Volunteer's experience

24/09 2015  Madagascar

Farida stayed few weeks at our library, she was there at the same time as Marija. Read about her experience with local people and how she felt in the village with our library.

I was preparing for my first volunteer experience in a school for visually impaired children in Zambia when Alena emailed me confirming the opportunity to volunteer for the book feeding project in Madagascar. I found out about the project through google search. I had just taken my sabbatical from work and was looking for Volunteer opportunities in Africa and a visit to Madagascar had been one of of my long time dream. Before my arrival at Ambohitrakely my only idea of Madagascar was the animated film. I was aware that I was going to work in a library but beyond that I did not know what to expect.

I took a taxi from the airport to the village it was a bit of a relief to see that Madagascar did not look very different from home however I was already facing language difficulties from the airport as very few people could speak fluent English and I did not know a word of Malagasy or French. The ride from the airport to the village went well and from my first encounter I could see that the Malagasy people were a friendly lot. When I arrived at the village I was warmly welcomed by Maria (one of the volunteers who had been there 3 weeks earlier) and the children at the village who were waiting for me outside the library. The reception made me feel very welcomed and positive about my decision.

The book feeding project is a small library consisting of two rooms, one for the books and the other a reading and activity area for the children. The library was stocked with a variety of books (English, French and Malagasy), puzzles and games. The villagers are very welcoming to volunteers and they tried their best to help us settle in. The children enjoyed coming to the library and were very eager to learn new things. Some of the older children love to read and enjoyed having some one listen to their reading and correct their pronunciation. Younger children enjoy playing puzzles, drawing and games such as skipping or football. I enjoyed interacting with the children despite the language barriers. Besides working with the children Ambohitrakely is located in the highlands providing a great place for trekking and hiking. The village was very refreshing and safe and I think I may have improved my well being while out there. I surely miss the time spent at the book feeding project.