Sunday, 2 September 2012

Madagascar, a place filled with life and culture.


Today, Carey (120th Ottewell and 152nd Millshaven; Northern Lights Council) will be sharing his experiences in Madagascar.

Walking through the streets and driving through the roads, you can see happiness in people’s faces. This country is covered with an easy going feel. Landing in Madagascar I felt the seven months of waiting was finally over and the feeling finally sank in. Being greeted by the Scouts of Madagascar, I could feel the fellowship come together and show their happiness to us for coming all this way. We danced and sang in a circle and laughed and smiled with each other.

Meeting the Scouts of Madagascar was a great way to start the trip but we were off and running. Travelling through the countryside, you can see the diversity of the open spaces in Madagascar. The scenery is breathtaking and the lemurs are so cute. Their curious nature makes this animal one of my favourites. With this country being surrounded by the sea it has some terrific seafood but the best food I’ve ever had was called “Sakondry” which is a bee type insect which they fry to make it nice and crunchy. So when I get home I can tell people that I ate bugs.

With our project we have been given the task of building a dorm for girls who come from far away so when they go to school they have a safe place to stay. I could not have been paired up with better people on this project; they are all great people to work with. There is so much more to see but hasn’t happened yet. I look forward to sharing it with all these great Scouts.

Madagascar is truly Earth’s Secret Kingdom.

 
-Carey

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Getting down to business


We’ve made it to Ambato Boeni! After three flights and a five hour bus ride, we have officially made it to the place we will call home for the next couple of weeks. While we are here, we will be building a school dormitory, so girls can finish their education, giving them a better chance to alleviate poverty in their life.

When we first arrived, there were a number of scouts here to greet us and welcome us. For those who were here before, and made the promise to the people back in 2008, it was very emotional. There have been a lot of obstacles and challenges along the way, but when a scout gives his or her word, we hold to it. That’s why our slogan for this project is “On our honour, we promised”. So, coming back after everything, it was great to fulfill our promise; our promise to return and not forget who they are or what they deal with on a daily basis.

Ambato Boeni is everything and nothing like I imagined it would be. The poverty is astounding and always present. There seems to be no garbage collection, and instead everything gathers in the street. However, the people are happy. The children find us to be the most entertaining thing in town and flock to the work site to see us apply sunscreen, and want to talk to us every chance they get.

The work itself is difficult, especially in the heat. Focusing on the dormitory for the girls, we’ve started to work at  6 am (as soon as the sun is up), taking a long break at lunch (the hottest part of the day), and ending sometime in the afternoon to allow us time to get home and showered before the sun goes down (again…at 6 pm).

This week, we’re hoping to have the foundation completed. We’ve already dug the trenches, leveled them, and are now working on pouring the footings. Tomorrow we should start the courses of brick, and then fill it in with even more cement. After that, things should get easier. The cement is the most difficult because we have to mix it all by hand on the ground (well…shovel). We even have to make our own cement bricks, which is a very new experience for almost all of us.
 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Malagasy shell game


When we got off the plane in Mahajanga we were met by a number of Scouters. As soon as we got outside, the Scouters were calling for us to hurry up. I thought they were calling that cars were there, but no they were calling “marching band”! Man it was sooooo cool!!! The welcome to Mahajanga was spectacular, more Scouts came out and we all started dancing and exchanged flags. It was one of the greatest experiences ever. After that, we all drove via car to a property owned by Father Alfredo’s family. The place was beautiful and full of life.

 The next day we went out to explore a few caves nearby. While we were there we met two local boys named Abraham and Franco. Abraham was 7 and Franco was 14- the same age as I am. What was really weird is that even though he was the same age as me, Franco was at least a foot shorter than me. I found out afterwards that this was from malnutrition.

The caves were pretty cool, too, but I think Franco and Abraham’s game with the shells was the coolest part. They each had about five seashells and they would put one down and the other person would throw his seashell at the one that was put down. When a shell was completely destroyed another would be put down and the last person with a shell would win. It was very interesting to watch. Even with no money or T.V., they were still able to find ways to have fun.

 After having explored the caves, we went down to meet Scouts who were from France and working on a project near Mahajanga. We met up with them on the road to their project site. It took a long time to get there, but it was interesting to see another group of Scouts doing the same thing as us. After we had a light lunch, we headed back to the property and changed before hitting the beach (on the Mozambique Channel).

-Written by Ben (1st Strathroy, Tri-Shores Council)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Arriving in Madagascar!!

We've been quiet for a bit on the blog, but only because we're busy in Madagsacar!  How have things gone so far?  Well, after almost two days of travelling, we arrived in Madagascar a few days ago! The flights themselves were long and for many, sleepless. We’re not sure if that was because of the lack of leg space, or the general excitement building because we were headed for Madagascar!!!

Once we arrived, we met with Father Alfredo (our Malagasy contact) and headed to the Spiritan’s House for a well needed sleep and food. The next morning, we had the option to sleep in, but instead we all went to the Lemurs’ Park in Tana (short form for Antananarivo) to see some of the exotic wildlife found in Madagascar. We saw many different types of lemurs including the Ringtail lemur and the bamboo lemur. Some of them were really shy, but others were willing to let you get very close for a picture or two. However, once they were ready to move, they moved quickly, sending out shrieks and laughter for everyone. Afterwards, we had our lunch here where we ate a variety of food including Fried Chicken, Coconut Chicken, and Zebu! What’s zebu you ask? Zebu is the Malagasy form of beef. It is a dark meat and very chewy, and was an interesting experience for all of us I think. Stay tuned for our next blog post about our travels through Mahajanga, which Ben Ireland (1st Strathroy, Tri-Shores Council) will be writing!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Madagascar 2012 Pre-Camp


Earlier this week, all the participants and advisors of Madagascar 2012 met at Tamaracouta Scout Reserve to learn more about each other, the cycle of poverty, and Ambato Boeni. If that wasn’t enough, we also completed training regarding first aid, construction, and international travel. It was a busy four days, but by dinner of our second day, I don’t think anyone would have believed that these incredible youth had just met 24 hours prior. Their dedication to this project and the people of Ambato Boeni may be what bonds them together, but it is their individual strengths, talents, and gifts that will make this team a success.

 The national importance of the team was also recognized as we received visits and words of wisdom from two incredible individuals. First, John Neysmith (current World Scout Committee member, and former International Commissioner for Scouts Canada among many other things) dropped by at lunch to meet the team, watch our progress, and even delivered words about the importance of international scouting and how, when you meet a scout, you are really meeting a new family member. Later in the camp, Council Commissioner for Quebec Council, Chris von Roretz stopped by to deliver words from himself, the council, and national leadership team; speaking on the dedication of the planning team, and the support we are receiving across the country (he was talking about you!), and he couldn’t have said it better.

