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Akoreeeeoeee! (Hellouuuuouuuuu!)

You are sitting and waiting in the shade under a huge Tamarind tree (the local school), a breeze of cool air in your face, people young and old arriving slowly from every corner of the village… dozens of pairs of eyes staring at you… now sweating, cause trying to compose a spontaneous sentence in Malagasy, while ducklings run over your bare feet tickling you… Having said the question you thought was the right one, your audience along with the goats and sheep roars with laughter … Singing a song in Malagasy about the tree Mirongo, although you have always felt ashamed when somebody listened to your singing, hoping that these people are convinced and would remember your words… Seeing all these beautiful smiling people carefully listening to what you have to say…
This is what environmental education or in our case a flying circus in Madagascar could feel like…

“Behave like a chameleon: look forward and observe behind.” *

After finishing my studies in Environmental Science and working as an intern in an environmental office for half a year, the time had come to travel far away again (before looking for a “real” job). Traveling has always been a kind of addiction for me, but this time I knew I wanted to do more than just hit the road. During different voyages in (mostly Asian) countries, I not only saw beautiful landscapes, friendly people and thrilling culture but also the poorness, the lack of education and the obvious pollution of the environment. So why not combine being away and doing something useful for a country that doesn’t have the same possibilities and knowledge as a western country like Switzerland?!

“If the Flood would impend tomorrow, Noah would have to build the Ark in Madagascar.” *

You are interested in volunteering for WWF, maybe even especially in Madagascar. Then you probably already know tons about the extraordinary nature on the Red Island and how vulnerable and worthy of protection it is. Or you want to find out yourself!

Exactly what I wanted to do. Find out what conservation work in a developing country is all about. Work hand in hand with local WWF workers and the local community “en brousse” (out in the jungle or just in the countryside). And I wasn’t disappointed, my expectations had been fulfilled. Still and with hindsight of course, everything came completely different from what I thought.

This is what my work in Itampolo and Ejeda in the very dry south of Madagascar looked like:

Convincing the people of the villages to plant a tree called Moringa oleifera. Going around rounding up women in the shade of a tamarind tree. Talking and singing about the usage of this tree, for food and for purifying water (if you want to know more about this magical tree: Explaining and showing how to cook a simple meal with the leaves of Mirongo. And at the end, hoping that these people would be enthusiastic and convinced to plant and cultivate this useful tree.

Daniella describes our work in her report as well, so read on here!

What a small and simple job we appeared to have! But how many hours did we spend on thinking how to bring our message home to somebody? And practising our song and waiting and waiting. And asking ourselves what the heck are they thinking and saying!

In the end, the most important thing was to be there, to lay a small stone of a mosaic; they know that you came from far away just to sing them a song!

[* Malagasy proverb]

After a jeep ride through the dry south: I have a dust-tan! 
© WWF / Julie Neeser
After a jeep ride through the dry south: I have a dust-tan!
© WWF / Julie Neeser

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Trying to be Malagasy! 
© WWF / Julie Neeser
Trying to be Malagasy!
© WWF / Julie Neeser

Take this chance to experience one of the most beautiful and fascinating weeks of your life. Be aware that you cannot always proceed the way you would like to and that work and all life are 100 times slower than what you are used to. Be patient and flexible and enjoy the slow and peaceful way of living. You will miss it!

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