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.