Interview: Gemma’s experience building in MadagascarVOLUNTEER EXPERIENCES / 09 June 2016
Gemma from the UK office recently visited our projects in Madagascar, here is her interview about her time at the building project:
What surprised you most about your visit to the Madagascar building project?
I'd seen photos of the village and building site but honestly it was the scenery that most surprised me since it was absolutely breath-taking! Even the journey to the project site along the bumpy village roads was really pretty, passing farmers in the fields and zebu herders in the morning. The new school classrooms and toilet block that we were working on are on a plateau just outside the village, so we were surrounded by rolling hills of tropical farms, which make a perfect backdrop for the evening sunsets.
What did you enjoy most about volunteering at the building project?
I did really enjoy working by the workshop sawing lengths of wood which will soon be made into school benches, but I think my favourite part was laying the bricks which the team had made the week before. In a day, as a team of 7 volunteers and 8 builders, we managed to build the new school latrine base.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
Mixing a huge pile of monster mix cement (cement, water, sand and stones) which is used for the main structure of the new toilet block, on a hot day, was really hard work but we did have lots of water breaks. Fred the head builder was on his day off so he played some great local tunes on his guitar with the help of some drummers, it was great to have some motivational beats to work along to. Although the building work was hard work it was really rewarding to see the progress!
How was living at the camp site?
I was amazed by what the local chef could make each day in the small kitchen shed for the full team of volunteers and builders, the food was both delicious and nutritious. It is surprising how much food you need to eat to help power you through the day, joining the building volunteer project is definitely a full body workout!
I loved taking a shower at the end of a hot day's work. You start by pumping the water from the well, carrying the bucket to the shower area and then using a cup to pour water for your shower. It's a great refreshing way to end the day before heading to dinner then watching the sun set.
How did you find camping?
I hired a tent from the team but brought over a very comfortable blow up mattress so I got a great night’s sleep each night. I loved sitting around with the team in the evening watching the stars, or heading to Lily’s (the local bar) in the village for a refreshing evening beer or coke. It was a perfect way to end the day.
What would you say are the most important things for volunteers to bring with them?
I'd recommend a good head torch (since the sun sets quite early and there is no electricity), a blow up mattress and a good quality solar charger (so you can charge your camera to capture your time at the project).
If you would like to learn more about the buidling project in Madagascar, click here: https://www.podvolunteer.org/projects/building-madagascar/