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.

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