Volunteering in Madagascar

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I realise that this is a Q&A forum so this doesn’t necessarily fit here but I wanted to give a little bit of advice to anyone thinking of volunteering in Madagascar. Azafady is a sustainable development and conservation NGO based in south-east Madagascar and volunteering with them is a great way to experience the uniquely beautiful country.

Madagascar has one of the world’s most species-rich environments. 8 out of every 10 species in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world. Azafady works in partnership with local communities to alleviate poverty and support environmental conservation. With 12 years experience in the region, the Azafady volunteer projects are sensitively built around what are directly expressed to be the most pressing needs of marginalised communities. They have developed strong relationships with the local population, maximising their participation in all stages of project development so the benefits are long-term.

They won the award of “Best Volunteering Organisation” in the 2007 Responsible Travel Awards and you can see why. Throughout the planning of your trip and before departure, you will receive great communication and total openness about finances, sustainability of the projects etc. Azafady creates the perfect environment for their volunteers to experience the reality of life in the poorest area of the country while maintaining safety and fun. The staff are extremely energetic, passionate, helpful, and generous. They ensure that the volunteer schemes are diverse so things never become repetitive and everyone gets the chance to show their own strengths making you feel that your work is really valued.

Volunteers on Azafady’s Pioneer programme work on a range of projects depending on local needs at the time. Typical projects include building schools in rural villages, constructing wells to improve access to clean drinking water, teaching local children crucial health education, and planting trees and building fuel-efficient stoves to help combat deforestation.

Volunteers on Azafady’s Conservation programme focus on lemur and biodiversity research, to investigate the impact of forest fragmentation on lemur, reptile and amphibian populations by collecting data in the littoral (coastal) forests in Sainte Luce. Volunteers may choose to get involved in more of the community conservation side of things which focuses on environmental education with the children in Ambandrika village combined with the implementation of the fuel-efficient stove project and the planting and evaluation of the critically endangered palm, Dypsis saintlucei.

For Azafady’s short-term volunteers, there is work on community projects such as building schools or building wells and latrines in rural villages. You may get involved in digging a schools foundations and the construction of the walls, all the way through to painting the classrooms and building the classroom furniture. Or you may work on health and sanitation projects building wells and latrines in areas with poor sanitation, increasing access to safe drinking water and educating about the importance of hygiene.

Madagascar is a very poor country where sadly the government do very little for its vulnerable people and the threatened environment. It’s a wonderful thing to witness real changes and differences being made to peoples’ lives. Nothing glitzy, just a hands-on, genuine and worthwhile cause.

Charlotteb92 12/09/13    Madagascar Link Report

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“Azafady Conservation Programme, we ask volunteers to raise a minimum donation of £600 for their first 2-week module, £550 for their second 2-week module and £500 for all subsequent modules.”

Boy Alison, you really should get out more. I really wasn’t going to look it up but ya made me.

There are many GOOD NGOs in the world that don’t follow the “Gap Year” model of stiffing kids out of their hard-saved money just to save the world.

I’ve been at an NGO in India for 4 1/2 years. ‘spose I should add up what it REALLY should cost me (they don’t charge to volunteer and feed lunch 6 days a week) to be here, huh?

PT Barnum DIDN’T say “There’s a sucker born every minute”, but I’m sure he thought it.

PirateAt50 14/09/13    Link Report

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“minimum donation of £600 for their first 2-week module, £550 for their second 2-week module and £500 for all subsequent modules.” Exactly.

Michael Huxley 16/09/13    Link Report

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And sit down when you look at the Blue Ventures prices. Amusing that all dive resorts are “green” and have been for years. No one wants to ruin their meal ticket.

You could buy a diving holiday anywhere for those prices.

PirateAt50 17/09/13    Link Report

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Hi Charlotteb92,

Thank you for sharing your info about Azafady and the work they’re doing in Madagascar. I’ve heard lots of good things about the NGO from friends and would love to do a project with them myself. I’ve also heard positive things about Blue Ventures, which specializes in marine conservation (medical students can do their elective year with them too).

Alison Roberts 13/09/13    Link Report

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Unfortunately I agree with Pirate here alison, this is much more of the typical gap year voluntourism businesses than it is a true volunteer charity/ngo.

Michael Huxley 16/09/13    Link Report

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Well, for me, “advice” would be a sentence or two. Beyond that, it appears to be an ad. And without looking (since I won’t), I’d likely find that this is a 1000GBP/fortnight kinda place for the privilege of helping save the world.

There are real NGOs in the world that don’t find it necessary to gush and swoon on travel forums trolling for “volunteers” (read those with enough money to pay for the privilege).

PirateAt50 12/09/13    Link Report

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Thank you for your comments. As a charity, Azafady relies heavily on volunteering programmes to fund our project work in Madagascar and therefore how we are perceived and reviewed on the internet matters a great deal to us.

At first glance it may seem that the minimum donation we require of our volunteers is expensive, and in fact, it deters quite a lot of volunteers from participating in our programmes. This is a shame because these donations go directly to funding our development work in Madagascar (over 90% of Azafady funds go directly to supporting our conservation and development work in Madagascar. http://www.madagascar.co.uk/get-involved/sainte-luce-how-to-apply-costs.htm). Furthermore, we understand that most people don’t have an extra £2000 lying around, which is why we encourage and actively support all of our volunteers to fundraise their donation. Many of our previous volunteers have successfully fundraised their entire donation, either through getting their friends and family to support them via an online fundraising site or by involving the community with events like bake sales and movie nights. This kind of grassroots organizing and fundraising is invaluable to Azafady as it raises awareness about Madagascar.

Ultimately, Azafady is an incredibly transparent charity with very low administrative costs. We pride ourselves on the work that we do and the dedicated volunteers who choose to join our cause.

Azafady 29/10/13    Link Report

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