Throughout this project we have received a lot of amazing support, without which this project would have been impossible. This pre-camp was no exception, as we ran across some of the best support we could imagine, so thank you to everyone who has helped get us to this point.

We look forward to updating you on our progress once we get to Madagascar, and telling you our stories when we come back to Canada.

Watch for updates coming soon!

Creighton Avery

Youth Contingent Leader, Madagascar 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Market Day!

While we're in Ambato Boeni, we will have the chance to experience everyday life in rural Madagascsar.  What's more, we'll have the opportunity to observe a major holiday in the year: Assumption Day on 15 August.  The church does play a major role not only in leading the faithful Catholics of Ambato Boeni, but also as a social organization.  For this reason, Sunday is one of the most important days of the week in Ambato Boeni, but it is overshadowed by one other day...Thursday!

What makes Thurdsay so important?  Thursday in Ambato Boeni is Market Day!  No one works on Market Day (well, except those people who work at the market of course).  Likewise, our own project will stop on Thursdays.  It's like they've taken what we know to be the weekend and split it up amonst the other days of the week.

On Market Day, we'll have the chance to wander through the stalls and vendors to see items from all around the island, and the world.  This is the biggest event of the weekly social calendar.  There are commercially manufactured goods like clothing and tools, but there are also handmade goods, food and drink.

What makes this market different from our shopping malls here in Canada is that, in Canada, the focus is entirely on trying to sell the consumer everything possible.  in Madagascar, it's all about the interaction.  It's a different environment from what we've come to expect at big box stores, where it's all about maxmizing profit.  In Ambato Boeni, shopping is a social event.  It's all about the banter of trying to get a good price.  It's about buying goods to support your own family, and selling goods for the same reason.  While this will be a great chance to explore and learn, one thing is for certain: when we walk away from Market Day, the malls in Canada will never look the same.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Ankarafantsika

Going to Madagascar and not seeing some of the wildlife would be like going to Egypt and forgetting about the pyramids.  It's just not something you would want to tell people when you return to Canada.

For one of the weekends while we're in Ambato Boeni, we'll load up the bus and head to an overnight camp at Ankarafantsika National Park.  This park is one of the last remaining sections of dry deciduous forest in Madagascar.  This means that, although the flora and fauna of Madagascar is already unique in the world, this national park is home to some of the more unique wildlife in Madagascar, many species here are critically endangered!

Ankarafantsika is home to a wide variety of life.  Lemurs, like the western wolly lemur, the grey mouse lemur, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur and many more live within the park.  While many lemurs are notcurnal, the coquerel sifaka is in fact the only entirely diurnal lemur and it is all over the place here!

Not only are there lemurs, but there are 75 endemic species of birds, 10 types of frog, 45 different reptiles and even crocodiles around the lake!  The national park is also a great place to see baobab trees and wild vanilla.

We'll have the opportunity to go on a couple of different tours of the park so we don't have to worry that we might miss something.  There are daytime tours and night time tours as well, so we'll be sure to bring our flashlights.  Night time in the park will be filled with the calls and cries of some of the rarest animals on earth!

By the time we leave Ankarafantsika, not only will we be able to say the name of the park properly, but we'll be much more knowledgeable about the natural wonder of the world that is the flora and fauna of Madagascar.

Want to know more about the park?  Visit http://www.parcs-madagascar.com/fiche-aire-protegee_en.php?Ap=15

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Past Projects: ScoutsAbroad

Defending Mafikeng: Scouts Canada 2010
UN-MDG1: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger
UN-MDG7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
In August 2010, Scouts Canada created its first national team to complete an international development project.  Travelling to the birthplace of Scouting, South Africa, members from across Canada worked with local Scouting groups to help them help others.  By installing water reservoirs at eight different schools in Welkom, South Africa, Scouts from Welkom will be able to use them during the dry season (six months of no rain!) to water their community food gardens.  In the past, they have been forced to shut down their gardens in the dry season because municipal water costs too much.  The food from their gardens then goes to helping feed the school, as well as orphanages, and half-way houses in the area.

Project Paraguay: Tri-Shores Council 2009
UN-MDG2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
In August 2009, members from Tri-Shores Council travelled to Nemby, Paraguay to rebuild a small school.  Bordering two different districts, both communities basically forgot about the school and blamed the other for its decline.  Members of Tri-Shores Council worked with students from the school and local Scouts from Asuncion and Luque to rebuild the fence, replace broken windows, build another classroom and install working bathrooms.  They even took the teachers shopping for new school supplies and resources.  This meant that the school was not only safer, but that more children could attend on a daily basis.  once the politicians heard about the work of this project, they stepped up and promised to make sure this change continues to other schools across the country!

Belize Project 2006
UN-MDG8: Build a Global Partnership
In August, 2006, a Contingent of Venturer Scouts, Rover Scouts and Advisors from Tri-Shores Council travelled down to the Valley of Peace, Belize, to build a hurricane shelter/community centre with the community. For three weeks, the group worked, played and learned alongside Scouts from across Belize and the people who lived in the Valley of Peace. After completion of the project, the village council commented that it was the first time the community had come together as one to do anything, especially anything of this magnitude. The community centre remains a central fixture of the community life in the Valley of Peace.

Want more information on other past projects?  Check them all out here

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Mahajanga

One of the largest cities that we will be close to during our project is Mahajanga.  It is the capital of the Boeny region and has a population of 250 000 people.

Mahajanga is located on a very important seaport between the Betsiboka River and Bombetoka Bay.  This location helps establish Mahajanga as a big trading city - particularly for frozen shrimp!  The city is also known for processing agricultural products, canning meat and manufacturing soap, sugar and cement.

Tourists come here often because it has beautiful beaches, coconut-linked boardwalks and eight months of virtually rain-free weather!  Around Mahajanga is just as beautiful as the city itself: islands, forest reserves, lakes and caves are popular for tourists and locals alike.

The city has had many different influences over the year.  It was formed in the 1780s when a group of Indian traders formed the city at the mouth of the Betsiboka River.  They used the area to trade weapons, gems, spices and fabrics.  In the old city, you can still see evidence of this, from trading posts to sculpted wooden doors.  In 1895, the French realized the strategic location of this city and occupied Mahajanga to begin their conquest of Madagascar.  You can still see the old colonial houses which were built during this time, too!

Another important piece of Mahajanga's history is the royal relics of Tsaramandroso.  This royal shrine holds some relics (teeth, nails, clothing) belonging to the Sakalaya Kings Adriamandrosoarivo, Andrimisara, Andrinamisara, Andrianamboniarivo and Andrimihanina.  Once a year at the shrine, there is a procession in which the relics of the four male ancestors are paraded around the shrine and soaked in water in a ritual called Fanompoa Be, or Great Service.  Foreigners are invited to visit the shrine but have to be careful to follow all the rules, so they don't insult the ancestors.  This includes not wearing glasses, wearing traditional Lamba dress, and bringing a donation of money, rum or candles.

