As you all know, I recently moved to Madagascar to take a job with Azafady, a partnership of a UK charity and Malagasy NGO, working on development and conservation projects in South-East Madagascar. Having previously been on a short-term volunteering scheme with Azafady in 2012, I have been following their work ever since, and jumped at the chance to get involved as Pioneer Coordinator. In this role I spend the majority of my time “in the field”, working with volunteers from all over the world, who come to Madagascar for up to 10 weeks at a time to assist with our projects. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year.
Madagascar is a country with a lot of problems. The Malagasy people are welcoming, friendly and cheerful despite a general level of poverty that forces 90% of the population to live on less than $1.25 a day. Environmentally, the island is astounding, with a level of biodiversity matched by few other places on Earth – almost 90% of the wildlife here is unique to Madagascar, including the famous lemurs. Education is also a major issue throughout the country, but particularly in the isolated southern region of Anosy, where Azafady operates. 1 in 2 children in Anosy have never been to school, and more than 2 in 3 haven’t completed even primary education. Many of these problems are exacerbated by the political situation in the country, which has been particularly complicated since a coup in 2009.
Azafady has been working in Madagascar for over 15 years, with an in support of communities in southeast Madagascar. Our mission is to tackle the immediate effects of extreme poverty, support long-term development and protect the environment. By building capacity and maximising the involvement of the local population, we hope to improve the situation for the Malagasy in a lasting way. 89% of our income is spent in direct pursuit of our charitable aims, with very little money spent on administrative costs. Our achievements to date include the construction of over 1,145 latrines, 112 wells, 23 schools, 1,870 school benches, numerous health and environmental projects, and much much more. We run short-term volunteer programmes, including the Pioneer programme which I work in, and a successful conservation programme. We don’t operate on the scale of Oxfam or the Red Cross, but we get results, and have earned the respect of many people in the region.
Outside the newly repaired school at Agnena
Sadly Azafady is facing a funding crisis. Much of our income usually comes from international aid and donor organisations, such as AusAID and Comic Relief, but in the current global economic climate, securing donations for projects is becoming harder than ever. Funding for projects is also often restricted to very specific uses, ignoring the need for money to cover core costs, such as those of our office in town. Volunteer numbers have also dropped considerably as people back home feel the pinch, and can no longer afford a trip to Madagascar.
With this in mind, I’m asking that family, friends and casual readers consider chipping in just a little to help Azafady through this difficult time. I know I’ve asked many of you to donate to Azafady (amongst other causes) before, and you have responded generously, but embarrassing as it is I must ask again. Small sums make big differences – for the price of a round of drinks in London, Azafady can provide a desk and bench to one of the under-equipped public schools, so children don’t have to learn whilst sat on the concrete floor (see more comparisons: http://www.madagascar.co.uk/donate-and-shop/index.htm).
Not an unusual scene in rural classrooms
There are lots of ways you can help. If you just have a few quid, consider a one-off donation via Bmycharity. If you can spare a few pounds a month, standing orders really help with our general funding and making sure there is enough money to keep the lights on. If you’re looking for great Christmas gifts, consider buying something from our Stitch Ste Luce webshop – products all made by local women in Madagascar, who receive a portion of sales. Or for a small donation you can get yourself some Azafady christmas cards! If you are active on social media, please consider sharing this message, or joining us on Facebook and Twitter – help us get the word out about the reality in Madagascar (it isn’t quite the same as the film!).
Thanks for reading, and for any help you can give us. If you’d like to know more about Azafady, leave a comment or email me: daniel.wood [at] azafady.org.