From the beginning of the very few weeks at site I began to talk with youth about their concerns, their needs, their wants in life.
Many said I want a nice field for soccer. Girls responded a place to hangout. Others mentioned wanted a safe space to do homework.
I took all these things into consideration, thinking deeply about what youth wanted and were interested in- what they would appreciate. Yet, I still felt lost at how to fulfill this request or dream.
One night after (jirama) the electricity provider cut off the electricity for the week, I witnessed my neighbors children, all 12 sitting together passing a candle attempting to read their homework and study for tomorrow’s lesson.
I watched silently.
The next day I went to school and one of my most mahay (smart/motivated) students didn’t show up for school. Later that afternoon as I was boiling my water for rice, the student who had previously missed class showed up at my house. She apologized relentlessly for not being present and sat down in my kitchen with her head bowed down. It seemed as if a weight was weighing in her shoulders. She explained “my mother works the fields during rice farming season. My father is no longer here. I must prepare food and take care of my 7 younger siblings. If there was a place for me to do my homework in the morning or after lunch, I would be able to get good grades and maybe even….well go to the university.”
I sat opposite to her. Heart full. Staring at this young 15 year old girl whose shoulders were so heavy. I just wanted to take the weight off her shoulders or lend her a hand.
I looked at her and told her “I promise you, I will give you a place for you to study. A place that it safe and comfortable for you.”
Everyday after that conversation, my student came to my house in the morning and after lunch and she did her lessons prior to returning to her home to care for her siblings.
This student and the many youth of Mahanoro have given me the heart, courage, and motivation to build a Center. A Cultural Center of Hope. A place which is secure and allows them to get the support they need emotionally and educationally. A place that they can develop their thoughts, their dreams, their motivations.
I present to you the Cultural Center of Hope in Mahanoro, Madagascar.
I will write another post on the inner workings of the center, but have been meaning to explain motivation behind this big project.