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Volunteer Review: Janine B., Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar

I am self-employed and at the latter end of my career, and I was looking for an adventure. So, with a couple of friends of similar age and disposition, I headed for Andasibe.

Arrival in Madagascar

Our adventure started as soon as we arrived, which was in the middle of the rainy season, and shortly after a cyclone had been through the area and caused huge floods. Our driver was just brilliant, negotiating the water and potholes to deliver us from Antanarivo Airport to our hotel in Andasibe.

My volunteer accommodation

A lemur in a tree in Madagascar

The hotel is family-run, basic, but comfortable, and they did a splendid job of making sure we were well looked after and well-fed. We are vegetarian, which was, from our hosts’ point of view, counter-intuitive. Meat is expensive and is expected to be the focus of every main course. However, the vegetarian meals they provided for us were delicious, possibly the best that we have had anywhere, so we highly recommend them. Vegetables, beans and lentils are plentiful, so it was perfect for us!

My first impressions

Our Projects Abroad coordinator, Fidi, is an amazing man. He planned a great program for us for our two-week stay. We started with an orientation day, with a tour of the village and the rainforest, where we would be working for the rest of our stay. There is one brick road in the village, the rest was very muddy from all the rain. There were teams of people from the community around the village working together to clear up the debris left behind now that the floodwater from the cyclone had receded.

My Rainforest Conservation placement

Conservation volunteers monitoring wildlife in the national park

Fidi manages several initiatives in the forest and in the village. We were lucky enough to be part of several of them. The reforestation program involves collecting small saplings from native trees and planting them in pots in the nursery. Fidi and his colleagues then look after them until they are strong enough to be planted back in the forest.

Many parts of the forest have been taken over by alien trees, which do not provide good food for the lemurs. So, to keep a healthy population of healthy lemurs, the forest is being returned to a habitat which sustains them. It was great to be a small part of that.

Volunteers help out at the tree nursery in a wildlife reserve

In the time we were there (two weeks), we also laid 23 meters of a planned 15 km path through the forest. We are very proud of these 23 meters! The finished path will enable visitors to walk through the forest and enjoy this brilliant environment, keeping them safe, and keeping the habitat safe.

We also went on day and night walks through the forest as part of ongoing monitoring of the environment and the wonderful animals in it. All the work in the rainforest was awe-inspiring and at all times, was accompanied by the sounds of the diverse range of animals there. A particular joy was the haunting sound of the indris calling to each other, or maybe to us!

Community days

Volunteers help with painting a community hall

Fidi also manages the community days in Andasibe. These were fantastic events, with members of the village, Project Abroad volunteers, and staff coming together to support each other. The events we were part of were painting the village hall, which took very little time considering it is a large building, and helping one of the local residents by mending her house.

Other activities organized by Projects Abroad

Children from the early childhood development centre started by Projects Abroad

As my fellow adventurers and I come from a background in education, we also had the pleasure of being able to visit two schools and the Projects Abroad care center.

The schools function under very challenging conditions, with few resources, including insufficient books to read or to write in, and insufficient pencils to write with. The children are so keen to learn that many of them walk miles every day to get to school.

As well as work, Projects Abroad organized cultural evenings and Malagasy lessons for us. I’m not sure that we were particularly good at the weaving, dancing, or speaking Malagasy, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone we came across was very friendly, helpful and a treat to be around. We highly recommend this trip!

Janine B.

This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.

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