Tagged: empower

Let Girls Learn

Dear Family and Friends,

I am so excited to share with you this amazing project that we are developing here in Madagascar for young girls.
A group of 20 Peace Corps Volunteers are planning a National Girls Empowerment Camp for the end of April 2016. Each volunteer will bring 5 smart and ambitious young girls from their respective communities to attend a 5 day Conference in the Capital city, Antananarivo. This National Girls Camp will bring together Malagasy Girls from multiple ethnicities to focus on issues relevant to adolescent girls, specifically: leadership development, self efficacy, goal setting, and life planning – which includes higher education and work.
Regional GLOW Camps have been held across Madagascar for years but never engaging multiple Malagasy ethnicities in one learning environment. This National GLOW Camp promotes the leadership development of young women, of different Malagasy ethnicities, so they can become effective leaders. In order to achieve this, youth must be aware of themselves – of their current situation and challenges, of their goals and aspirations, and of their potential for success and leadership – and be aware of the community that surrounds them. Once aware, youth will be able to analyze themselves and their communities, become knowledgeable about them, and become able to propose solutions. GLOW Camp provides a proactive environment that applies equally to individual development and social actions. Furthermore, GLOW supports and nurtures young women, providing educational opportunities, guidance and validation – all within the context of reinforcing pride in the student’s cultural background and his/her self esteem. Through this National GLOW Camp, young women- of different backgrounds- work together, support each other, learn about and promote their heritage, and develop skills and commitment to serve their community.
This project addresses the critical issue of women’s empowerment, incorporating the components necessary to encourage girls to lead healthy and productive lives. In each of our communities, girls face a variety of difficulties related to their personal and professional development due to limited resources, assigned gender roles and lack of awareness of the opportunities available to them. Girls become sexually active at a young age and often do not receive adequate education regarding sexual health, particularly related to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle is essential for these girls to realize their life goals, along with the awareness of opportunities and empowerment needed to encourage them to take the steps necessary to fulfill these goals. As a result, educators, parents and community members have identified the GLOW camp as an effective tool for promoting girls’ development and community and youth development overall through the transfer of knowledge in the short-term and the cultivation of strong role models and positive behavior
change in the long-term.
How is the community the driving force behind the project?
In each of our respective communities, Malagasy counterparts will be directly involved in the selection of the girls to be involved in the camp, and all girls falling within the appropriate age group are encouraged to apply. Interested girls will complete an application that highlights their particular goals and reasons for wanting to participate in the camp. Participants will then be selected through a comprehensive process that involves several stakeholders and are believed to represent the greatest potential for personal development as well as potential to teach and influence other members of the community, particularly youth. Female chaperones from each community will accompany the girls chosen. These women are role models for the girls and can act as mentors for future life decisions, having made connections and received the same trainings during the camp. Both the PCVs and community representatives collaborated to identify priorities for youth development within each community, and camp subjects were designed to address these priorities including both health and life goals. Additionally, PCVs will work with representatives from local organizations and institutions to prepare the camp sessions with the intent to promote learning, discussion and critical thinking among the participants.
Desired outcome of the project:
The desired outcome in the long-term is to empower the camp participants and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their life goals and to become positive role models capable of encouraging their peers to do the same. In the short-term, 100 young girls will be taught in issues relating to health, career goals and education to encourage their own personal development while building community capacity to address the issues that adolescent girls face.
Please take a look at the brochure I have attached and consider supporting this amazing project!
Follow the link below for more information on how you can make a difference now!

A glimpse of my daily routine.


The Cultural Center  of Hope is going extremely well. I could not be more proud. A person very dear to me once said, “Charlotte when things get rough just put your head down and go.” Things have not been easy lately, my parents recent divorce, my uncle passing away, medical issues. Yet, this Center has truly given me hope. It has given me strength. These children are inspiring. Seeing them eat books with their eyes. Seeing them starve for knowledge, its really amazing, its truly inspirational. The center has been a work in progress. I have gone from just being a high school teacher to opening the first ever Cultural Center in Mahanoro. The children flock from every direction once I open the door, screaming “ Hello MISS! MISS Vocabulary!!! Miss I like the book!!!”

