More people are showing interest in volunteering for community-enhancement and scientific-research projects in Madagascar. The following organisations regularly take on volunteers, although most placements require payment.
Access Madagascar Initiative This British charity organises placements in villages in central Madagascar. Most placements involve teaching of some kind – languages or skills – but activities are varied, including tree planting, working on the local radio program, running the English club etc. Individuals as well as families are welcome. Placements cost £695/1505 for three/12 weeks.
Akany Avoko An Antananarivo-based children’s home that cares for around 120 orphans, street kids and youngsters with little or no family support. Akany Avoko has been around for 50 years and is sustained by charitable donations and income-generating projects. It welcomes volunteers, whether they have half a day or a year to spare. Inexpensive accommodation can be provided.
Azafady Based in the Anosy region in southeastern Madagascar, British charity Azafady works on poverty alleviation and environmental conservation through sustainable development initiatives. Volunteering opportunities include conservation fieldwork, English teaching and community and construction work. The minimum donation required for a 10-week placement is £1995.
Blue Ventures Based in London, with a field site in Andavadoaka, this hugely impressive organisation coordinates teams of volunteer divers to work with local NGOs and biologists in marine-conservation programs that are spreading throughout the length of the reef, helping staunch its decline. Volunteering stints range from three to 12 weeks (£1900 to £4075) and include PADI scuba-diving certification. Volunteering must be organised in advance through the London office.
Hope for Madagascar (www.hopeformadagascar.org) Poverty alleviation is the remit of this US charity, which runs projects as diverse as building schools, organising cultural exchanges between Malagasy schools from different parts of the country and providing clean water in rural villages. It welcomes volunteers to teach English and art in local schools.
Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) The US government's volunteering program (whose mission is 'to promote world peace and friendship') is very active in Madagascar, where it has around 140 members. Placements are usually two years and volunteers usually end up speaking fluent Malagasy by the end of their stint. The scheme is open to American nationals over 18.
Many travellers bring books, clothes, medication and school supplies to give to the villages they pass on their journey. The donations are always welcome, but consider buying locally wherever possible so that local businesses benefit from your custom, too. This is especially true of stationary, clothes and essential toiletries such as soap, which you'll find easily and cheaply in any market.
Make the donation to the schoolmaster or the village chief, and not to children.
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