SKIP Southampton has a project based in Fianar and surrounding villages in Ambohimahamasina, Madagascar.
This poor community is heavily affected by inadequate sanitation and water supplies. Through the use of simple healthcare messages we aim to improve the health and sanitation practices of this community and provide a better future for its children.
Madagascar is often thought of as a lush tropical paradise with a population of talking animals! However, the reality is very different. Madagascar is an extremely poor country where 50% of people live on less than 50p per day and only 47% of the entire country has sustainable access to improved water supplies. Only 12% have access to improved sanitation, such as simple pit latrines. Children are particularly affected. In 2004 52.8% of under-fives were stunted and 36.8% underweight. Under-five mortality rate in 2006 was 115/1000 with 16.9% due to diarrhoeal disease. Following a research visit in 2006, SKIP Southampton chose to work with a community in Madagascar to improve this situation.
During our pilot project in summer 2007, work included teaching over 500 children how to stay healthy by being hygienic, as well as the provision of toilets and hand-washing facilities for the local schools. Since then, we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of fellow healthcare students wanting to get involved with SKIP. The Malagasy community and NGOs with whom we work have given very positive feedback and therefore we have expanded our project so that we can educate more children, build more facilities and improve hygiene practices. Our work in Madagascar’s second largest town, Fianarantsoa, and some surrounding villages in Ambohimahamasina now includes nutrition and dental messages. We are continuing construction work alongside local builders who are empowered to take pride and ownership in the buildings.
[Referenced from WHO Core Health Indicators ]
The mainstay of our project uses interactive learning (art, drama, songs and games) in the summer workshops as well as educating by example to teach children between the ages of 4-12 simple healthcare messages. Complementing this, our building work improves sanitation in key areas of the town and villages such as schools, healthcare centres and market places.
All of our volunteers pay local families to accommodate them throughout their stay so that we are supporting the local economy and are fully integrated into the community. SKIP Southampton paid for the hosts’ houses to be renovated and pit latrines be provided. The rooms can be rented out when we are not there providing a sustainable source of income.
Each year twelve young Malagasy people volunteer as translators for SKIP, and undergo six months of English tuition prior to our arrival. This equips the ‘counterparts’ with the necessary skills to work in Madagascar’s rapidly-expanding tourist industry, and gives them the opportunity to volunteer with us in their own community, working alongside us when teaching and building. Despite this, SKIP volunteers are encouraged to learn basic Malagasy such as greetings and classroom phrases during our training weekends.
Our work is in conjunction with two main partners:
- PSVV – ‘The Program to Save the Old City is a community based program that works with the inhabitants to rebuild pride in the site, to restore threatened buildings, and to promote economic and community development that will have a lasting impact on the site and its inhabitants.’ (http://www.madagascarvieilleville.info/?language=en)
- Ny Tanintsika/ Feedback Madagascar – They aim to ‘contribute to rural poverty reduction and to improved natural resource management in zones of high biodiversity that are under threat.’ (http://www.feedbackmadagascar.org)
Our Main interventions include:
- Teaching: hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, dental hygiene and basic English.
- Dental programme: to complement dental education we support the local provision of toothbrushes.
- Saturday workshops for mothers covering malaria prevention, correct antibiotic usage, exclusive breast feeding, water treatment and cooking demonstrations.
- Supporting/funding local construction work: latrines, handwashing facilities and sanitary market places.
We are careful that no intervention leads to the community becoming over-dependent on SKIP support, as this is inherently unsustainable.
This year we have increased the length of time spent by volunteers in Madagascar from 4 weeks to 6 weeks (12 weeks in total). Not only will this allow us to integrate more successfully into the community but will permit more continuity in teaching and building work. We will achieve more whilst maintaining a strong ethical framework. SKIP Southampton plans to continue developing workshops to target the older women of the community, as they are the role models for many of the children we educate.
SKIP Southampton is permanently working to improve the sustainability of its project in Madagascar through researching the impact of its interventions, carrying out needs assessments within the community and adjusting accordingly. We liaise closely with our NGOs and the community.
SKIP Southampton actively fundraise throughout the year for teaching and building materials, counterpart tuition and dictionaries, local transport, classroom rental and improving sanitation and refurbishment of host homes.
In 2008 we raised £8,900 with the hard work of our fundraising and publicity teams. This was achieved through many events including a sponsored skip for 24 hours, fundraising parties, street collections, speed dating, cake sales and carol singing. We also received a grant.
Our fundraising target for 2009 is £6,400 and we are well on our way to achieving this goal. Our publicity team is working to raise SKIP Southampton’s profile in the student body, with businesses and at schools.