Blog: Touching down in Madagascar
In February 2013, Martin and Maureen Brooke travelled to Madagascar to volunteer their professional skills for SOS Children. Martin is an NHS associate specialist in paediatrics and Maureen is trained in horticulture. Using annual leave from work, they are volunteering at SOS Children’s projects for six weeks. This is the first blog entry from their trip.
“This is the third trip working on a voluntary basis for SOS Children. Both of our former visits were to Malawi, where I was working in the clinic and my wife Maureen in agriculture and horticulture.
If we thought Malawi was financially poor, we weren’t quite prepared for Madagascar. A driver with a big smile met us at the airport with a placard with ‘Dr. Brooke’ on it, but we were pretty quickly surrounded by people asking for anything as we got in the wagon. Lots of very small children carrying even smaller children round the car asking for something and we knowing that if we gave, our car would become as a honey pot for bees.
The country side we drove through is spectacular with a blend of hills and paddy fields with people washing clothes in rivers and fishing from dug out canoes. Pushing ancient carts amongst Citroen 2Cv’s and Raunalt 4’s (a ‘70’s car that are now cult back home).
The first SOS Children’s Village we are visiting is SOS Children’s Village Vontovorona. It is just outside the capital Antananarivo, thankfully known as ‘Tana’ to all. The Children’s Village is set in its own grounds and has the usual feel of peaceful organisation. They are well-made red brick houses and we have a pleasant apartment above the dispensary which is built in the same style.
We will visit and work in two of the three SOS Children’s Villages on this large and diverse island. This one has 14 houses each run by two SOS mothers, caring for 10 orphaned or abandoned children. Our first visit is to the “entry” house, where there are toddlers doing what toddlers do; spilling food and making noise.
The Village has a farm with four cows and 50 chickens, where older students learn agriculture and horticulture. This is where Maureen plans to spend her mornings."
"Madagascar, not in my wildest dreams did I think I would come here.
The country has a definite French feel to it, with ancient cream coloured Renault 4 and Citroen 2CV taxis, as well as quaint red brick houses. There is a lot of water around as they have just had four days of rain from cyclone Felleng that skirted the island. It is a green place; banana, canna, senna, castor, sugar cane and rice fields. Pine trees are also common.
People push heavy hand carts up hills and long horned cattle wander loose or wait to pull more heavy carts. The SOS Children’s Village is 20 miles south of the capital Antananarivo and takes about 45 minutes to get there. Town is busy and colourful, with lots of people bustling - but it is hard to ignore the girls with babies on their backs, begging. The further out of town we get, the larger the pot holes, and eventually we are weaving from one side to the other on a red road caked in eroded soil from the surrounding fields."