Category Archives: Madagascar

Wells, orphans and mosquitos

Last Saturday we arrived back from our final bush trip at Ebakika where we dug a well, built a latrine for a school, built a tree nursery and did a talk at a couple of local schools about cleaning your teeth as well as handing out toothbrushes. This was the toughest trip of the three that we have been on while on the pioneer programme as the work was a lot more physical, think mixing lots of concrete by hand, digging lots and carrying countless bags of sand up a hill, and everyone was beginning to get a bit weary from the previous work. Also this time there were no beautiful beaches to escape to on a day off and on one of our days off we were confined to the campsite as it was general election day.

The well was our favourite project and the one that the villagers got most involved in, they loved teaching us new words and hearing us repeat them, usually to fits of laughter from them. We had great fun one afternoon when the heavens opened and turned the latrine into mud wrestling pit, I got a bit of the action and Viv was an amused spectator.

We really loved the villagers here, particularly the children. Everywhere we went was greeted with choruses of the few English phrases that they have previously been taught – ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’, ‘What is your name?’ and variations on that theme including ‘Hello goodbye my name!’ The children also got involved in the projects, mostly helping to carry sand or help out at the well.

Other notable moments were finding a scorpion in our tent, Mark breaking his finger and Charlie getting malaria. On our very last night there we were treated to an fantastic performance from the two local village bands with dancers, a really high note to end our bush trips on.

Back in Fort Dauphin Viv and I organised a Christmas day at the orphanage where we made decorations and decorated the school room with the orphans as well as playing musical statues and pass the parcel with them outside. It gave us a really warm glow to have brought a bit of Christmas to the children, the delight on a little boy’s face when he got a watch in pass the parcel was just priceless.

Viv had been feeling particularly tired all week which we put down to the hard work but on Thursday night she developed a fever and on Friday morning it was confirmed as malaria. It isn’t actually as serious as it sounds and the treatment is straight forward as we have caught it early so she’ll be fine in a couple of days and was looking much, much more spritely this morning.

And that’s about our travels almost over. We have until Tuesday left in Fort Dauphin then it’s on to the capital Antananarivo for a couple nights then we fly to Johannesburg on Thursday where we’ll spend the day with Martin and Joanne and later that day we step onto our homeward bound flight arriving in Heathrow at 5.15am on Friday, just 6 days away! We’re getting so excited at coming home and can’t wait to see all our friends and family we’ve been missing so much.

And now I really can say to most of you ‘SEE YOU SOON!!’

A very brief post…

The only internet cafe in town is down at the moment (and has been for the last 2 weeks apparently…) so I’m using an azafady office coputer so will have to be very brief as time is very limited.

We arrived back from Sainte Luce yesterday where we successfully completed the house for the maternity nurses, a well, planted critically endangered trees and collected their seeds and made a few more improved stoves. I have now had 8 parasys and am currently sporting a rather fetching tropical ulcer (responding to antibiotics thankfully!), Viv has still escaped any such nasties.

We are currently enjoying the luxuries of town such as running water that is clear rather than the brown eggy smelling substance we pumped from a well and into a bucket to clean ourselves with in the bush and food that isn’t beans & rice, although the fish meals were excellent. We have now become food obsessives and many group conversations revolve around all the lovely foods that we currently have no access to and are longing for when we get home.

Our time back in Fort Dauphin is limited as we’re back to the bush on Thursday for a bit more well building with a latrine thrown in for good measure.

Only just over a month till we arrive back home – getting very excited by it now!


About to go back in the bush, minus a phone

Yes guys i’m afraid our Madagascar mobile phone has been stolen so nobody can call us for the time being. John still has his British phone for texts (07940 513969) but we’re not sure how he’s going to keep it charged as our only charger was also taken. Ah well, these things happen, we’ll see if we can arrange something when we get back from the bush.

Since John wrote we’ve been hanging around town asking passers by about their awareness of AIDS. Azafady are worried about AIDS in Madagascar even though the rate is pretty low in comparison to mainland Africa. The evil mining company John mentioned, Rio Tinto, are planning to bring in hundreds of workers from South Africa where the AIDS rate is about 1 in 4 compared to 1 in 90 here. The workers will be a long way from their families and so it’s not difficult to imagine the potential consequences if the locals are not aware of the risks.

The AIDS rate in parts of Africa, especially Swaziland, is truly incomprehensible. It’s really weird when you look around you in an African internet cafe and know that maybe four or five people you’re currently sharing a room with will die of AIDS.