My mornings start early. At 4:30-5:00 I get up water my plants (still attempting to garden). Then open the center at 6:30 so kids can hangout before school starts. My librarian, Madame Bao Sabine and Madame Kameline arrive, take my place and I bike 2 miles to the high school. I teach from 7 am – 9am then again from 9am – 11 am. By 11:15 I am back at the Center closing it up and answering final questions from kids. I head upstairs (where I stay), attempt to gather together a lunch. Right now it has consisted of grated carrots and sardines! Sometimes My neighbor (I think she notices how late I have been preparing lunch and that I do not eat rice and feels bad) so often she brings over fish or rice. Very very sweet of her.

By 2:00pm I am opening up the doors of the center and staying open until 6:30pm. Adults start trickling in around 5:00 pm when they finish working their day jobs or have just gotten back from the countryside for clove picking season. We go over some vocabulary and I answer any dialogue questions they may have.

Classes will begin in January. I am really looking forward to teaching.

I received great news the Chef Cisco will be building an exterior bungalow to be used as an extra teaching space! This comes to me as wonderful news seeing that we have 670 members!!!

Classes will begin in January. I am really looking forward to teaching.

I received great news the Chef Cisco will be building an exterior bungalow to be used as an extra teaching space! This comes to me as wonderful news seeing that we have 560 members!!!


Peace Corps Project

Update on the Cultural Center of Hope.

This week I ordered tables, chairs, and bookshelves. I even drew out detailed designs of the furniture to ensure a positive results ! Reminded me of my uncle mark! Drawing out architect designs on scrap paper.

This weekend the furniture arrived. Looks great, tomorrow I will be sanding, painting, and varnishing the pieces.

We have 489 membership sign ups! So exciting. I am really looking forward to starting the classes in January.

Each member must participate by paying 1000 Ariary a month. ( 22 cents) This allows members full access 7 days a week to a library and study room. In addition, the opportunity to sign up for classes, french, English, or computer courses.

Big news! After 3 weeks of searching EVERYWHERE for white boards ( they use blackboards here in schools) I finally found a 3 meter by 1 1/2 meter whiteboard! It looks great in our classroom.

I want to express my greatest appreciation to those of you who have supported this project. It is with relief, happiness, and perseverance that I report to you this great news!

More to come on my PEACE CORPS PROJECT.








After 10 days of emotions, hard work, and constant interpretation, I am honored to say that I have worked with some of the most selfless and inspirational individuals. The staff, doctors, and nurses of CRMF, Caring Response Madagascar Foundation, are phenomenal. I would love to share a small story of how I had the ability to witness their selfless actions.
“Thursday morning the team heads out to Hopitaly Be in Tamatave. Excited to meet new faces, we all give each other a round of hugs. One of the doctors grabs my arm and says ‘Hey we have to go check out this patient, can you join to interpret for us please.’ I nod and follow her down the corridor of the hospital into a small room.
There lays a small framed woman, no more than 18 years old, her eyes swollen and yellow, her shortness of breath evoking pain. The doctor makes her way by her side pulling me along. ‘Ask her what hurts? What’s going on? Find out some history for me.” I proceed to have a conversation with this young woman. She is a new mother of a one month old boy, she had complications in her birth which led to a C-section. When the C-section was done they slit open her bowel. The doctors who had done the surgery attempted to sow it back and staple her stomach shut. One month later she still lays on a bed, unable to hold her newborn, unable to find comfort due to a gaping 3 inch deep 4 inch long hole in her abdomen. At first glance the CRMF doctor took a deep breath and stood silently. Two minutes later, the doctor looked at me, looked at the young woman laying in front of her, and looked at the one month old baby squirming near by, ” Tell her we will operate on her tomorrow, tell her not to worry about the medication, the anesthesia, or any expenses, we will take care of it.”
The next day we went into surgery, myself and another PCV, Banaz, witnessed the preparation and surgery. I became surprised at how passion to help others drove these doctors to save this woman’s life. They treated her with dignity with respect and with care. They spoke to her family after the surgery was done and ensured that they understood how to change the bandages appropriately.
Olga, 18 years old now has a chance at life. Her new born baby boy Manuelo is still squirming by her side and her family is ever so thankful for these doctors selfless work.