One of the most popular things to see in Mahajanga is the Centenary Baobab. Located at the end of the Avenue de France, just as it meets the sea promenade, this tree is 15m tall and is said to be 1,000 years old! When you visit the tree, you are supposed to go around it seven times to worship the ancestors and obtain their blessing.  Maybe this should be one of our first stops!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

It takes a lot of work...

Hello everyone!  My name is Nicolas Forget.  I am going to Madagascar this summer because I want to help make a difference in the world, experience new cultures and I think it will be a great life learning opportunity.

It takes a lot of work to get to Madagascar though.  Some of the fundraising that I have done includes starting a Buy-A-Brick campaign.  I also worked with two others from Kawartha Waterways Area who are going as well and we did a couple of barbecuees and a garage sale.  We ordered plastic bracelets, like the Livestrong bracelets, but these ones were green and on them it says "Life.  Learning.  Light.  MADAGASCAR 2012".  We sold them for $2 each and it worked really well to help us get to Madagascar.

The support from our community has been great, especially with our two barbecues and the garage sale.  Without the community support, I don't think I would be able to go to Madagascar this summer.  Also, from the Scouting community, I have been able to go to a couple of Rover Scout moots with my bracelets and talked to a lot of people about the project.  So many of them were interested in this part of Scouting (and many bought bracelets, too!)  I am personally very excited for all the new people I am going to meet and the friends I am going to make!

Yours in Scouting

Nicolas Forget

Friday, 13 July 2012

A Malagasy Ghost Story

With it being Friday the 13th, we thought it would be a good time to share a Malagasy ghost story with you.  Gather around the campfire and enjoy...

In a recent project planning meeting, one member of the leadership team mentioned that they were afraid of both flying and sharks.  Flying was an inventiable part of getting to Madagascar, and sharks are quite common around the Mozambique Channel (in fact, there are parts you are not allowed to swim in because of sharks coming up from South Africa).  Their other fear is ghosts, but they said as long as there were no ghosts, they would be alright.  Then, Father Alfredo, who is from Madagascar and is helping to organize the logistics of the project, smiled and laughed a very mischievous laugh.  He told the following story...

During the time of French colonization, the French governor and his family lived in a mansion in Antananarivo.  When the Malagasy started to revolt in order to reclaim their country, the story goes that a large group of people stormed the house and killed the governor and his entire family.  Wife, children and all.

They say that there is a particular mirror in the mansion that, if you look into it, you can see the face of one of the family members peering into the mirror over your shoulder.  however, when you whip your head aroud to see them, they would be gone.  They were only ever visible when you were looking into this mirror.

Years went by where visitors, tourists and adventure seekers would test this: looking into the mirror, seeing someone peering over their shoulder and whipping around as quickly as they could to try and see this person before they vanished.  Until one day when a group of researchers - ghost hunters really - decided that they would document this.  Everyone they spoke to in Madagascar warned them not to film anything, especially not the mirror.  But, in they went, ready to spend the night searching for evidence of paranormal activity.

The next morning, they did not emerge from the mansion.  People went in to check the building, assuming the researchers had left in the middle of the night, too afraid to continue the search.  Instead, what they found, they could not have imagined.  The researchers were all still there, but they were all dead.  They had had their heads turned so violently around that they were facing the opposite direction, all of their necks were broken.  They were found with all of their video equipment...right in front of the mirror.

When word of what happened got out, the government immediately boarded up the haunted house and no one has ever been allowed in since.  Whether you believe this or not, flying to Madagascar sure seems a lot less frightening now.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Being Prepared

One of the fastest ways to learn the importance of being prepared is by going to camp.  Suddenly you find that you can't just go to the cupboard, or the closet, or even the store to get the thing you need.  You need to plan ahead and pack what's necessary, but you also have to remember that what you bring, you'll need to carry.  It's a difficult balancing act, and one that the participants of Madagascar 2012 have become very familiar with, but travelling to Madagascar requires a few things not normally found on a camping kit list.  Here are some of the things it takes to get there and back again safe and sound:

Mosquito Net
Malaria is a common threat in Madagascar.  This disease comes from mosquitoes and is just a whole lot of not-much-fun.  There are three ways participants will avoid it: bug spray, anti-malaria medication and mosquito nets.  These nets are essentially a big mesh bag that you suspend above where you'll be sleeping, then you set up your sleeping bag and matress inside the net.  They keep the mosquitoes away all night long.

Safety Glasses
There will be a lot of jobs on the work site and it's important to make sure everyone stays safe.  In addition to safety glasses, we'll also have steel-toed boots, work gloves, dust masks and a collection of hard hats that will be used when work is being done overhead.

Solar Panel
Actually, two solar panels.  The Contingent will bring two solar panels to Ambato Boeni this summer as a way to power the tools and lights necessary to complete the construction of the dormitories and campus walls.  After the project is finished, these solar panels will remain on the campus as a way of providing a green alternative source of energey for the much-needed light, the third priority identified by Ambato Boeni in 2008.

Gifts
Ambato Boeni is opening its doors for us.  We are incredibly grateful for that.  We will work together with the community for quite some time this summer, and we want to be able to show our appreciation for our hosts by bringing thank you gifts.  It's no small task to accommodate so many Canadians at the same time, but the generosity of their time and space is what helps to make a project like this possible.  In past projects, we've had framed pictures, books, stuffed animals for children, soccer balls, and all sorts of other things.

So, the next time you complain about having to pack extra socks, or a toque for a spring camp, just remember, at least you don't have to carry around a solar panel (or two)!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sharing Stories

While the idea of an international development project may seem inspiring, inspiring also is the work of the 40th St. Catharines Sea Scouts.  Take a look at a recent email that was sent to the project from their Leader, Scouter Crispin Shaftoe...

"I wanted to let you know that the 40th St. Catharines Sea Scouts connected with Sarah Shaw [who will travel to Madagascar this summer] and she came out last month to tell the boys about the project.  Over the winter, the Scouts researched and did presentations at our meetings on the situation in rural communities in Madagascar, as well as the Scout involvement there in teaching people about safe water practices.

We learned about a simple hand-washing technique that the Madagascar Scouts are using.  We practiced lashing one evening by making "tippy taps" - 2L pop bottles on A frames with a small hole at the bottom which releases clean water when the cap is loosened to clean hands after using the toilet.  I am enclosing the group crest we had made for this summer's Great Lakes Jamboree at Camp Bel. 

Thanks for your efforts.  Our youth have really learned a lot about people in a muich less fortunate part of the world.  The boys will be making "tippy taps" at all of our future backwood camps".

