How long have you been working as a Project Host or Co-ordinator for World Challenge?
Feedback Madagascar has been hosting World Challenge groups ever since I first came out to Madagascar in 1998. I remember working with a group in Ambohimahamasina in 1999.
What type of community projects do you get involved in and where?
Most community projects that we work on with World Challenge groups are related to building or repairing primary schools, government health centres or, more rarely, secondary schools. Groups have also supported the women’s groups and cooperatives that we work with, particularly with building craft workshops or sales points.
Our priority area is the zone either side of the rainforest ‘corridor’ Ambositra-Vondrozo, which is a new protected area in Madagascar.
Why do you enjoy the work that you do?
We continually receive so many requests from communities for help with different infrastructure projects and so it’s great that World Challenge groups can help us meet some of their needs.
This support is so 'hands-on' that we feel a great sense of achievement from the results obtained. We get so much positive feedback from communities that benefit that we feel we can never have enough groups!
How do you feel the World Challenge teams benefit personally from their project experience?
I think it is hugely valuable for these young people to participate on these projects and to work side-by-side with local people. It really helps build their understanding of how other people live, bringing ‘poverty’ to life, and makes them appreciate what fortunate backgrounds they come from. I feel that the whole experience should make young people more ‘rounded’, aware and considerate beings.
How do you feel the local community benefits from the World Challenge teams' work and support?
Communities benefit in two ways. Firstly, the financial (material) support that teams provide for the community project is invaluable as local people would not have been able to carry out the project without it. Improving key infrastructure such as schools and health centres has a clear and immediate impact on people’s lives.
Secondly, working alongside these World Challenge teams is both a motivating factor for local people (“If these young foreigners are making all this effort to come and help us then we should be the first to try to help ourselves”) and an eye-opener into another culture.
Which community project have you been particularly proud of and why?
Reddam House School managed to fundraise a spectacular amount of money to enable the renovation of four school buildings that were badly damaged by a cyclone at Ankarinomby Primary School in 2013. This allowed over 500 pupils to continue their studies.
What sort of feedback do you get from local communities following the completion of the project?
We generally get very good feedback from local communities, who have been very happy working with the World Challenge groups. Often these communities continue working after the group has left, as the project is rarely completed within a week. They are very proud of what has been achieved.
Do you keep World Challenge teams updated after their work has been done and is that well received?
We always like to keep in touch with World Challenge teams but contact varies between groups. We are often so busy and preoccupied with work out here that it tends to be teams contacting us rather than the other way round. There have been several groups that continued to fundraise after returning to the UK, and continued to support other projects within their ‘host’ communities.
Do you have a top tip, request or great idea you would like to share with future World Challenge teams visiting your team's country?
I think the most important thing is to stay open-minded and flexible; often things don’t go completely to plan but you have to take things as they come. Patience is really a virtue in Madagascar and losing one’s temper is viewed very badly.
Learning as much of the local language, Malagasy, as possible is also hugely appreciated by people, as is interacting with them in their daily activities such as pounding rice or farming. We always request that groups get in touch with us before they arrive at the project site so we can update them on what to expect and answer any questions.
It would also be great if groups could send us some of their photos afterwards (digitally) as well as send physical copies for the communities where they worked – people love having a photo as a souvenir. Other than that, we would love it if groups could help raise awareness about our work with others in the UK or potentially get involved with fundraising activities to allow it to continue.
Samantha Cameron, Programme Co-ordinator, Feedback Madagascar