Reflections on my first 365 days of Service

lambaI decided to write a blog about the most common questions I have been asked by tourists, Malagasy people, other volunteers, friends back home and people I have met through out my year of service.

Some people ask, ” What are your biggest challenges being a Peace Corps volunteer?”

A couple things come to mind…

1. Using holes as toilets and getting overly joyous when a kabone (hole in the ground) doesn’t have swarms of flies or larva flying around. Ew..

2. Forgetting what water pressure feels like and when the opportunity is available for a hot shower you burn yourself because your skin squints as the foreign heat approaches your body.

3. Being squished, okay squeezed, okay piled on top of people in a taxi brousse. Where normally 4 people sit comfortably you find yourself side by side toppled over 8 in one row. Don’t forget the chickens pecking at your heals, the baby gnawing at your purse strap, and the woman asking you to hold her voandalana (gift to bring home) while your butt cheeks have lost all sensation from sitting on the hot withered brousse seats.

4. Having people look at you all the time, let me repeat ALL the time. Kids yelling VAZAHA, while running circles around you.

5. Missing market day and making crazy concoctions of food for dinner- hoping for a good outcome. Personal favorite- (rice [of course], sakay [hot sauce], parmesan cheese [lifesaver! thanks mom] and some sardines) Don’t forget the PROTEIN!

With these every day challenges comes the joys, the ups, the reasons why we volunteers do what we do. Some great examples of these joys in the past year of service:

1. Waking up to my two little sisters (neighbors, but you know everyone is family once you live next to one another long enough) singing at 5 am. Then when they see that my door is open at 5:15 am they peak their heads in and yell “GOOODDD MOrrrrrNING CHARLOTTTTEyyyyy! Now that is a wake up call and a beautiful one.

2. Malagasy people are some of the most giving, sweet, and nurturing beings I have met. Yes there are those days where I have missed the market, taught 8 hours and wasn’t able to buy food for the night. I come home lay down on the floor (where it is much colder believe me it is HOT out here) and just here my tummy rumble. All of a sudden I here my Neny (host-mom) yell through the wood and palm tree panels separating our homes, “Mandroso SAKAFO!” This translates- “Come get some food girl!” I smile, and walk over to a pile of rice and my favorite, homemade lentils with garlic- we eat together and enjoy each others company.

3. Sometimes having people look at you all the time, curiously investigating your freckles and assuming you don’t shower, can be difficult. (People have told me I need to shower more because I have dirt dots on my skin… freckles are mysterious things- who would have known.) Yet, the benefits to having people look at you all the time is that you can then look at them all the time too! This leads to the ritual greetings, “Manakory, Ino vaovao?” Hey Whats up? Next thing you know you are having a full on conversation about their kids, their family, the rice fields, the weather. And, after all that you have either been invited for lunch, to the wedding ceremony next week, and undoubtedly to attend church with the family this coming weekend. Stares are a beautiful thing- get used to it, and embrace it.

4. Rice. I repeat. RICE. I had a love hate relationship with RICE when I first landed in Mada. Now, I can’t live without the white grains on my plate! I don’t feel full without eating rice and all my meals MUST include this beautiful RICE! haha.. okay really though I have grown to enjoy it- even if many times it involves cracking parts of my teeth on pebbles (or rocks) which were hiding in the grains.

5. My favorite UP this year and my most joyous moment: speaking Malagasy. I remember trying to learn Malagasy greetings through a Youtube video when I received my acceptance letter for Peace Corps.

youtube: repeat after me “Salama”


me (thinking): oh…goodness here we go..

Now a year later, I am impressed not only with how I have been able to adapt to this new culture, and new way of life, but how I have been able to express myself in Malagasy. I think in Gasy, I speak in Gasy, I even sometimes have DREAMS [I kid you not] in GASY! I love surprising Malagasy people with my Malagasy. They automatically think all foreigners are French (due to the fact that Madagascar was colonized by France, many people speak French here). They see me they revert to French, when I answer in Malagasy- an enormous smile appears. That smile is worth many many nights reading a Malagasy dictionary!