In coastal communities in the southwest of Madagascar only one in three children go to school, and most do not make it beyond primary level. Our Education programme has been supporting young people in the Velondriake area for over 10 years, and to mark this achievement we’re releasing a series of student profiles. Each profile will share the inspiring story of a student who has benefitted from the financial support of a Blue Ventures Scholarship.
Lucia was one of the first students to receive a Blue Ventures scholarship when the education programme was launched in 2007. With continued support from Blue Ventures, she’s now studying geography at the University of Toliara, and during her recent break we found some time to catch up. She’s always been incredibly hard working, and is really enjoying the new challenge that university brings. “My favourite subjects are marine hydrology and environment, and I think I’m exceeding at them” she told me.
I remember when I first joined Blue Ventures, she was one of the girls that stood out from the others as she was always volunteering at the office and helping out with the Girls Club. She’s not the most talkative, but when she does speak, she shows a lot of confidence and a determined character. Life hasn’t always been easy for Lucia, but she’s a tough girl.
“I cannot exactly remember when and why, but my parents got divorced when I was very young. If you asked relatives and friends, you’d hear various reasons for their separation. As for me, I simply say that my dad found another woman, but he is my dad and will always stay my dad. He used to give me a little bit of money when we met each other on the street, and I appreciate that!”
It was no surprise to me to hear that she’d been elected the treasurer of the Vezo Students’ Association at the University of Toliara. I’d seen her capacity for leadership when she used to help out the Andavadoaka Girls Club, and prior to that when she was the President of the Morombe Girls Club and treasurer of the Tsontso Environmental Club.
“Organising and leading sessions for those clubs are definitely my favourite memories from that time,” she reminisced. “Through the clubs, we could all support and help each other in our studies, and it was important for me to encourage the girls to keep on studying. I asked them to think about what they were going to do in the future and to hold on to that!”
While she was awaiting the results of her university entrance exam, Lucia used to wake up early in order to cook “bokoboko” (small breakfast snacks) and soup. I would often see her on the street selling them before then going to volunteer at the Blue Ventures office. This hard work paid off, because she was able to use the money she’d saved to supplement Blue Ventures’ support in funding her university expenses the next year!
Lucia has always been the first to help others in their studies, and we wish her all the best in her own going forwards. Without the financial support she’s received over her years of schooling, her current situation would not not have been possible, and she asked me to pass this message on to all supporters of the Education programme.
“I would like to thank those who have supported my studies throughout these years. I know I would never have been able to study and earn my baccalaureate and get into university if I hadn’t been supported by Blue Ventures’ scholarships programme. May God bless you for what you have done!”
Lucia is just one example of over 500 former Blue Ventures scholarship beneficiaries, but there are many more young people in the Velondriake area who are financially unable to continue their education.
An education provides these young people with future livelihood alternatives beyond fishing, and the majority of students wish to use the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired through years of study to give back to the communities that have done so much for them.
With a donation of £5 per month or £50 per year, you can support a high school student for an entire year, allowing them to realise their full potential and advance marine conservation within their communities.
Thanks to Amanda Millin for editorial support with this blog.
All photos from Feno Hanitriniala.