“Escape to Madagascar” fundraiser

by Louise Collingwood, medical elective student and supporter of the Safidy programme, Exeter, UK

Blue Ventures has been working to provide reproductive health services in the Velondriake locally managed marine area for six years now, training local women to act as community-based distributors of contraceptives and other health supplies across 40 villages. The community health team are expanding this successful model to the Belo sur Mer area, and we (a group of medical students from the University of Exeter, along with Dr Vik Mohan, Blue Ventures’ medical director) have taken on the challenge of fundraising to support this.

We started by spending a long but productive evening bouncing ideas around; some were unoriginal (bake sales, raffles, etc) while others were rather ambitious (having Joss Stone as a star guest or entertainment). Nevertheless, the ethos was always to “aim high”! We eventually came to the conclusion that an evening including a meal and an auction would be perfect. We had previous experience with this kind of event, having run an auction last year, where students sold their skills (ukulele teaching, cooking, etc) but as we were trying to “aim high” we started to think about approaching working professionals as well as students, and obtaining a glamorous venue.

Vik Mohan giving an inspiring speech before the auction
Vik Mohan giving an inspiring speech before the auction

After lots of preparation, the evening arrived and we found ourselves at the magnificent Reed Hall in Exeter. We had prizes ranging from a luxury vanilla and chocolate hamper from LittlePod to a “How to Survive in the Wild” course. We also had bundles of information about Safidy, treats for the tables and a testing yet eye-opening quiz about Madagascar and community health. The venue was beautiful and the weather was perfect! The guests arrived, and we mingled with them to discuss the incredible Safidy programme.

Dinner was butternut squash soup followed by coconut curry, finished off with some delicious fruit salad enjoyed in the sun-dappled gardens. Sadly there was no rice tea or zebu in sight though. The quizzes were completed by all of the tables, and the answers read out. Vik then gave an inspiring and wallet-opening talk, highlighting the amazing achievements of the Safidy programme to date, and communicating his infectious passion for keeping this work going and growing. Our guests were truly moved so there was only one thing left to do; it was time for the auction!

The auction was a resounding success, and all in all we managed to raise over £2,000! It was an absolute pleasure to be part of such a wonderful evening with such lovely people. I would like to thank everyone involved (organisers, auction donors and guests) for making it such a fantastic event! Now it’s time to start planning our next fundraiser… watch this space!