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.

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