It goes to show the importance of sharing cultures and sharing understanding.  We all have so much that we can learn from one another, which is a large part of this project.  It's so exiting to see this taking place across Canada.  Congratulations to the 40th St. Catharines Sea Scouts and their work to understand another culture, learn more about social issues and develop new skills for camping.  This truly is Scouting in action!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Holidays in Madagascar

Memorial for the Revolution of 1947 in Antananarivo
As we celebrate Canada Day today, we thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about holidays in Madagascar!  While both Canada and Madagascar have some of the same holidays (such as New Years, Easter and Labour Day), there are also a lot that are different.

As we celebrate Canada Day - the day Canada became its own country, in Madagascar, they have Independence Day on 26 June, which is the most important of all public holidays in Madagascar.  It was on this day in 1960 that France finally gave over the power of the country to the people of Madagascar.  People celebrate this day with good food, good friends and lots of dancing.  One of the spectacles of the day is a presentation of "Hira Gasy" which is a musical presentation of Malagasy folklore.  In Hira Gasy, singers combine song, dance and traditional folk tales from Madagascar.

Another important holiday for people in Madagascar is the commemoration of the 1947 rebellions, which is held on 29 March.  This day marks and remembers all those who lost their lives (about 11,000 people) in the fight against French domination.  The rebellion against the French actually began in the 1800s, when Queen Renavalona III resisted French foreign rule, but she and the prime minister were exiled from Madagascar.  Even still, the people continued to fight for the right to rule their own country.  Today, this day is treated much like our Remembrance Day on 11 November: local officials deliver speeches to remember those who perished in the violent revolution of 1947, and people lay wreaths on memorials (like the national memorial in Antananarivo) dedicated to those who died.  People also take advantage of the day off and treat it as a family day, getting together with loved ones, going to movies or relaxing in parks.

A number of other holidays are related to the church, including Ascension Day (2 June) which celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven, and the Assumption (15 August) which celebrates the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary at the end of her life.  We'll have the opportunity to celebrate the Assumption while we're in Madagascar!

But public holidays aren't the only events and celebrations in Madagascar, especially in rural areas.  Mphira Gasy (Malagasy singers) sing and dance in groups, recounting stories and tales for special events, including the rice harvest, purification ceremonies, Famadihana and more (don't remember what Famadihana is?  Check back on our previous blog post about it).

So, as we celebrate Canada Day, remember the holidays in Madagascar and maybe you can start celebrating them too!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Scouts of the World Award

Our world is facing many challenges these days.  The statistics are often overwhelming and can leave us wondering, "well, what can I do?"

The Scouts of the World Award (SOTW) shows us that, while no single project can address all of the challenges our world faces, combined, our work can contribute to real global change.  It is also about developing both the confidence and understanding in Canadian youth to become active agents of improving the lives of others, through a program based on hands-on education and experience.

You may not be able to solve all the problems in the world, but even by reaching out to one community, you can make a dramatic change.  This is where you come in!

The Scouts of the World Award program is geared towards youth aged 14-26 and set up in three phases: Discovery, Voluntary Service, and Reporting and Recognition.  In the Discovery Phase, where you will learn more about the issue you want to address, respond to its impact, and develop an action plan to make a difference.  You'll become an expert in the topic of your interest, centred on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN-MDG), after learning from people who are already experts in the field.  For Madagascar, we'll be focusing on UN-MDG #2 and #3 (check out our past blog on how we're working towards those!)

Once you complete your Discovery, you will have a chance to put together an Action Plan, which outlines exactly what you intend to do to reach your goal.  After that is the Voluntary Service Phase.  This is when you can take all that you know and have learned and put it into action.  You can do your volunteary service in a group or on your own.  The main thing is that you're doing something.  You're taking action to make a difference!

The Voluntary Service projects can happen just about anywhere.  You could build water reservoirs in South Africa, teach about recycling in Paraguay, or anything you want.  For those travelling to Madagascar this summer, the Voluntary Service project will take place in Ambato Boeni as we build the school campus and forge relationships with the community.  You don't need to travel to some far off place to complete your service project, though.  Even though we may not notice it all the time, there's certainly need for development even in our own backyards.  We're all about opening the world to you, and opening you up to the world.

There is no time limit for the Voluntary Service project.  Whether you dedicate two weeks in a row or volunteer three hours a week, all work is valuable work.  To complete this part of the award program, you just have to be sure that each person in the project completes at least 80 hours of their own work.

Once you've completd the Voluntary Service portion of the award program it's essential that you sit down and take some time to put together a final report.  This phase is the Reporting and Recognition Phase.  Talk to you Advisor or a SOTW Ambassador for tips on how to write a successful award application.  We love to hear stories and absolutely want to hear yours.

Once it's all done, send it in, along with your completed Discovery Workbook to Scouts Canada National Headquarters in Ottawa and we'll take it from there.  Once approved by the Scouts of the World Award Committee, you'll receive your badge and a certificate from the World Organization of the Scout Movement recognizing your contribution to social and environmental justice.

For more information, check out http://www.scouts.ca/ca/scouts-world

Creighton Avery
Youth Contingent Leader, Madagascar 2012
National Coordinator, Scouts of the World Award

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Scouter's Observations

Blog post written by Scouter Bernie Avery

Four years ago, three members of our team: Iain Tait, Rob Tuer and myself, visited Ambato Boeni, Madagascar to get an understanding of the environment to which we were committing to take a team of youth for an international development project.  We wanted to ensure that we would be comfortable taking responsibility for someone else's children in this remote location.  I must say that we were impressed, amazed and shocked all at the same time.

Shocked at the conditions in which some of the locals live.  There truly are grass huts on the flood plain of the Betsiboka River that are obviously swept away each year to be rebuilt after the rainy season subsides.  Shocked at the disparity between conditions of the homes.  Some youth are walking around with cell phones while others don't even have electricity for light at night.  Shocked that the community, like too many in this world, is forgotten by all except those who call it home.

On the other hand, we were amazed at the effort the priest at the local Catholic church was putting forth to build a school, library and a computer lab for the youth in his parish.  The gentleman obviously had a vision that would help provide opportunities for a better life.  We were amazed that bottled water was readily available for our use.  Amazed at the reception that we received by all we met.

When we arrived, we found a community that had until that time been forgotten by the rest of the world.  Now, Madagascar 2012 is working to make sure that this never happens again.  From what I have seen in the Contingent going to Madagascar, I know that this project will be a success.  What I know from the trip to Ambato Boeni in 2008 is that we could not ask for a stronger partnership.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Contributing to the Millennium Development Goals

We've mentioned previously that this project is addressing two different Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations.  Here's a bit more about what we're doing and how it's contributing to realizing these goals.

