Back to Madagascar
I’ve been back in Madagascar now for just under a month - and wow, it’s good to be back. A three year enforced break due to Covid has been tough all round and it’s been wonderful connecting with friends, partners and our lovely supported children and their families again.
The biggest feature of life here right now is undeniably the unseasonably cold weather. Contrary to popular belief, Africa does experience winter, and temperatures can get nippy in what are the ‘summer’ months for us in the Global North, namely June to August. But I was here in July 2013, and it certainly wasn’t as cold as this. Experts are telling us that this is the impact of climate change. The extremes are getting more extreme, as demonstrated by the 40 degree heatwave that engulfed the U.K. the day after I left. Here, it means long, dry summers, cold, long and dry winters, interspersed with two cyclone seasons that can wreak havoc on communities and devastate harvests.
Families here are really struggling at the moment. The war in Ukraine has seen price increases in grain and petrol, COVID-19 has battered the economy, tourists are only just starting to come back (hopefully this will be accelerated with the dropping of mandatory testing this week), and now people are struggling to stay warm as temperatures dip to 8 degrees in homes overnight with no heating or insulation. Having slept in it myself for the past 4 weeks, I can tell you it’s not fun, even with 5 blankets.
But despite the hardships, there is huge resilience, and I’m always in awe of the young people we support, together with our partners Ankizy Gasy and Akany Avoko Faravohitra. It’s been inspiring catching up with them these past few weeks - hearing of how Therezia is getting on as the first year of her nursing degree draws to a close; how Dera and Sabine are nervously awaiting their baccalaureate results, with hopes of heading to university next year; of the half a dozen children in our programme who passed their primary leaving exams and will be excitedly heading to secondary school in September.
Among the most inspiring moments of this trip has been meeting Mamisoa, one of the girls we supported at AAF to train as a hairdresser - who now has a salon of her own, is close to breaking even and enjoying a happy life with her husband and son. This is the ultimate goal of the work we are doing here in Madagascar - to give young people the skills they need to have fulfilled and successful independent lives. And we are grateful for the support of our generous sponsors, without whom, we simply couldn’t do what we do.
More anon, but some initial reflections at the end of a very busy four weeks!
Charlotte Baker - Director, SSFA