"I wanted to live an enriching experience not only for myself but for others".
Returning from her mission between the 29th of June and the 18th of August 2016 in Besely, Samantha Meurin talked to us about her experience with Ecoles du Monde.
What was the context of your departure to Madagascar?
Leaving for Madagascar was a personal project of mine that was established with the representatives of the association over several months. I left at the end of June but the idea of this project started in September of the previous year. So we put together a mission that corresponded to the needs at the school and my personal training which is teaching.
What motivated your project?
I had some time to give and the will to learn, while being helpful to others. It didn’t take me very long to come up with the idea of this project. I knew about the association through my old high school (note from the editors, Lycée Doisneau) who partnered with Ecoles du Monde, I therefore knew that the association was a serious one. I wanted to live an enriching experience not only for myself but for others.
What was your mission at the school?
At the site, I spent 7 weeks in the bush. My mission was to participate in summer school at Besely and notably, the professional training of kindergarten teachers. I was to train 4 kindergarten teachers by bringing to them a maximum amount of my knowledge that I had learned in my training. Thus, we worked together to define a scholastic program for the kindergarten. We tried to copy the French scholastic program while adapting it to school in the bush, which is very different from ours. For example, kindergarten there is 2 years long, while in France it’s 3 years. The same applied to scholastic and pedagogic materials, where there is a terrible lack in Madagascar, and even more so in the bush.
How were you integrated in the team?
Perfectly well, the team accepted me wholeheartedly. They were the real pillars for me while I was there. They were always available when I needed something, especially Marie-Claire, who is the coordinator of special operations. We have spent some wonderful moments together, they also taught me much about Malagasy culture.
What was the most remarkable thing to you?
There were some moments more remarkable than others of course. For example, a man in the bush who had practically nothing to eat for himself and his family who offered me a bowl of rice although I had just had agood meal. The notion of sharing, of generosity, even when they have almost nothing, was very moving for me.
Moments spent with the women of the village also was very outstanding, they accepted me warmly, they taught me things about their culture, like dancing, and even taught me to speak a few Malagasy words.
My voyage was very remarkable in itself. Even now, back in France, I can’t stop thinking about it.
What were the difficulties that you encountered?
I think the biggest difficulty was the language barrier. The personal of the association and the teachers speak French. However, in the bush, the villagers and especially the children who I worked with, didn’t speak my language. Communication was a bit difficult, but not unsurmountable! One learns to communicate differently.
Had you already done similar missions before?
No, I had never really traveled outside of Europe and even less to do a mission of this type. I absolutely do not regret it! On the contrary, I hope to repeat the experience soon. My trip was very instructive, as much about others, the country and Malagasy culture, as about myself.
What is your advice to future volunteers?
Don’t be afraid of the unknown. At first, one is apprehensive of course…but you mustn’t be. I was well taken care of, both before my departure and while I was there. Everyone took care of me. Malagasies are wonderful people, with open minds, welcoming and generous. And especially, do not be afraid of giving all you can: your time, your knowledge, your love. Time goes by quickly while you’re there. You have to take advantage of each instance that life offers there and not hesitate to spend as much time as possible with the people who have a thirst for knowledge and who can teach us so much.