Millennium Developmeng Goal # 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
It's easy to imagine the difference universal education could make in the world.  Making education accessible to all youth is a huge way to break the cycle of poverty.  With education comes employment.  With employment come opportunities - not just for yourself, by for future generations.  This might be the best way to reverse the downward spiral to absolute poverty.

Madagascar 2012 is contributing to this by making education more accessible in rural areas, which are normally quite difficult environments to promote education in.  Youth are normally needed for farming and other work.  Transportation to school is also quite difficult in rural areas.  By building dormitories, youth, in particular girls, will be able to board right at the school.

It's not just about primary education though.  By contributing to the accessibility of secondary education, which Madagascar 2012 is doing, the literacy and numeracy gained in primary school go further than simply developing youth.  It literally contributes to developing a nation.

Millennium Development Goal # 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
This one might seem a little unclear.  How do we promote gender equality and empower women?  There are a lot of great ways to do this, and in fact, this project will deal with this goal in three different ways!  Gender inequality can be found around the world in many different ways.  One way is through access to education.  This is a big one.  If girls cannot go to school, they are bound to work in what is considered a very vulnerable sector: being self-employed, or working unpaid within the home.  When girls are able to attend school, they can contribute to so many different parts of society.  They are able to secure gainful employment and serve as role models to other girls.  This is where the dormitories come in.  Barriers to education for girls include simply not being able to get there.  By building a campus and dormitories for girls, they will be able to board right at the school, eliminating the need for daily transportation to school.

Another barrier to gender equality is the presence of designated sanitary facilities for girls and boys at school  This goes a long way to promote gender sensitivity and awareness by showing that men and women are different, but equal.  It also contributes to a safer school environment for girls.  This aspect of gender equality is being addressed by building a washroom facility on the secure campus for the girls who are staying at the dorms (and other girls who are attending the school).

More than anything though, by making it possible for girls to go to school, it reduces their domestic responsibilities, which have traditionally included tasks like fetching water (also addressed by this project by digging wells right in the community).  When older girls are literate, employed and educated, they serve as role models for younger girls.  It makes it possible to imagine something much bigger than might have otherwise been possible.

Want to learn more about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals?  Visit http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Madagascar 2012: By the Numbers

22: Final number of Scouts Canada members travelling to Ambato Boeni this summer

24 500: Population of Ambato Boeni, although only around 5000 live in the third quarter

2 022: Number of Malagasy Ariary to the Canadian Dollar

40: Number of students that the new dormitories we're building will be able to accommodate

1 600: Area in square metres of the new campus

625: Number of project crests ordered

101: Number of different types of lemur found in Madagascar

14 555: Number of kilometres the Contingent will travel to get to Ambato Boeni

16: Official number of federal political parties in Madagascar

447: Average annual income of a person living in Madagascar (in Canadian Dollars)

40: Currently the percentage of Malagasy youth who will never go to school

0: Number of children who have died since two fresh water wells were dug in Ambato Boeni in 2009 (thanks to youth, volunteers, friends and family in Tri-Shores Council)

1 and counting: Number of United Nations Millennium Development Goals that Scouts Canada has helped to achieve

431: Number of times the project video, "On our honour, we promised" has been viewed  on both youtube channels (so far...)

70: Number of months since the first planning meeting for the Madagascar Project took place in the little town of Ilderton, Ontario

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Taking up the Challenge

Over the last few months, we've put out a few challenges across the country.  The Buy-A-Brick Campaign, running a program jumpstart, spreading the word about Madagascar 2012, and more.  Here's the story of how one group in Ottawa, Ontario got involved in the project.

The 123rd Nepean Scouts had been hearing about Madagascar 2012 on and off from their Scouters, and were intrigued by the idea of Madagascar.  They were initially surprised when they learned that lemurs actually existed and weren't just created for the animated movies.  When Scoutrees came along this year, they were issued a challenge by one of the participants in Madagascar 2012.  Because some of the money from Scoutrees goes to the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund, and it is this fund that pays for the materials for the project, they were told that if any of them collected $100, the participant would send them a postcard from Madagascar as a thank you.

It doesn't sound like much, does it?  One hundred dollars flows pretty quickly through our fingers these days, and a postcard hardly seems like a reason to put out any extra effort, but that wasn't the point.  What we saw was a group of Scouts who were suddenly determined to raise money for a construction project they might never see.  The dormitories and the campus in Ambato Boeni are thousands of kilometres from St Stephen's Anglican Church in Ottawa, where the Scouts meet, but they saw a purpose in raising this money that was greater than themselves.

They learned more about Madagascar 2012 and about the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund.  They talked to St. Stephen's Church, and coordinated a fundraiser where they would set up information tables after church services in order to receive pledges for Scoutrees and tell people what the money was going to do.  They took action to make a difference because, suddenly, the matter was personal.  They had  a connection to the project and they saw that they could directly impact people's lives in Madagascar.  What we saw though, was a group of Scouts who have learned that they don't have to be adults in order to make a difference.  The 123rd Nepean Scouts have already changed the world for good.

Do you have a good story about how your group has become part of Madagascar 2012?  We want to hear all about it!  Contact us and tell us your story!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Working for Tomorrow

Posted by Iain Tait, Project Advisor, Madagascar 2012

People have often asked why it is I'm part of this project.  Everyone has their own reason.  This is mine:

In 2008, I was one of three volunteers who travelled to Ambato Boeni.  We sat down with the village council in the Troisieme Quartier to learn more about their goals as a community.  This was when we first learned of the community's development priorities for fresh water, education and a source of electricity...Life.  Learning.  Light.

Following several presentations of information, some discussion (and quite a lot of translating), we shared a meal, we danced and we laughed (mainly at my dancing).  At the end of the day, while we three Canadians were preparing to head up to the Scout campfire, we started saying our goodbyes.  Just before we left, an elderly woman came to me.  She took my hands in hers and looked right into my eyes.

When she looked at me, I could see that she had not had an easy life.  She was weathered and almost entirely blind, yet somehow she found my gaze and started telling me something in Malagasy.  I did not know what she was saying, but I could tell that it was incredibly important.  I turned to our good friend, Father Alfredo, and asked what it was she was saying.  He translated for me, "she's asking for some money to buy rice so her grandchildren can eat tomorrow".

My first though, selfishly, was "how could she put me in that position?  How unfair is that?"  But I soon realized that I was looking at this entirely from the wrong perspective.  How unfair was it that she was put in that position, to have to plead with a stranger in order to ensure her grandchildren were able to eat?  When you have limited resources, it's impossible to think so far ahead as to plan for next year, or even next week.  The most pressing need is tomorrow.

