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  • Be careful having expectations about what it might be like to visit a developing country, to work with a conservation organisation, to meet new people...well actually, I’d go so far to say be careful about having any expectations at all! But particularly in the example of a volunteer programme like this…I think you learn that living in the future (by trying to imagine what something will be like) often sets you up for a fall…if you really have to “expect” anything…expect the unexpected!

  • Open your eyes but open your mind as well – this goes nicely with the first point really, especially because you can also apply it to so many areas of your life, and not just travelling or volunteering in a developing country. With an open mind, during my time in Madagascar, I found instead of viewing everything as a problem or something negative, it was a lot more fun (and a lot more constructive) to be able to adapt to the situation, just realise that it happened and that I could deal with it – I suppose you call it a ‘positive attitude!’ At the end of the day, we were only in Madagascar 3 months, on a ‘once-in-a-life-time opportunity’ – I didn’t want to waste time feeling disappointed or angry about things that really just made the experience all the more interesting anyway!

  • There’s living, and then there’s ‘Malagasy-style’ living – (quite like a lot of African countries I have visited in the past) You may have already heard people say this time and time again, but I don’t think it can ever be emphasised enough …most people are so laid-back, they’re almost horizontal! And I say just go with the flow – one soon learns there are more important things with which to expend one’s energy!

  • T.I.A. – As Martina put it – don’t fret, “This Is Africa!”.

  • When there’s a will there’s a way – Most volunteer programmes will require that you pay for your return airfare, medications and personal belongings. My advice would be don’t let money stand in the way of an opportunity like this to volunteer in something that you really believe in… The simple answer is fundraising…it’s a lot easier than you might think and can honestly be quite fun! Which reminds me, I would like to thank everyone who sponsored me on my sponsored cycle ride (and Daniel for cycling it with me – that was a hard 120 miles!); thank you to everyone involved in the car-boot sale and most of all, a HUGE thank you to The Jake Charitable Trust…without your help, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

  • Fihavana – this is an element of Malagasy culture that in short, encourages mutual respect and care for all those around you –the way I saw it get what you give.

To visit, or even to work
in a country different from your own,
I would advise, to take with you and remember
some Malagasy culture before you go…

‘Fihavana’, it says,
in work, in family, in play,
A way in which you treat those around you,
with a void of disparity you might say.

So with Fihavana take heed,
we are all human beings the same
what a pity if you were to forget
that ‘these people’ in fact, have a name.
"The only thing about me is the way I walk!" 
© WWF Charlotte Whitham
"The only thing about me is the way I walk!"
© WWF Charlotte Whitham
Mother and daughter in Analila 
© WWF Charlotte Whitham
Mother and daughter in Analila
© WWF Charlotte Whitham