Community, Building, Conservation - Volunteer Reviews

MADAGASCAR

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Community, Building and Conservation project

Jack - 2016

“From the moment I arrived on the programme I instantly felt immersed into the Malagash community. The guides were the nicest people I have ever met and were there for anything you needed them for. Although the work was quite physically demanding it was all worth the energy put in. At the end of my 5 weeks there I felt I had achieved something with my time and wouldn't of changed any of it.

What did you find most rewarding?
Teaching English to the students

What did you find most challenging?
The diet

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Ask the cooks to make you some chilli sauce. It only costs around £1 and really helps with the repetitiveness of the diet

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
It seemed well organised and fitted in what I wanted to do

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Sam - 2014

“I can honestly say I could not have spent the time better; if only I had had more. The work was hard, varied and remarkably immersive. We connected not only with each other as volunteers but with many of the locals both in town and out in the 'bush'. The opportunity to work with a truly Madagascan organisation, created and run by Malagasy residents, is unique; I will treasure it forever.”

Ja - 2013

“It is a truly amazing NGO. I could not help but be struck by the incredible impact the charity has on the town and its surrounding area. Their wide and effective involvement in health, sanitation and conservation amongst many other things sets them apart from other relatively small NGOs - one can hardly walk through the town or the villages of the surrounding area without seeing the charity’s impact in the form of toilets (an incredibly important thing where open defecation is still widespread), wells and schools.

Thus if you are looking to do some volunteer work that has a more positive impact I couldn't recommend it more. Besides that you will get to meet lots of great people. The local guides are incredibly nice and interesting and the staff in the town are very welcoming. Southeast Madagascar is incredibly beautiful. Although you will be doing lots of useful work you still get lots of downtime to get to know the area and its people really well. Going to one of the towns two nightclubs is an experience not to be missed. I couldn't have asked for a better time”

January - 2013

“I did the 10 week scheme (Jan-March) as a part of my gap year. I felt like I was in safe hands all the way through from pre-departure to landing back home. Our group was led by confident, English speaking, Malagasy staff, who guided us expertly through our volunteering procedure. They knew the ins and outs of the country since they had lived there all their life and became great friends of the group.

Our group was an excellent range of people, from all over the world and also different ages, so although I was on my gap year, it isn't a scheme full of mainly gap year students. We all bonded tightly as a group and by the end of the 10 weeks were a close group of friends. There was an option to stay and travel after the 10 weeks which I didn't do, but heard it was a fantastic travelling experience.

Expect the volunteering projects to be tough as they can be very hard not just physically, but mentally. From mixing cement in tropical heat, to planning English and conservation lessons to be taught to the local children. Walking for 2, 3, 4 hours to complete community surveys, then the next day planting hundreds of trees. It really offers the complete range of volunteering experience. You will have an amazing time volunteering. An incredible experience.”

July - 2013

“An experience of a lifetime, that surpassed all expectations, and these were high! The project is incredibly well thought through and well organised from start to finish. From the initial pre-departure help in the UK to an extensive support system in the field, the project has been designed not only to provide a great experience for volunteers but also most importantly, to do some genuine good for the local people.

Small groups also ensure maximum involvement in everything, a real sense of teamwork, and new friends for life!

It is standard for 3 projects to be carried out over the 10 week course, but these are always subject to change, as we have to be on hand to help out where is most needed, and this is not always possible to plan. Consequently our projects included the following – school repairs, health and sanitation lessons, fence building, tree planting, English and environmental lessons, shrub clearing, toilet construction and community surveys and mapping.

Never a dull moment and a wide variety of experiences, all against the backdrop of stunning landscapes and welcoming communities. Of course, it was not all work and no play, and on our days off we could either be found trekking to a waterfall, visiting a local market, or surfing at the beach!

What didn't I like - nothing really, even the spiders and snakes were fascinating, honestly.”

August - 2013

“The best way to experience Madagascar.

I travelled to Madagascar to work with the team for 5 weeks last year. I had wanted to go to the country for a number of years and after reading about the project it seemed like a great way to see the wildlife of Madagascar and understand more about the Malagasy people and culture.

I had an amazing experience from start to finish. The office were really helpful before my departure and provided us with a lot of information about what to take out, what to expect and put me in touch with the other members of our volunteer group so we could email each other ahead of time. I was very nervous to travel all that way by myself but I felt that they made things really easy and even sent through an email detailing exactly what to do on arrival, how to go about getting your Malagasy visa and a sim card etc.

I loved my time in the village with the team - all the research assistants, staff and guides were really knowledgeable and I learnt so much about the Malagasy ecosystem as well as Malagasy culture and language. The country is beautiful and I felt like I had the best experience of it as we had the chance to live within a Malagasy community while working with the charity and really see what life is like there for a rural community.

Even though it rained for about 2 weeks which sometimes interrupted our transects, I had a fantastic time with the other volunteers and staff as we amused ourselves in camp with card games, stories and songs to keep everyone’s spirits up. A highlight was the bush party which the staff organised - the whole community came out and we had the chance to see Malagasy dance and live music, as well as enjoy some vanilla rum!

I had an amazing time and would recommend to anyone who wanted to experience Madagascar.”

Jonny - 2012

“A 20 year old boy who hasn't left home for more than a week embarking on 10 weeks in a 3rd world country is quite a challenge! But right from the word go, the charity helped me accomplish this challenge!

The charity is phenomenal in my opinion. From the guys the UK office who answer all your questions before departure to the 4 Malagasy guides who look after whilst on the project. I can't speak high enough of these 4 people. From day one they make themselves known to the group and straight away you pick these are 4 fantastic people, who are so grateful that you have given up your time & money to benefit their country!