In 2009, when the project was postoned, I told myself that I would continue working on this project to ensure that, one day, it would finally be finished.  This would be my way of helping that woman look further into the future than simply tomorrow.  However, at the last project planning meeting, I learned from Father Alfredo that this woman had recently died.  When I heard of her passing, I realized it was time that I also look further to the future.  Now, I work for her grandchildren.

Friday, 25 May 2012

On Service and Experience

Blog post by John May, Secretary General of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award International Association and Deputy Chairperson of the World Scout Committee.

Amongst many things that the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and Scouting share is a commitment to the values of service and volunteering. Even the youngest Beaver knows the importance of the "good turn", but Madagascar 2012 will transform the concept of the 'good turn' into genuinely life changing actions - for everyone involved.

For the young people who will be travelling from Canada, this will be the experience of a lifetime - an opportunity to immerse themselves in a very different culture and to make friends with people they would never normally have the opportunity to meet. On the hosts' part, they will learn a great deal about what it's like to be a young person growing up in Canada. In a world that is growing ever more connected, they will discover as much about the similarities they share with each other as the very obvious differences. Of course, there will also be the legacy of a school facility, but, if my experience of international service projects is anything to go by, it will be the relationships that are built that will truly last.

Learning that service is not just about giving but also benefiting is an important lesson. Too often we imagine that service must be selfless, that it has to be a bit uncomfortable to be of any worth and that it shouldn't be seen as enjoyable. I would suggest that the opposite is true. Service is only really effective when everyone involved feels they're getting something out of the experience; when there is uncontrollable joy and laughter rather than wandering around wearing a hair shirt; when good is done with people rather than to them.

I am sure that this will be the case with Madagascar 2012. I look forward to hearing some wonderful stories after the expedition has been completed.

As ever,

John May

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Bucket List

Post written by Kimberley Fortin
Climb a mountain, ride an elephant, win a photo contest, try exotic foods, bungee jump, learn a foreign language, travel and volunteer in every continent, learn to cook, receive full scuba diving certification, learn to play the ukulelle, help others every day... these are just a few of the items on my bucket list.  Have you ever heard about something and immediately known you wanted to do it?  This is how I felt when I learned of the Scouts Canada trip to Madagascar.

I am currently studying International Development and African Studies at McGill University in Montreal (which is also my hometown).  While this adventure fits in perfectly with my schooling, it will mark my fourth humanitarian trip abroad and I couldn't be more excited!  Madagascar is a country that you rarely hear about, unless it's about the well-known Madagascar movies or a major cyclone has just recently hit.  As I have started preparing for this journey, I have learned that there is much more to learn about Madagascar and its people.  They are not only living in one of the most diverse animal environments, but they are living a completely different lifestyle than what we are used to here in Canada.  From collecting water from wells or rivers, waiting for mangos to drop from nearby trees, to playing soccer with some friends using makeshift items to mark the nets, there is much to learn

For me this trip is not just something else to check off on my bucket list, but an opportunity to experience something new and meaningful by helping make sustainabe change in the Ambato Boeni community in Madagascar.  By working with Scouts Canada, I am bringing my commitment to Scouting and my passion for making a difference in the world, together to act.  Many people in this world have passions; it could be painting, sports, music, business or even travel.  Following your passion and doing something positive with it is something I truly value.  While everything we do cannot always change the world, small actions are what make a big difference in our world.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

It Starts with Scouts!


There's a lot to be proud of, being a member of Scouts Canada, not the least of which is what we contribute around the world.  Recently in the Madagascar 2012 Blog, we talked about the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations.  Did you know that Scouts Canada has helped to achieve one of these goals?  It's true!  And we all had a hand in making is possible, from the brown-tailed Beaver Scout to the dedicated Gilwellians, and everyone who generously supports the project.

In 2009, when the Madagascar project had to be postponed, funds raised for the project were forwarded to the village of Ambato Boeni by the projetc youth to pay for diggin and constructing fresh water wells.  This was one of the priorities of the community, and was deemed to be the most pressing when the project was postponed.  Around 3000 children around the world die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by drinking contaminated water.  This was one of the major causes of death among youth in Ambato Boeni.  However, since 2009, not a single child has died because of contaminated water and we have all helped to achieve this.

But it gets better (you may ask how it could possibly get better than that, but it does!)  Lack of fresh water is a leading cause of absolute poverty in the developing world.  Without clean water, people become sick and are unable to work, and must use their limited resources on health care and medicine, but, through the contributions of the Madagascar project and many of the past community development projects Scouts Canada has conducted through the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund, the United Nations recently declared that the world has achieved Millennium Development Goal #1: to cut in half the proportion of people around the world who live in absolute poverty.

What could we possibly do to top that achievement?  How about achieving Millennium Development Goals #2 and #3, making primary education available to all and improving gender equality?  We know we can do it, but only when we all work together.  Keep your eye on our blog for more information about how we plan to target not one goal, but two!

Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations said it best, "The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the Millennium Development Goals not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions."

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Following the Principles of Scouting

Blog post written by Carey "Romeo" Benson

In this life we are only given one gift... our names!  Make the most out of it!

I am so grateful for being a citizen of Canada and even have more pride that I'm a member of Scouts Canada.  Throughout my time in the program, I've learned that no matter what obstacles fall in your way, there will always be friends right beside you to pick you up and show support every step of the way.  Now it's my turn to help Scouts Canada after they have done so much for me.  This August, I will be travelling to Madagascar to share a life changing experience with youth from all across Canada.  We will be sharing laughter, meals and smiles.  I really hope to see this team complete the construction of the school facility we're building.  Every youth should have the right to education, regardless of wealth or nationality.  Through this adventure, I hope to achieve a greater sense of where I stand as a Scout, to be able to share my experience with the youth of Canada, and to show that nothing is out of reach when you're willing to work with others for it.  Scouts have such great morals for youth and adult members, through this movement, we never stop helping each other to grow and learn from one another.

This project represents great things for Scouting.  With nothing but hard work and determination, we can change the world.  Whether it is going and cleaning your local park, or even travelling to the other side of the world and building a school facility, every little bit helps in the development of global unity.  This summer I hope to bring the world one step closer to unity.  Under the world Scout flag created by our founder, anything is possible when you follow the principles of Scouting.  If you have the will, you can achieve anything.  So Scouts Canada, if you believe in this dream too, I ask you to raise your flag and stand tall, because we are all playing a part in making this a great world to live in.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Value of a Cup of Coffee

Posted by Iain Tait, Project Advisor, Madagascar 2012

We often find ourselves saying things like "we should go for coffee sometime", but almost as often, these words are said without much thought, or intention.  Coffee is a normal, everyday event.  It's how many of us start our day each morning.  In Madagascar however, it's a very different story.

