The primary objective of this project is to educate adolescent girls about issues related to health, education and life goals through a five-day GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, camp. We hope to empower participants to lead healthier lives and give them the tools to achieve their life goals related to work and education by learning about opportunities available to them, and in turn teach other girls in their communities about lessons learned. The camp will be held in the capital city of Antananarivo for 100 girls and 20 women chaperones from 20 different communities across multiple regions of Madagascar.
The GLOW curriculum will focus on issues relevant to adolescent girls and specifically leadership development, self-efficacy, goal setting and life planning – including higher education and work. In the short term, we will encourage the girls to reflect on and discuss the subjects addressed during the camp, and then transfer knowledge gained to peer groups in their communities through additional trainings and discussions. In the long term, we hope that the girls will adopt healthy habits and become role models to other individuals in their communities, encouraging behavior change and eventually empowering themselves and others to lead their best possible lives. The community contribution includes supplies to promote a good learning environment for the girls throughout the camp, time donated by chaperones to help the camp run smoothly, and materials donated to facilitate learning in the communities after the camp has ended.
This project has been designed to expand access to education for girls in Madagascar as part of the Let Girls Learn Program. Learn more at letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov.
Please donate to our project!
“I am now the best looking man”
Lezoma, 33 years old, ostracized from his community for being different. Since a young age he was teased for his different face. Children would scream and point fingers at him, calling him names. At 11 years old he decided to drop out of school and work the rice fields. He found peace in the solitude of the rice fields, no one calling him names, no one yelling mean slurs at him. He worked as a farmer and helped out during the various fruit picking seasons to make a living.
My first encounter with Lezoma was in January 2014. I heard there was a young man who had a double cleft lip who lived in a small village off the main road called, Tsaravinany. I took my chances and biked out to the village, before no time I crossed Lezoma on the path. He carried bundles of banana leaves and two large jackfruits which hung from thick piece of wood. I greeted him in local dialect. He looked at me surprised, even chuckled a little at the sight of a foreigner speaking local tongue. I asked if we could talk, that I had something important I wanted to ask him. I explained about the mission, Operation Smile was arriving in April to the capital, Tana, and I would love to have him join me. His face brightened. He immediately answered, “You can fix this!” and pointed to the large gaps in his face. I explained that if he trusts me and would like to come up on to Tana with me I would be leaving the first week of April and I would pick him up on the main road. He agreed.
Lezoma walked into the operating room barefoot, nervous yet calm. I was present for the entire surgery and held his hand through his fear. Lezoma’s surgery went amazing, his before and after pictures were tremendous. His courageous spirit was a highlight of the mission.
6 months after we had returned from Tana, I biked back to Tsaravinany, the small village lined with rice fields and banana trees. To my surprise, young kids whom I had never seen before, ran up to me screaming, “Lezoma! Lezoma!”. My heart beat accelerated as I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad thing that they were screaming his name. I arrived at a small coffee seller, and there sat Lezoma. His dark brown eyes looked back at me, and small wrinkled formed on the sides as he smiled. “Charlotte! Mandroso!” he welcomed me to sit. I ordered a small coffee with sugar cane syrup. “How are you? How is everything? Tell me about you.” I requested. He stood up, “Charlotte, I have a problem! A big problem!” My heart dropped, thoughts raced, what could it be, an infection? Another health problem? “ I am so good looking now, all the ladies in town want me!” He chuckled, that familiar chuckle I had heard when first meeting him. I exclaimed “ OH MY! Yes you are a good looking man!”. We exchanged smiles. Later that afternoon I headed back home, as I turned around he waved once more, and said “Thank you, thank you.”
Where I buy my fish….
At the far point of town, the water from the Canal meets the salt water from the Ocean. Every morning loads of small canoes paddle heavily through the huge waves to go out for the catch of the day. Being the fish eater and lover I am, I go out to this point to buy my fish. It has become a small ritual that I have come to love.
-How are you? How is your health?
-I am great. Here to buy fish.
-You love fish!
-Yes, it’s good for your health.
-Yes, MY fish is good for your health!
-Yes you are right 🙂
My conversations have become rituals, things that I have come to love and admire about this place I call home. This pictures are some of the regular children and women I meet on my morning fish purchases.
Why did you apply to Peace Corps?
