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About Me...

I'm Claire, I'm 25 and I come from Switzerland.
As soon as I finished my studies, all I wanted to do was fly south and work in the field on an environmental project. That's when I found the Explore Programme!

I loved Madagascar and couldn't leave. So I decided to stay a little longer and continue working in conservation.
I am also interested in gender issues and developing art as a tool for environmental education and communication.

My first volunteering experiences were in Latin America, a part of the world I am particularly attracted to. I then wanted to travel more, learn about other cultures and understand what can be done to make things better for the Planet.

Dancing is my other passion, and the good thing about it is that I can dance all over the world.  If you come to Madagascar, you'll have to love the music as it's played full blast in each and every taxi-brousse (mini-buses that travel through the country) you will take!

What I learned while I was there

One of the important things I have learned from the Malagasy is patience.

While my European and especially Swiss background have taught me values such as punctuality, precision and effectiveness, my Malagasy experience has trained me, or rather forced me, to be patient and trust that things will, eventually, one way or another, happen.

There are many examples of this, from the long, never-ending taxi-brousse rides, to the woman at the cash desk who just doesn’t seem to care that you’re running late.

There’s no need to rush, “moramora” as they say here. I’m not sure the Swiss watch industry would be successful in Madagascar.

During my volunteer placement, I was able to understand and testify to the beauty of Madagascar’s nature on the one hand, and the damage caused by human activities on the other.

We were 5 Europeans working with the WWF team in Andapa, in the North-Eastern part of the fourth largest island in the world. We took part in various activities, all mainly involving environmental awareness.

Living this experience gives you the chance to see the world differently and to be seen differently. The first thing that struck me were the reactions and expressions of people, especially children, at the sight of a “vazaha” (white foreigner) in their community. They want to watch you, talk to you, play with you, touch you and laugh with you. This created a mixture of new emotions in me which I will never forget.

Claire Balbo & Sahondra (WWF's Volunteer co-ordinator in Madagascar) 
© WWF / Corinne Eisenring
This is me with Sahondra, WWF's Volunteer coordinator in Madagascar
© WWF / Corinne Eisenring

My Video

Below is the video that I made during my time as a volunteer. What I wanted was to show you the close tie between people and nature in Madagascar. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between developing and developed countries. Enjoy...

Curious children upon my arrival in Ambodihasina, August 2006 
© WWF / Claire Balbo
Curious children upon my arrival in Ambodihasina, August 2006
© WWF / Claire Balbo

Still in Madagascar!

After the Simpona project, I spent the next 2 years with WWF Madagascar's marine programme. And now I'm with The Andrew Lees Trust. Read about their new book "Voie du Changement" on climate change & mining in Southern Madagascar

My advice would be...

Whatever you expect from this experience, it will be different, and better.

Just like a piece of chocolate: you know it's going to be good, but you don't know how much until you've swallowed it! I never stop after just one piece. Do you?

Contact me!

If you're thinking of volunteering and want to talk more about what it's like and what to expect, just e-mail me

My photogallery