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Who am I?

I am a sociology student. I’ve taken more years off from school to travel and learn the hard way than I’ve spent consecutively in the classroom. I wanted something beyond books; I had given myself too many paper cuts from carelessly turning the pages. I wanted to know what all of those restless nights in the library had been working toward: was I really doing all I could to preserve and conserve or was I merely spiraling into a self-perpetuated existential crisis?
Given the opportunity to contribute, even if but only a little, on an international level, this is what restless nights are for. It doesn’t take going to Madagascar to learn how to give back just as much as we take in a consumerist sense. But to learn how organizations like WWF work on a direct level, from the inside out, that does take going out of every day bounds.

And still I can feel the wind pulling me back, tearing at me, my feet yearning to lift themselves back to that ocean of sand that became such a part of me I still find remnants of it amongst my belongings. There, in Ankilimalinike, the terrestrial majesty has the capacity to capture every sorrow and churn it to gold. I didn’t think this at first: coming from New Mexico, I was, or so I thought, irrevocably biaised. I thought I knew the beauty of the desert with its enigmatic purples and reds. But I knew nothing of a desert and an ocean coming together. It didn’t take long to fall in love.
Coconuts will never taste so good. Ever! 
© WWF / Katherine Davey
Coconuts will never taste so good. Ever!
© WWF / Katherine Davey
Gathering saplings to be planted 
© WWF / Katherine Davey
Gathering saplings to be planted
© WWF / Katherine Davey
I and 3 other volunteers lived and worked in a village along RN-9, one of 2 major highways in Madagascar. We were enlisted to disseminate information on carbon production via SEESO (Synergie Energie Environnement dans la Sud Ouest) and hopefully work with carbon farmers to ameliorate an increasingly dire situation. The Spiny Forest has been exploited for generations and more recent energy demands have rendered the forest’s capacity to convalesce nearly impossible. Our goal was to listen: SEESO needs to know the realities of carbon farmers, how many bags of charcoal are sold and how many trees are harvested. Regulations seem like an obvious solution, but the reality of farmers’ situations reaches beyond government control.

Madagascar looks like a fairy tale. The baobabs, the lemurs, travelers palms, rice paddies, even the sound of the people. Jaw dropping will undoubtedly be a routine. When it was time to come home, I felt I was already there.

If Madagascar has called upon you, I ask you to remember that some days are HARD. Even for the most adventurous of spirits, homesickness can surface. But there is little, if any, opportunity in the field to ring home and check in. But this is not your forever! The time will fly by, and before you know it, you will be wishing yourself back to the village, amidst rocky forest paths and zebu herds... For every difficult day, the good ones are that much better, and it's then you remember why you do what you do. Don’t forget that. You are a guest: Be respectful and considerate of your surroundings.

Watch our video!

WWF Volunteers Katherine, Robert & Maia with SEESO project (Synergie, Energie, Environnement dans le sud-ouest Madagascar), February-May 2010

Zebu Cart Charette 
© WWF / Katherine Davey
Zebu Cart Charette
© WWF / Katherine Davey
What did I learn?
  • Tenacity! Madagascar is not London nor New York nor Sydney nor Toronto.... things work at a different pace – slowly.
  • Flexibility. The diet is different, so are living conditions. Fear not! These changes provide endless opportunity to bond with your group. After all, you all are living in intensely close conditions; it pays to discover one another. They’ll be your family, second to your Socio Organizer, and Malalatiana, of course.
  • Be realistic! Its impossible to know exact living conditions. Don’t over-pack. Of course it’s important to be comfortable, but don’t forget what you’ve gotten yourself into. If anything, you will be reminded of what necessities really are.
  • Laugh! It’s easy to take oneself too seriously. The absurdity of some situations leave little room for much else...Laughter is the ultimate cure for any heartache (or headache) and due to its universality, uncommonly approachable. Making mistakes are inevitable: think of humility as the gift that keeps on giving.
And because sometimes Madagascar leaves one speechless, I turn to he who knows her better than I.

Three daybreaks, Part III, lines 1-10 (of III parts)
All the stars are melted together
in the crucible of time,
then cooled in the sea
and turned into a many-faceted stone-block.
A dying lapidist, the Night,
setting to work with all her heart
and all her grief to see her mills
crumbling, crumbling,
like ashes in the wind,
cuts with what living care the prism.
Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo


Cactus, lines 13-20
when the flanks of the city were made as green
as moonbeams glancing through the forests,
when still they cooled the hillsides of Iarive
crouched like bulls after food,
upon these rocks, too steep for goats,
they drew apart to guard their springs.
Lepers in finery of flowers.

Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo

Want to find out more?

Don't hesitate to contact me!

And now?

I finish my University studies within this next year, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Sustainability Studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Upon graduation I plan to accompany my sister to Poland where she will teach literature and I will work on my Master's Degree, again focusing on the sociological element of conservation, all the while plotting my Malagasy homecoming.

My photos of Madagascar