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 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:

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], or visit our website at

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!

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