Testimony of Cecilio Augustin on his trip to Madagascar in 2017
To talk about this trip to Madagascar is to talk about three things. What is a trip, what is Madagascar, and what is Agua de Coco. And it is on this tripod of realities that the importance and interest of this trip is based, which I have not found in others, without detracting from them.
As a traveler, I always thank the organization and the ability to make decisions in small contingencies. With good hotels (within the possibilities of an impoverished country) and restaurants to eat, ending up in the solidarity Hotel in Mangily, where it is not only beautiful, but also very well maintained facilities that make an enjoyable stay, as a culmination of the trip.
Where the trip is made in a taxi-blousse through the only road from the capital to Tulear (550km), with a Malagasy guide (experienced from previous years) along with the person who accompanies us from Agua de Coco who contributed to the full confidence in the security and attention not to lose details of what we could see and be amazed at the ways of daily life and people.
In this journey and the following days, we passed through several towns and cities visiting workshops and factories in the country, where as I said above we took the pulse of daily life and a social reality of a peaceful and happy people (the smile on their faces is carried all day). To this we add the enjoyment and beauty of the landscape. Because the beauty of the Ranomafana National Park (rainforest) and the Isalo National Park, with the Lemos one meter away from us, with their waterfalls and natural pools, where we would go swimming at our own pleasure (because the water is more than fresh). Its hiking routes, the beach of Mangily with the sunset taken from a book of postcards of Eden. And whale watching, since it was the breeding season, made for an unforgettable trip.
And the third leg of the tripod was to see the Coconut Water projects. Seeing them live (since I only knew them through the website) surpasses what I imagined of the work and the work being done there to fulfill its objectives of contributing to improving the quality of life of disadvantaged people in the countries of the South, especially women and children, through education as a driver of sustainable development.
Thus the Farm School of Fianarantsoa, with a whole structure and organization, and a very wide extension between vineyards, rice fields, planting areas for each of the students (70), well, kitchen and food areas, wood, animals (pigs, chickens, cows, zebus, goats), classrooms, botanical garden, which covers the training and preparation of young people for their subsequent autonomy, with a strong component of preservation and forms of cultivation in line with the area.
The next two days we visited the school in Andtsohamadiro, where 300 children are being educated and trained. In a town where they work in the mines of Zafiros and where the schooling would be zero, since there is no school around, if this project does not exist.
A school in the middle of nowhere, but even during the vacation period it had a life of children playing, of mothers, and of work in building more structures or improving the existing ones. As the water was brought to supply the school itself. Schooling of children that is accompanied by one meal a day (the only one they do), receiving complementary training on reproductive health and hygiene issues.
In the afternoon we visited the Tulear el Cinema Tropic, the CAM (The Art and Music Centre), where film, gospel singing, a brass band, percussion-bloco, capoeira and circus groups are held, and where between five and six hundred young people are collected. It is impressive in a city that does not give many opportunities for fun, leisure and training to young people, that the NGO Agua de Coco (Bel Aveni) provides so many activities to young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods (in a city already with significant poverty rates).
But it doesn’t stop there, because the next day we were in sports centers, where soccer, basketball, volleyball… are provided to these young people. How, being a small organization, can it reach so much?
But there were still more projects to see. Nutritional Education Center, impressive, Residence for forty girls, school of Las Salinas, project for training from primary to professional training, where 1,300 children are welcomed. A beautiful project for the follow-up and care of eighty mothers who have just given birth.
The solidarity hotel, where we enjoy it, and where all the income is invested in the projects. Mangily Environmental Education Center with its 28 hectares.
If this trip has exceeded the expectations I had of it, it is because of the impact I have when, through my own eyes and senses, I do a sixteen-day immersion exercise in a country where the parameters of life are governed by different paths.
Although we must let ourselves be impressed and not look for reasons of why, which we would find hundreds, but to open the soul and walk among their customs, people, landscape and ways of life.
Thanks to Agua de Coco for this wonderful trip. Thanks for the beauty of the project to everyone who dedicates time and/or money.
Cecilio Augustin, volunteer at Agua de Coco