Anyway back to Madagascar and the surveys: they were pretty interesting and caused much hilarity about town. Most people knew about sticking to one partner and wearing condoms but changing behaviour is a different thing entirely. Many people still don’t believe in AIDS as they’ve never met anyone who’s had it. There is clearly still a lot to do here if we want to stop Madagascar going down the same route as Africa. We’re not scheduled to do any more work on the issue here but Azafady is bidding for some funding to continue.

What we are going to do next is to rebuild some damaged rain forest, build a well and some accommodation for midwives at a remote village further up the coast. The accommodation for the midwives will be invaluable as it means that expectant mothers who get into trouble will actually have some help near by. There is no transport to speak of around there so mothers and babies have died in the past trying to make their way to help situated miles away.

We’re also going to build some more efficient stoves to keep fighting against the need to chop down forest for fuel. More silly dancing for John then!

And finally. The maggot tally is currently 5-0 to John. He is now officially a complete scrubber, don’t worry they’ve all been successfully prised away from the inside of his feet.

Take care all!


Back from the bush

Right, expect a brief and badly typed email with lots of typos and uncorrected spelling errors. Blame the french keyboard and wobbly monitor screen.

Madagascar is going well for the both of us and the group is now gelling well and we’ve just come back from our first trip to the bush just up the coast in Hovatra. We had a range of jobs to do while we were there, the first of which was building vegetable gardens for some villagers so that they have better nutrition in their diets and also giving them the opportunity to sell the produce. We spent many hours bashing clay into powder and then using that powder to make cement from which we made improved cooking stoves for some villagers which are 6 times more efficient than their present stoves which means that they have to chop down less indiginous forest. My highlight from the stove building was entertaining about 30 assembled villagers while the stove was being constructed with lots of singing and dancing – they loved watching these strange foreigers dance and found it hilarious. although that could have been my dancing! We’ve both taught a couple of English lessons at the local school and also painted the new school building that was built by the last group of pioneers. Viv also dug herself into a hole, quite literally, by digging a latrine that was as deep as she is tall. Fortunately she made it out before it was put into active service! Our time in Hovatra was rounded off with a bit of health education where we did a play about washing your hands after you’ve had a poo after which I became a local celebrity with many children greeting me by my character name, Rokoto, when they saw me around the village. It was a really awesome place to start off as we felt so warmly welcomed by the villagersm particularly the children and the projects we did had a very clear benefit.

In other news we’ve eaten a lot of beans and rice, drank some moonshine with the local village chief, voluntarily woken up at 5.30am every day and had maggots removed from feet (me).

If anyone wants to call us the number to use is 00261 324 356336 and best times for calling us are from 4pm your time till about 7ish. (from 3 till 6 when the clocks go back). You can even write to us as letter will be delivered to us in the bush – see the a couple of posts ago for the address. You have until next Tuesday night to contact us as that’s when we’ll be back in the bush until the 19th November.

Don’t forget also that Rightee is selling charity christmas cards and limited edition photographic prints on our behalf – get your orders in quick! All the details can be found here.

Apologies for everyone I’ve intended to, but haven’t, emailed. We’re getting very little internet time at the moment and there just isn’t the time. I’ll be hopefully seeing you all face to face come Christmas anyway so can have a proper catch up then.


Quick post from Madagascar


Going to keep this brief as dont have much time and this french keyboard makes it infuriatingly slow to type!

We arrived last Thursday and are currently having lots of orientation lessons about the work of azafady and have spent two afternoons carry sods of earth to and fro.

We have a Madagascqr mobile that you cqn call us on. The number is 00261 324 356336. It quite cheap to call through skype apparently. Best time to call is from 4pm your time till about 7ish. (from 3 till 6 when the clocks go back)

Finally, Rio Tinto mining company are evil and want to destroy much of Madagascar’s remaining forests and you should buy stuff from traidcraft as they are one of azafady’s main sponsors.


John and Viv

Madagascar and fundraising bits and bobs

Quick post just to let you know about a few bits and bobs prior to us jetting off for Madagascar.

We don’t think we’ll be able to remain in as good contact while we’re there as we’ll be spending a large part of our time out in the bush and the internet is pretty rubbish apparently when we’re near the town. If you do want to get in contact with us while we’re there you can write to us at:

John Hobson/Vivyan Lisewski,
ONG Azafady,
Pioneer Programme,
Tolagnaro 614

Please don’t send any parcels as they are unlikely to get through!

As part of our Azafady fundraising Rightee has set up a website with details about photographic prints and greetings/Christmas cards that you can order from him – all profits will go towards our Azafady fundraising efforts. Go to to take a look at the prints and cards and to get details on how you can order.

Thanks once again to everyone who has donated and helped out towards our fundraising efforts – we appreciate it so much! Could any of you who have donated via the website or sent a cheque to Azafady and haven’t received an e-mail of thanks from us please let us know as some donations may have fallen down the cracks and we’re trying to chase them up.