The landscape of Madagascar is beautiful, not a day went by you wouldn't see a mountain range, whether it would be up close to your campsite or in the distance it would still be jaw dropping! And of course their is the lemurs!!

The project itself is very well run, you go through stages of time in the 'bush', as they call it, to being back at the base camp. The balance was perfect, from hard work of repairing schools & planting trees to a slightly laid back end to the project by building latrines whilst visiting the beautiful beaches!

Overall, my time in Madagascar was outstanding. A 100 times better than I could of ever of imagined. I went there to gain a perspective on life & learn a new culture. I achieved this and so much more! If anyone wants to do volunteer work abroad DO IT! It will reward you more than you can imagine.

It is a very well run charity, who I will strongly recommend to anyone wanting an amazing experience. I hope to return to Madagascar soon and to work again.”

Sue - 2012

“The arrival and getting orientated was well organised and when we set off into the bush the adventure really started. We were lucky enough to be building a school that was in its final phase but there was still a lot to do. We were well aware of the importance of the school from our meeting with the local Mayor and were keen to finish it if at all possible.

The conditions were basic; tents, no running water - just a pump, no electricity, long drop toilets a short walk away across the building site and very basic food. However, the group were great and we all mucked in. The staff were helpful and made us feel welcome.

Compared with some other organisations I've been with, I can really recommend this charity. They take their projects very seriously and because they work in one small, very disadvantaged corner of Madagascar, they know what they are doing and look after volunteers. They made sure we knew about what they were doing across all their projects and got to know the staff in the HQ as well as in the field. I really feel they are making a difference and are well known in the community for their lasting positive influence.

Madagascar is extremely poor, extremely beautiful and full of unique flora and fauna. They need volunteers so please go!”

Iona - 2012

“My trip to Madagascar came about after getting totally mesmerised by David Attenborough's Madagascar documentary. I wasn't exactly a stranger to travel before this having been all over USA, Europe and Australia as well as Morocco, Cuba and Antigua. However, I'd not done something quite as different as this before.

The team are so friendly and helpful. Despite the fact that there are only a few of them that work in the UK they are still really easy to get hold of if you have any questions. They send you so much information about what you need to do, what you need to take and put you in touch with the others in your group so you can swap advice and get to know each other a bit before you go.

Once we got over there the team there were just as amazing. They're friendly, fun and so knowledgeable. They break you in gently with a night at their campsite in the town which has the luxury of outdoor shower cubicles and toilets. The truck ride from here to the campsite is one of the most fun parts of the trip (although I wouldn't recommend being too hungover for it!). You'll find some amazing ways to balance on all the bags of rice, tents and building materials you have to pack in with all of you.

We spent the main part of the trip camping next to the school site we were building. Amenities consisted of a well to pump your shower water out of, buckets to use as shower heads, some tarpaulin hooked around trees as cubicles and two concrete holes in the ground (with walls and doors) as toilets. But really this is all you need. It might sound scary at first but you really do just get used to it. In the whole time we were there there was only one spider incident (I get more in my house in England!).

The food did get a bit repetitive (rice and beans anyone?) but meat there is expensive. Do take lots of spices and stock cubes with you for variation. We did have our own home reared chickens which we killed and cooked, and Zebu (like beef) a couple of times and it was so tasty. There was also a fisherman that walked through the campsite most days so we did buy the most amazingly fresh fish from him a couple of times too. All the food is prepared and cooked by locals (so that if one of your group gets sick it reduces the risk of you spreading the sickness - plus they are much better at cooking). Other things that would have been good to take are some squash and sweets.

Breakfast consists of amazingly sweet donut type things, banana loaf, bananas, rice (of course) and coffee. You all eat on a long table made out of the school benches you will be making and every night was great fun. Make sure there is at least one of you with an iPod and portable speakers and a few packs of cards. There is also a small 'shop' on site for you to buy local rum and beer (surprisingly good warm) and town is a short walk away with places to buy street food. The market is definitely worth going to too.

Although most of the trip involved manual labour, the fact that there was no electricity and therefore totally cut off from the outside world meant it was the most relaxing holiday I've ever had. You can truly forget about all the stresses of home and concentrate on appreciating where you are and what you are doing.

I wish I could go back all the time and I hope to return one day. I wouldn't hesitate to go with the charity and continue to donate to their amazing work now I am back in the UK.

Other things to do: - sunrise at the top of the hill (definitely worth the 4am start) - football match with the locals (they might have just one boot but they'll still beat you) - meeting with the mayor - bonfire party with the locals - stargazing - picking bugs off you clothing before getting into the tent - nightly shouting of "malarone' as you all remember to take your malaria tablets - Three Horses Beer - buying locally made bags - wonder why the guides are laughing at you then realising that it's about to pour with torrential rain and you haven't dug a moat around your tent like them - learn Malagasy

One final tip - you won't have eaten dairy for quite a while, don't go eat a huge cheese pizza just before getting on the plane home. Your stomach and the person next to you will not thank you.”

Eve - 2007

“I spent 10 weeks volunteering on in January 2007. I had an absolutely brilliant time and met such amazing people, volunteers and staff alike. I felt confident the work we were doing was extremely beneficial to the local communities, and was well informed and very well looked after throughout. The work we did included building a school and latrines, planting trees and some health and environmental education in local schools.

It was often tough and very wet, but surrounded by such a great team, it was always enjoyable. Weekends in the town were a great chance to relax and have fun, and travelling afterwards was an amazing opportunity to see more of this stunning country. I am still planning on going back, and am still in touch with some of the inspirational people I met.

I would highly recommend all of the volunteer projects in Madagascar, and am myself currently volunteering for the charity in London, as I think the work they are doing is so important and valuable”.

Find out more about the Community, Building and Conservation project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal