Testimony of Romain : a student of IFF Europe

Romain, one of our students from the D.U (bac + 3) Humanitarian Project Management (CPH) spent a month and a half in Madagascar, working with street children in Antsirabe, the third largest city in the country. What did he learn from this experience of solidarity? Testimony.

"I did my internship with the association Grandir à Antsirabe, a partner of the Grandira federation, which fights against the vulnerability of children. On site, my main mission was to support the indigenous educators in the evenings and, one or two nights a week, in the emergency and temporary accommodation of street children in Antsirabe. Every day, when the sun began to set, the children arrived: they were welcomed, their hygiene was taken care of, and then activities were offered to them (literacy, play activities, etc.). Malagasy educators helped me to be understood by the children. I was also able to take part in the association's daytime activities: for example "bibliopousse", a rickshaw with a small mobile library with which we went to different underprivileged neighbourhoods of Antsirabe to read stories to the children. They were taught hygiene, rules of life or choreography. Behind all these activities, the idea was to give the children confidence so that they would not be afraid of us and would know the reception centre. During the marauds at night, in the poor areas of the city, our presence and visibility were important to maintain links with them. I was confronted with very great poverty, misery was everywhere.                                                                                                                  

In the end, the experience was very positive despite the difficulties encountered (especially the language barrier which did not allow me to speak easily with the children). I had left to be shaken in my values. I was served: seeing the misery in which these street children lived was a shock, especially at night. The local education team was courageous but sometimes they seemed to accept the status quo and misery without wanting to take the problems head on. They are so accustomed to difficult situations that they sometimes find it difficult to find ways to get out of them, so at times I was gnawing at my brakes. But I was still able to take initiatives on several occasions that made things a little better. For example, when I arrived, the Malagasy educators never held a meeting before the children arrived at the centre for a briefing or debriefing the night before: there was no feedback on what had happened the previous evening at the centre. I suggested that we set up this discussion time before the children arrived and once set up, it paid off. It made it possible to see every day what needed to be improved or, on the contrary, what was good. Another very positive thing in my eyes: when it was the first time in my life that I lived in a country so different from France, I realised that I could adapt to a completely new environment: the street, the people, the language, the way of working, etc. I was able to see that I could adapt to a completely new environment. I was even able to indulge one of my passions by painting a fresco on a wall. Seeing the children make the drawing their own was a great success for me. »


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