It was a very sad week in Andavadoaka as we lost (they left, we didn’t mislay them) two of our staff members on the same day. Craig, our medic, and Tristan, a field scientist. They had both been around for nine months and were both really hard workers and big personalities. More than a few tears were shed when they left on Wednesday and the air felt very flat afterwards. Though that could also have been to do with the thunderstorm which had passed through the village about an hour before.
To keep myself and a few of the volunteers occupied, I decided to hold a brainstorm (as opposed to a thunderstorm) with some of the female volunteers to see if we could come up with some ideas for the women’s association. Currently, the Andavadoaka women’s association have a few wares to sell, and come up to our classroom on a Sunday to show them to us. However, they did not have a very large repertoire the first Sunday that they came and their products weren’t to everyone’s taste. So, we sat down together and had a great time thinking about all the things that they could make to sell, that wouldn’t end up with them having a lot of stock that no one wanted to buy. Suggestions varied from embroidered bookmarks, through to pencil cases, and wrap around skirts (which don’t therefore require difficult sizing)… That afternoon, Lalao (the Malagasy staff member working with the women’s association) and I presented the ideas to the women.
We held the meeting sat out on the beach, and Lalao introduced me, read out the ideas and translated my explanations. They seemed to think that giving dance lessons was absolutely hysterical! Blue Ventures promised to help them out in buying new materials if necessary and they agreed to pay us back with the profits. I didn’t think much more of it until Sunday came around again and the women came up to hold their stall. In fact, I had completely forgotten that they were coming but that dinnertime, I noticed that four of the volunteers were wearing new clothes. The women had not only taken on board our suggestions, but had put them into action there and then! They’d made the small bags we’d suggested, some wrap-around skirts, a simple dress and pencil cases. I think that they actually sold everything that they brought. They also brought some food and sold out of that too!
In a country where everything seems to take an inordinate amount of time from idea to fruition, it just seemed immensely satisfying to see a few ideas germinate and be realised in less than a week.