Coffee is a good way to determine the cost of living in another country.  While we may be fine paying $2.00 or more for a cup on our way to work, a cup of coffee in Madagascar costs only around $0.25.  That may seem surprisingly inexpensive, but be sure to put this into perspective.  The average Malagasy only earns $1.00 each day.  Could you imagine taking a quarter of what you earn and spending it on coffee?

In Madagascar, when you're invited back for coffee, or offered a cup of coffee, it's an important and special occasion.  Only when you welcome guests into your home, or when you celebrate life, or mourn death, will there be coffee.  Rather than using that cup of coffee to help wake up in the morning, in Madagascar, you share a cup of coffee and make a friend, or celebrate an important event.  In fact, coffee is so rare in Ambato Boeni, it's not unusual to use coffee grounds more than once.

Throughout this blog, we've spoken at length about following through on our promise, but this extends much further than working with Ambato Boeni.  It extends into our everyday interactions here in Canada also.  So, the next time you find yourself saying "we should go for coffee sometime", it's okay to think about the cost, or the amount of time it takes, but be sure to follow through.  You should never underestimate the value of a cup of coffee.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Message from Coast to Coast

Recently, nine members of Madagscar 2012 put together a video to tell everyone what this project is all about.  The message comes from across the country, from coast to coast.  Thanks to everyone who helped with the production of the video!


A huge part of the project is all about awareness and education.  We're spreading the message of change and action, and now you can too!  Starting today, you can order Madagascar 2012 t-shirts and crests at your local Scout Shop, or even online!  Click here to visit the Scout Shop site.  This is a great way to show everyone that you're changing the world in 2012.  All proceeds go direcctly to the project, which means that as you raise awareness, you're also helping to raise a roof in Ambato Boeni to help educate youth from around northwest Madagascar.

Back of t-shirt
How else can you get involved?  Why not start by sharing the video, or delivering one of our program jumpstarts?  The jumpstarts are four weeks of prepared program for Beaver Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Scouts and it's all about learning in a dynamic and fun way (the Scouting way!)  Visit www.scouts.ca/madagascar to learn more.

On our honour, we promised that we would do our best... now let's show the world that we're keeping our word!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Variety of Life

Cut off from mainland Africa for millions of years, Madagascar's flora and fauna have evolved into unique species including 10 000 endemic plants, 316 reptiles, 109 birds and 101 species and subspecies of lemurs!  As well as the variety of life, there is also a lot of variety in Madagascar's geography, from mountain runs to coastal plains, and dense rainforest to savannah.

Called an "evolutionary playground", Madagascar's estensive biodiversity hinges on two important factors: it is near to the equator and it contains an astonishing array of habitats.  The tropical climate has allowed more things to survive (much more than a cold environment would) and the variety has allowed for even more variation in the plants and in animals as well.  Perhaps the most interesting plant and animal from Madagascar are the baobab tree and the lemur.

The baobab tree is one of the main attractions in Madagascar because of its extraordinary size and beauty.  It is considered the "mother of the forest".  Members of Scouts Canada who visited Madagascar in 2008 commented that they look like they were planted upside down, with their roots at the top, as their branches don't normally reach upwards, but outwards.  Even so, they are well respected in Madagascar because they provide food and support and are home to various animals from ants and moths to lemurs and eagles.

Popularized in the movie: Madagscar, lemurs are related to monkeys, but split from the evolutionary tree about 40-50 million years ago.  Now, Madagascar is home to all 101 varieties, which live no where else in the world.  The 101 sub-species range from the ring-tailed lemur to the Aye-Aye.  The ring-tailed lemur is certainly the livliest of the lemurs.  The aye-aye however is the strangest, and it actually took scientists years to decide that it was actually a lemur at all!

It is said that they aye-aye has all the "leftovers" from other animals: the teeth of a rodent, the ears of a bat, tail of a fox, but the hands of no living creature, since the middle finger is like that of a skeleton, which it uses to tap on hollow trees and fish out grubs from under the bark.  To learn more about this animal, why not take part in our Cub Jumpstart, where you can learn about a bunch of different lemurs in the "Endangered Animals" activity!

Unfortunately, there aren't any penguins in Madagascar, even though they seem to keep escaping from zoos in New York City.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Support from all over!

The reach of this project is truly inspiring.

Recently, support for Madagascar 2012 came from a very unexpected place: the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World!  Not exactly from the theme park itself, but actually from a number of its employees.

When the Madagascar Project first started up in 2006, Andrew, from Windsor, ON, joined the team.  He was an incredibly dedicated Rover.  When the project was postponed, Andrew continued working in international development within Scouting, completing a project in Paraguay in 2009 and helping lead a project in South Africa in 2010.  Following the project in Welkom, South Africa, Andrew took a position working at Walt Disney World in Florida.

When he learned that the Madagascar Project was about to get started again, he got to work, raising money by running his own Buy-A-Brick Campaign (which he was part of many years ago).  He was able to collect $250 to help support the project that he started working on over five years ago.  Being involved in international development and the fight against poverty is something that doesn't leave you.  The more you do, the more you want to do.  Andrew showed just what kind of an impact this can leave, even years and hundreds of kilometres afterwards.

There's a sort of alumni among the youth and adult volunteers who have worked on this project over the years.  Many have sent messages in saying how proud they are to have been part of the project, and how exciting it is to finally see the project happening.  Now, everyone in Scouts Canada can be part of this.  Years from now, how will you remember 2012?  For many of us across Canada (and even in Walt Disney World!), we will remember the way we changed the world for good, one brick at a time.

Learn more about the Buy-A-Brick Campaign at the project website: www.scouts.ca/Madagascsar

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Kings, Pirates and Politicians. Oh my!

Madagascar's history begins some 2000 years ago, when people sailed to the island from Indonesia and surrounding areas.  Since then, there have been kings, European colonizers, pirates and politicians ruling the country!

In 1000 CE, Arab merchants began using Madagascar as a trading post, but it wasn't until the 1500s that the first Europeans landed in Madagascar.  Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English explorers all tried to set up trading posts, but none were very successful, as the local Malagasy kings and queens wouldn't let them rule the area.  Then, in the eighteenth century, pirates ruled the eastern coast of the island!  After this, there was a series of wars, rebellions and invasions, which created Madagascar as a colony of France, and finally an independent country on June 26, 1960.

This complicated history has left Madagascar with a culture almost as unique as its wildlife.  Drawing influences from southeast Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East it is definitely not like anything else in the world.  It has created over 20 different ethnic groups with their own ritual beliefs, taboos, and celebrations.  Due to colonization, a number of people are Christian, but mix this with their traditional beliefs.

One tradition is called famadihana, which is practiced by both the Merina and Betsileo tribes of Madagascar.  Famadihana or "turning of the bones", is a joyful celebration that happens four to seven years after the death of a loved one.  In this celebration, the bones of the deceased are brought out of the crypt and passed around the family during a feast with dancing and singing.  The deceased are told about all the big events that have happened in the family since they passed away, and are introduced to newborns of their family.