When you think about life, about what a life holds, for me it holds purpose. I know this may sound cheesy for some or generic yet I took this moto for life very seriously. From a young age service had always been a large part of my life. I remember having a world map in our bathroom growing up and my mother would pin point a place or even sometimes have me chose a place and we pack our bags and go. Once at this destination whether it was Belize, India, Nepal, China, we would spend some time visiting and touring and the other time giving back. This idea of service never stopped at the small trips we took but became a ritual. A giving ritual. During the holidays I spent my time volunteering at food banks, wrapping Christmas gifts, visiting Veteran hospitals. This became my idea of purpose. I saw what it meant to people that I gave my time. I saw that it meant a difference and produced happiness for them. I saw a purpose. I heard of Peace Corps when I was in Middle School. Unlike other children around that age instead of going to the movies or buying new clothes, I was at dog shelters walking pups, or cleaning trash at the local park.
Once I graduated high school and entered college, I began revisiting the idea of serving in another country for a long amount of time. I enjoy learning about new cultures, seeing new places, and felt that many challenges I could foresee I had already met in my previous travels. .I felt ready. I felt that Peace Corps could provide me with tools to help people serve themselves. Indeed after being here in Madagascar for 18 months, I have learned so much about myself and about how to work in the field. I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
Two weeks ago I brought 4 girls from Mahanoro to participate in a GLOW camp- Girls Leading Our World weeklong camp in Tana. ( the capital). The catch being that when they come back they needed to develop their own Girls Empowerment Club.
This is a photograph taken of their first meeting yesterday! Over 45 girls showed up. My 4 outstanding Presidents of the (soon to be) GLOW Club Mahanoro held an amazing meeting. They discussed and outlined the different topics that will be discussed every week. Topics carrying from “how to further your education” to “how to properly out a condom on”, “how to avoid teenage pregnancy” … Etc. every week we will have a strong woman from the community, a doctor, teacher, mother, come and talk to the Club about her life story and her goals.
It brought tears to my eyes to see 45 girls show up and to see the leadership skills come out in my 4 presidents.
So proud of them.
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.
“SMALL minds discuss people, AVERAGE minds discuss events, GREAT minds discuss ideas.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Vola is an 8th grade English Teacher in the small village of Mahanoro on the East Coast of Madagascar, one of the most Malaria prone regions of the island.
When I met my counterpart, Vola, her smile lit up the room. Her charismatic personality, positive energy, and drive to make a difference in her community, makes her the ideal heroine in my eyes. Vola, a teacher at the local middle school, has been a Stomp Out Malaria advocate since I have moved to site. Her creativity and love for educating has been a breath of fresh air to work with. Together we have started an 2 English Clubs at both Middle Schools and 1 High School Club focusing on Malaria awareness and prevention in the village of Mahanoro. Each club has an average of 100 students who participate weekly and have been educated with the Night Watch Curriculum. Last week we held a Dream Banner session at our club and over 175 students attended to “draw out the dreams” and hang them underneath their nets. Vola, teaches over 300 students and every morning she asks, “Did you sleep under a net last night?”. She goes above and beyond to ensure that her students understand the importance of properly hanging their nets and teaching them how to properly care for it.
Vola’s enthusiasm to help Peace Corps and USAID in its fight against Malaria stems from a long history with the disease. She explained to me that when she grew up her neighbors and family members were not properly educated about prevention methods or net usage. Instead of protecting their children from Malaria and sleeping under mosquito nets, individuals were using nets to fish shrimp or cover their crops. She mentioned that it became routine to see children under 5 years old as well as her younger siblings being sent to the hospital and treated for malaria. She stated, “Ever since I remember Malaria has been here in Mahanoro, but today I want to change that, today I want to make sure every child and family is safe against Malaria. Today we stomp Malaria!”
In lieu of Malaria Awareness Month, we are planning a Malaria Festival, inviting all the schools and community members to join. We are collaborating with the local health workers from 10 different countryside villages and inviting them to help in the demonstrations at the festival. We will be educating about Malaria and prevention methods through an all-day exhibition and hands on workshops! In addition, we will be holding a Malaria Mural art contest. Students will enter a Malaria Drawing representing prevention methods and healthy living practices, the winner will have his/her drawing made into a mural in the center of town. We are also holding a dance contest and singing contest to the very popular Malagasy song “Tazo Moka” by Jerry Marcoss. The songs lyrics speak directly about prevention methods, sleeping under a net, properly caring for your net, and ACT Malaria Medicine. Lastly, we will be having a soccer tournament and motivating students to participate in the Grassroots Soccer Malaria Drills. We have already received a great interest from the community and 4 different schools have signed up both girls and boys teams to participate in the tournament!
PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK and ***LIKE*** the picture to nominate her as a malaria hero!