Thursday, 13 March 2014

Tasks of a non-diving volunteer

As my fourth week in Andava is coming to an end, it seems like a reasonable idea to describe what other things I’ve been involved with apart from the T-shirt design and the focus groups.

Photo by Caroline Savitzky
Contributing to a thematic mural: During the first week I helped a local artist paint a mural on the wall of the Safidy clinic. This was really fun! It shows three little scenes which are relevant to Safidy’s work: (1) a couple holding up condoms, (2) a woman coming for an pre-natal visit and lastly, (3) a man washing his hand with soap. I love his naive style and the little details of how he sees the local community. He is from Toliara and speaks good French so we could chat easily. I am currently in the process of adding little messages to each of the scenes.

Safidy data entry: I’ve already described in a previous post that Safidy has trained several dozen Community Based Distributors. They keep track of all the visits they receive and this data (as well as the data from the Safidy clinic in Andava) then needs to be digitalized. As a dedicated volunteer with agreed confidentiality, I could help out with this as well, entering data into a big Excel file. Although this might sound like a boring task, it was actually quite interesting, because it gave me a rough idea of what kind of people use these services at the moment, what exactly they are looking for and how is their family situation.

Teaching English to a Safidy staff: My English partner is the Safidy midwife, a really really sweet Malagasy girl of 24 years. When her schedule allowed, we sat together and talked in English. The primary purpose of this was to practice her language skills (she is already fluent, so it was a real pleasure to be chatting with her), as well as mine as she gave me a few Malagasy classes. I enjoyed these occasions a lot because we got to know each other better. This was further reinforced because I interviewed her for the blogpost I wrote about inspiring women. Very nice encounter!!!

Research on how to communicate climate change to local communities: I’ve talked about the village outreach tours already- every three months, Blue Ventures organises village outreach tours around a given topic and goes to a few dozen communities with presentations, discussion ideas and workshops. One of their upcoming themes is climate change, so we had a big discussion on how it is best to talk about global warming in the Vezo context. Interesting but very complex question- where should one start? How can one talk about this topic without distorting the facts or in a way that inspires action as opposed to leaving the audience with the feeling of disempowerment? How much of the science should be explained? We could not come to a conclusion after one discussion and I had hoped to find plenty of resources online. Unfortunately, this was not the case, however, I did receive some very useful documents from Conservation International, which has invested a great deal resources in developing training material focused on this topic. I still need to produce a summary for my colleagues, but this will be a perfect first step towards working out the most suited approach for Vezo communities.

French class for teachers: There is a really nice French girl, working for a small foundation (Steph’Andava) to teach French to school teachers and to students. I’ve been able to join her once in her class for teachers, in which they were practicing their question composing skills by asking me about Hungary. The theme was travelling so we pretended to prepare for a trip to Hungary and explored topics such as transportation, culture, language, natural environment, sights to visit and the weather. I prepared a few slides with photos and they seemed interested in discovering a country previously unheard of... I was unable to answer all their questions, for example I have no idea how much a kilo of rice costs back home (and they were quite surprised that rice comes in such small packages)...

It was a really nice experience and I was very impressed by the French girl’s dynamism throughout the class. Afterwards I was thinking about the “twists of destiny”: exactly 7 years ago I took off to Brussels for a six month internship. I hadn’t expected to get the position in the first place and I certainly didnt foresee how much it would change my life. Participating in a French class in Madagascar and talking about Hungary seems really random on one hand, and an (almost) direct consequence of that internship on the other hand. What a journey in between that period 7 years ago and the current moment! Life’s unpredictability can be really heartwarming.

English-French club: The education team organises lots of after-school activities which children (and adults) are welcome to join. One of these is the French-English club on Tuesday afternoons, altering between the two languages on a weekly basis. I’ve attended several times already and it has been really fun to see the dedication of all parties involved and the kind of exercises the teachers come up with. Using standard, Western language-books is not really an option, as so many of the topics raised in them are completely irrelevant here. Additionally, there is limited resources, no possibility to just quickly photocopy something ahead of class for example, so I have great respect for the people doing the teaching and coming up with various creative ideas.

French grammar posters: Last, but not least, I’ve been producing some posters for Steph’Andava, explaining French grammar. I’ve tried to add some locally relevant visuals to them and just make them look attractive in general- let’s hope they manage to inspire the children and prove to be useful.

A “normal”, diving volunteer’s tasks on the other hand are the following: after a week or two of different lectures, they are divided into two groups. One group learns 150 species of fish, the other learns “benthic” which (as far as I understood) is everything attached to the bottom of the ocean. They practice on computer tests, then go on point-out dives in the water and finally, they have to pass underwater tests. After my fellow volunteers have passed their underwater tests and have consequently swapped topics: they are studying what the other group did until now to be trained for everything. (Im a bit jelaous of all the cool fish names they know now, I just look at everything thinking “Wow, that’s colourful!” and they say something like “Ah, that’s a redfin butterfly fish” or “That’s a Portugese man of war”...).

Dive briefing
As soon as they complete their science training, they dive to collect data for the Blue Ventures’ research. In the meantime, some people also needed to learn how to dive, others needed to practice new techniques to become advanced divers so overall they’ve been super busy. Dives are organised for the first half of the day (at 06.00, 09.00, and 11.00) in case something goes wrong and there is a need for an emergency evacuation, which would need to arrive from South Africa. Thanks to all the safety measures this option has never been used.

No comments:

Post a Comment