things about your life – it is actually luxurious.
And the most important – you become GRATEFUL for everything!
- Hungry? Look at those people who eat once a day if they are lucky. How can I say i am hungry if i had a meal two hours ago?
- Warm water to shower? Shower? It is something that they don’t have.
- Shoes? Nope, you can walk barefoot; in forest, on rocks, everywhere.
- Washing machine? Nope, you have to wash your clothes in the river and be careful that the crocodile doesn’t have you for lunch. They have a saying: »Mamba noana ka tsy tam-panafody.« – There is no cure or potion to protect you from a hungry crocodile.
- Various food? No, just rice or manioc. And just in case you are lucky.
- Clean and warm home? Nope, there are malarial mosquitoes and rats everywhere.
- Hospital with cooked meals and proper disinfection? Ambulance car to drive you? Nope. Just a house with no disinfection, with your own family living and cooking on the floor next to you.
- Pharmacy with variety of pills? Nope, nothing. Maybe a local doctor a few kilometers away with one box of painkillers, that’s all.
- Vaccine? None, you can easily get hepatitis A, B or C and die from it. Malaria, Tifus, tetanus … When we were in village called “Befutaka” (it means a lot of mud, by the way :)) there was a girl who died of hepatitis B and she was only 17 years old.
- Safety? Oh, the police is taking gangs side to earn extra money or just because. They will hunt you down with rocks or machetes if they want to. Or they have a believe that they need a white man’s arm for a magic potion. I know the burglaries and murders happens in Europe, too. But if somebody gets hurt in Europe that is all over the news, the police is searching for a criminal everywhere, if they find him he gets in jail etc. There? If you steal an ox, it’s their »right« to kill you. The people believe in a saying: eye for eye, head for head.
- School? Only if you are lucky enough to live in a place of missionary. Malagasy have their own schools to, but can be very far and it all depends on a teacher.
- Finding a job as a teacher? Just finish your primary school and in some places you can teach in a wooden little house all year and get paid with a rice.
Nature is just amazing. Stars are so low, you have a feeling you could take one down if you stretch your arm high enough. There are tons a stars you see in the jungle, because there are no lights.
(All of the pictures are from us – 10 Slovenian volunteers and I didn’t edit them, so maybe they aren’t the best, but they have a story to tell. :)) After that kind of experience you aren’t the same ever again. I’m so grateful for it!