We’ve just spent the weekend at Meghan and Rob’s spectacular wedding in Tatamagouche. So much family, so much love, so many kilts… I love it.
Anyway, it is time to unveil my next move, though by this time, most of you probably already know about it… I can’t seem to bridle my enthusiasm.
So, as you’ve read, I faced many challenges during my few months in Madagascar, and if you’ve seen me since, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve grown up quite a bit since taking my leave from U of T and heading across the planet. Working in Vondrozo was the greatest learning experience of my life thus far. Despite the fact that it’s about as far from Halifax as I could possibly get, when I left Vondrozo, I felt like I was leaving a new home. I was learning the language, I was getting to know people, and I felt like I had so much more to give and to learn. As you can probably gather from the way I talked about the kids around Vondrozo, I really felt like I connected with them, and I had noticed quite early on that the WWF didn’t have any programming targeted at the young people of the region. (I definitely believe that if you’re aiming for “sustainable development”, the kids are incredibly important… you know, teach them early and often.) I’ve had many years of training and experience working with kids, including (how splendid!) an environmental education certification from the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and throughout my time in the Explore programme, games kept popping into my head.
Over my last few days in Tana, I tried to compile some of my ideas on paper. I met with Marlin and explained myself, saying that I am very interested in environmental education and I’d really like to come back to Vondrozo to pick up where I left off, and create a program for the elementary school. Marlin said that he agreed with me (!), and that WWF is planning to collaborate with another (small) organization called Friends of Madagascar, which specializes in “kid stuff”. I also said that if “sustainable development” is the goal, it’s really important to have many projects specifically for women, and to encourage female participation and interest. The WWF doesn’t have a woman on the team in Vondrozo, which, I feel, should be remedied to facilitate those sorts of development projects.
So, the punch line is… I’m going back! When I got back to Halifax, I started writing up lesson plans for an environmental education programme, and I also wrote up a brainstorm for projects that I’d like to discuss with the women’s group in Vondrozo, with whom the WWF is to start working in January. Marlin sent the plans off to WWF Madagascar’s Conservation Director, along with his pitch, and now the plans are in motion! I’ll go back as soon as possible after New Years, and start right away helping out with the women’s group projects, and start setting the foundation for a school programme. Their school year runs from September to June, like ours does, so the plan is for me to stay until the spring of 2010.
I’m pretty much bursting with excitement about this. It’s a huge deal, and I have so much to do in order to make it work, and I’m being supported by many great people – special thanks to Marlin, who has been helping me out as much as possible despite the frequent lack of internet connection in Farafangana; to Sahondra, for printing my lesson plans and sending them to Marlin via taxi brousse (about 12 hours!) when he couldn’t download them himself; to Moia in Geneva, for putting up with (and answering!) my millions of questions; and, of course, to Ryan, for kindly offering me a place in his home in Vondrozo. I can not WAIT!
So, to all of you lovely people who have been supporting me by reading my stories and expressing your interest (I loved hearing these sentiments this weekend at the wedding!), here’s a chance to help me out, and, more importantly, to help the people of Vondrozo to “improve their quality of life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.” WWF Vondrozo does not have the resources to support me financially when it comes to my flights, my immunizations, and the plethora of little expenses that I’ll encounter to get to Vondrozo (and to get home at the end).
So, now the work that lies before me is fundraising! My goal is to raise $10 000 CAD, to cover my flights, my immunizations, the visa challenges that I’m sure to face (with the help of WWF, thankfully!) and some of the expenses of living in Vondrozo for a year. Some of you (whose addresses I have!) will be receiving requests by mail, so keep your eyes peeled for those! But to all of those who have been loyal readers of my rambling blog, I welcome – nay – request your support, no matter how small the financial contribution. I know how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends and family, and I thank you warmly for being my support network, always. I feel so passionately about this work and this opportunity, and I know that you wonderful people are also happy to support positive change in the world. This isn’t just a wee investment in my personal growth, but an investment in the conservation of the world’s biodiversity and in the wellbeing of Malagasy people. (In case I haven’t made it clear – I plan to work really hard to make this worthwhile.)
There are a few ways to do this. As I mentioned, I’m sending out some cards in the mail, so if you’re not already on my mailing list, definitely send me your address so that you can be. (Cheques, as technologically dated as they may be, are just so practical!) I’m not internet-clever enough (yet) to set up an online giving site, but I’m open to suggestions there. (I’m asking around.) You can email-transfer me funds any time, and/or send me your mailing address, at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can send bars of gold via passenger pigeon. And please, spread the word to anyone you know who is looking for a worthy cause for their annual holiday donation. In return, to all of you, I shall write glorious letters from abroad (I’m an excellent pen pal), and maintain my blog (from Fianarantsoa) while I’m away, so that I can describe the experiences and the work that you have made possible.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. And I shall keep you posted on how my fundraising efforts are going! Spread the word!