Giulia Barbanente

About me

My name is Giulia and I come from Italy. In March 2012 I completed my studies in international law at the University of Bologna, with a research on the protection of the environment in international investment law.
While I was writing my thesis I decided to leave for a volunteering programme in a developing country, in order to better understand the reality I had written about in my research.

After finishing my masters and getting all the vaccinations you can possibly think of, I finally left for Madagascar at the end of May. My task was to work with a youth environmental club - called Vintsy - founded by WWF in Vondrozo, a village in the south-east of the island. After spending a week in the capital, learning Anteshaka, one of the dialects spoken in the south-east, Karine, another explore volunteer from Switzerland, and myself left Antananarivo on a big WWF truck, charged with everything we would need during our stay in the south, including mountain bikes, mattresses and a 100 liter water tank.
 / ©: WWF/Karine Antille
Me in Vondrozo
© WWF/Karine Antille

My experience in Vondorzo

It took us three days of travel to get to Vondrozo, including four hours to drive the last 40 kilometers, as the state of the roads in the southern countryside is quite tragic. The impact with the village was quite violent, the sight of my little house quite scary, and the experience of not having access to running water very odd.
But it was amazing to realise how fast we could adapt to the conditions there. After unpacking we met all the representatives of the community, including the local doctor, Romeo, who seemed very frustrated by the state of his medical equipment. We soon got to the school where we met all the teachers, the headmaster and the kids that we would work with. There were a lot of them. The first day we were welcomed by 80 kids aged from 8 to 20 (without counting all the younger brothers and sisters running around the room). The club was particularly crowded because teachers were on strike and young people had nothing to do with their time.

After taking part in the celebrations for the Malagasy Independence Day, which occupied most of June, at the beginning of July we had our first “big” event. We left Vondrozo with thirty kids on an old truck and went cleaning up a WWF reforestation site in a village nearby. We spent the night at an empty school dancing and singing, and we all had a great time. We came back the day after with forty-five kids, as many had joined us later on their own.

After that trip, Karine and I became the heroes of the school. More importantly, we won the unlimited support of a core group of enthusiastic members of the Vintsy Club that were ready to wake up at 5 am on a Saturday morning to go pick up plants on the top of a hill, singing and jumping all the way while I couldn’t even carry my own backpack.

It was then easy to build with them a little botanic garden in the back of the school, to organise a puppet show for the village on the market day and to make together the official T-shirts of the Vintsy Club of Vondrozo.

It was a Super-intense, life-changing experience. We felt a strong support from the entire community, and the curiosity and energy of the children pushed us to do as much as possible. I spent the first four weeks counting the days because I wanted to leave, and the last six weeks wanting to stay there forever.
 / ©: WWF / Giulia Barbanente
View of Vondrozo
© WWF / Giulia Barbanente

My advice to future volunteers

I would encourage anybody who has at least a minimum tolerance for big spiders and snakes to challenge your western lifestyle and try to live in a different way even for just a short period. The impact on the way you see things is going to be huge!
WWF proved to be a great NGO to volunteer with. Not only we didn’t have to pay to be useful (as it sadly happens so often now) but they encouraged our personal initiative and helped Karine and me to make all our ideas possible. What I also found very important is that that WWF is active not only in the protection of the environment, but is also contributing greatly to social development in Madagascar.
 / ©: WWF / Giulia Barbanente
Karine and I after a long walk
© WWF / Giulia Barbanente

Giulia & Karine's video

 

Our task was to work with one of the numerous Vintsy Clubs (environmental clubs founded by WWF in Madagascar). This documentary shows the activities that we organised with the children of Vondrozo, a village in the South-East of the island. It's the result of real team work: the title was chosen by the children, who also made all the activities possible; WWF Madagascar supported with the necessary materials; WWF field agents gave great technical support and provided the music.
© WWF / Giulia Barbanente © WWF / Giulia Barbanente © WWF / Giulia Barbanente © WWF / Giulia Barbanente © WWF / Giulia Barbanente © WWF / Giulia Barbanente

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