At the end of the celebration, they are rewrapped in a new burial shroud and placed back in their tomb.  Instead of being a morbid practice, it is actually one that celebrates life, and shows how strong family connections can be.  In fact, for many groups, family is the most important part of someone's life, and they will do anything to help another family member.

With this project, we are making the people of Ambato Boeni our family, and showing that we will do anything we can to help them have a better chance at life.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Contributing to the United Nations

In 2000, the United Nations identified eight Millennium Development Goals, with the ultimate objective of cutting in half the amount of poverty in the world by 2015.  This is a monumental task, but did you know that Scouts Canada has been working on helping to achieve these goals through the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund, and projects like Madagascar 2012?

The MDGs are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, work towards gender equality, improvie maternal health, decrease infant mortality, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and stop malaria, pursue environmental sustainability, and build a global partnership for development. 

Madagascar 2012 is addressing not just one of these goals, but is actually touching on SIX of them!  The focus of course is on universal primary education, but breaking the cycle of poverty is impossible without working towards more than one of these goals at a time.

Primary education brings opportunity.  Opportunities for jobs, for further education, and for change.  Not only that, but this school facility will be able to educate girls from around the region, helping to promote gender equality in an area where girls traditionally spend their days fetching water, sometimes walking for hours to do so.  This is also where the wells that were dug in 2009 come in, alleviating the burden placed on the girls of Ambato Boeni by bringing the water closer to them.  This clean water is a lifeline, improving sanitation in an area of the village where the only source of water was the contaminated Betsiboka River.  This improves community health, which extends to maternal health and decreasing infant mortality.  Sanitation is key to this and all of these goals contribute to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

There is one other MDG that we’re all working on, and this could prove to have the longest lasting effect: building a global partnership for development. This is where everyone from Beaver Scouts to Members of Parliament come in.  We all need to work together to achieve these goals, not just here in Canada, but around the world.  Even achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Starts with Scouts.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Let's Change the World!

Posted by Creighton Avery, Youth Contingent Leader

Getting involved in Madagascar 2012 couldn't be easier!  Whether you'd like to simply donate online, or want to run fundraisers with your group, there are so many ways to take part and help make a difference in Ambato Boeni, Madagascar.  This is everyone's project.

National Buy-A-Brick Campaign:  Every $5 raised in this campaign is enough to make, lay, plaster and paint another brick of the school facility.  If you set up a Buy-A-Brick Campaign with your Scouting group, be sure to send us stories, pictures, and every your group crest so we can post it all on this Blog!  Scouting in action is an inspiration to everyone!  Download the National Buy-A-Brick Campaign Package here.

Program Jumpstarts: There are program jumpstarts for Beaver Scouts, Cub Scouts and Scouts.  For Beaver and Cub Scouts, four week programs cover topics like culture in Madagascar, and the importance of clean water, with activities, games, songs and more.  In the Cub Scout jumpstart, you'll even work towards badges requirements such as International Trade and World Cubbing!  For Scouts, we've got a program straight from the Global Development Village, created by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement.  Here you'll find 12 interactive workshops covering a wide range of social issues, like racism, fair trade, global resources, environmental sustainability and learning to live together.

Donation:  Possibly the simplest way to make a difference in Ambato Boeni is to donate quickly and securely online by clicking the "DONATE NOW" button at the top of the Blog.  This doesn't heavily impact your wallet, but certainly makes a big difference to our project and to the people of Madagascar.

Want to learn more, or get any of the materials mentioned above?  Send me an email to get started at cavery[at]scouts.ca, or visit our website at www.scouts.ca/madagascar.

So, I guess the only thing to decide now is how you're going to change the world in 2012.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Where is Madagascar?

Over the years, preparing for this project, many people are surprised to learn that Madagascar is actually a real place…but is actually not home to any sort of Madagascar penguins.  For this reason, we thought it would be a good idea to use the Madagascar 2012 Blog to bring everyone a little bit of information about this vibrant Indian Ocean island nation.
As mentioned, Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean, just off the south east coast of the African continent.  The Mozambique Channel separates Madagascar from the country of Mozambique.  Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and has been nicknamed the “Eighth Continent” because of how incredibly unique the wildlife is there, where 90% of species on the island can be found nowhere else on Earth. 

The capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo and it is located right in the middle of the country.  This project will be taking place in the village of Ambato Boeni, which is approximately a 12 hour drive northwest from Antananarivo.  The Contingent from Scouts Canada that will be travelling to Ambato Boeni will actually be flying into the city of Mahajanga (also spelled Majunga and Majanga), which is only around 90 minutes north from Ambato Boeni. 

Ambato Boeni is located within the Boeni Region.  Interestingly, the word Boeni is spelled Boeny in Malagasy, the native language of Madagascar.  The name Ambato Boeni in Malagasy means “the Rock of Boeni”.  The population of Ambato Boeni is around 23, 500 and it is split into five quarters (yes, five).  The project will be taking place in the impoverished third quarter, or Troisieme Quartier as it’s called (French is the second official language of Madagascar).

The Troisieme Quartier is located along the banks of the Betsiboka River, a main river which flows north towards the ocean.  Unfortunately, the water of the Betsiboka River has been contaminated upstream by a variety of sources.  This was why diggings wells was a high priority for the community, to provide a safe source of water for drinking, cooking and sanitation.  These wells were dug and completed in 2009, following the postponement of the project, with funds donated by the original members of the project in Tri-Shores Council.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing many more stories, pictures and interesting facts about Madagascar.  Be sure to follow the Madagascar 2012 Blog!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

On our honour, we promised

To set the scene, in 2008, three volunteers from Scouts Canada visited the village of Ambato Boeni, in northwest Madagascar.  Working with the local village council of the troisieme quartier in Ambato Boeni, we formed a partnership in development with three simple priorities: drilling wells for fresh water, building a school facility for education and providing an alternative source of electricity to bring light to the 12 hours of darkness each day.  Literally: Life, Learning, Light.  Scouts Canada made a promise that day – a promise others had broken in the past – that we would work with Ambato Boeni achieve these goals.

When civil unrest broke out in the capital of Antananarivo in 2009, this project could not continue, but it would not be the end.  On our honour, we promised that we would do our best.  And now, with peace returned to Madagascar, the time has come to finish what we all started nearly four years ago.

In January, 18 youth and 7 adult volunteers from Scouts Canada were selected to finally complete this project in August of this year, but this really is everyone’s project.  We all have a part to play in fulfilling the spirit of our promise: from learning about the social issues, or contributing directly to the project, to spreading the message of youth empowerment and community development.  This blog will help everyone keep up to date on what’s being done and where we all fit in to changing the world in 2012.

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