In other news it’s congratulations to Viv who has had an unconditional offer from Edinburgh University for one of only 14 places to study ‘Plant Taxonomy and Diversity’, well done Viv! The course starts in September 2007 so at some point next year we’ll be moving up to Edinburgh.

I’d also like to apologise to so many of you whom I owe a response to an e-mail, we couldn’t get on the net in Namibia and now we’re in last minute rush territory before we go. Please keep writing, it’s great to hear from everyone and any lack of response on my part in no way reflects that I can’t actually be bothered to pen a reply.

And I think that’s about all we have to say for now. It seems that we’re now entering the last chapter of our travels and doing the voluntary work seems a fitting way to finish up the travels after having been self-indulgantly travelling for over 10 months now.

After Madagascar we will be returning home, we touch down at Heathrow before dawn on the 22nd December. We’re so looking forward to seeing many of you around or shortly after Christmas, until then, goodbye!

Thank You Again!

This is just a quickie to say thank you so much to all of you who have donated so far and especially the people who have kindly helped us to raise money. So far our joint efforts have raised an incredible 1484 pounds. With the Jiv donation that makes it 2484 so we’re not far away from the total.

Special thanks to our parents for their help and also to these fundraising stars :

Mary Booth
Rachel Hobson
Gabrielle Porter
Lyndsey Potter
Nicola Shires
The irrepressible Gran T (you need to meet her!)
and last but never least Andy Wright.

For those of you who still want to donate, you’re not too late. We’ll be closing the donation page on Wednesday 27th September, the deadline for cheques will be a week before on the 20th.

Also for anybody interested in exclusive John Hobson photographic art, Andy Wright (with help from his selection panel) has been squirreling away producing photographic prints as well as Christmas and Birthday cards. All in aid of Azafady of course! You should be hearing more about this soon but let us know if you’re interested in a mounted print or set of cards.

It’s now only just over two weeks before we head off for our life in a tent where we’ll be working on projects to improve sanitation, to help create vital maternity health infrastructure and to continue to survey the flora and fauna of the region. How exciting!

Take care to you all again and


Viv xxx

Your help needed! – John and Viv’s charity fundraising challenge.

In October we will be going to Madagascar for 10 weeks of voluntary work out in the jungle. During this time we will be living in a tent and will pretty much eat nothing but beans and rice (mmm, lovely beans and rice!). We also need to learn French, and fast, as that’s the only language spoken on the island. We’ll be working on projects to help some of the poorest people in the world and to protect the rainforest habitat of Madagascar’s lemurs.

As well as donating ourselves to charity for ten weeks, we’ve promised to raise 4000 English pounds for Azafady and we need your help! Azafady are a UK registered charity, more details below.

Being half way across the world makes it a little tricky for us to organise events and the like to raise the money and this is where we call on you, our esteemed friends, families and other assorted waifs and strays, to help us out. There are a number of ways in which you can lend a hand, most of which need not take up much of your valuable time or even money. Anything that you can do to help us will be rewarded with our eternal gratitude and beer. Anyhow, those options are:

  • Volunteer to sell raffle tickets (we can provide them)
  • Come up with your own (wacky or not wacky) fundraising ideas
  • Remember us for existing or planned charity events
  • Donate directly. You can donate your life savings through our special Azafady web page or send us a cheque (just email one of us and we’ll send you an address).

We’ve started the ball rolling ourselves by donating 1000 pounds. This more than pays for any costs Azafady might incur from us being in Madagascar and we’ve also paid for our flights and transportation. That means that any donations or help from you will go 100% direct to the charity.

Ok, that’s the begging letter done with, what follows is some information about Azafady and the work they do that our fundraising efforts will directly support.

WHO ARE AZAFADY? – They’re a UK registered charity (no 1079121) and Madagascar Non Governmental Organisation.

Azafady means ‘please’ in Malagasy. The charity aims to help the people of Madagascar by providing sanitation, clean drinking water and basic health care and the environment by promoting sustainable livelihoods and improving conservation research.

Last year alone Azafady gave access to clean drinking water to around 4000 people, access to basic health care to at least 10,000 people, planted thousands of trees, numerous gardens and created small income generating industries in 5 villages.


About the People:

  • Most people live as subsistence farmers, their extreme poverty (70% living on less than $1 per day) drives deforestation as they clear land to grow crops.
  • 10% of children will die before they reach their 5th birthday, most from preventable diseases.
  • Only around one quarter of the population currently have access to safe drinking water.

About the Environment:

  • Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the worlds and sits 400 km East of Mozambique.
  • 80% of the plant and animals species in Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth, this includes the critically
    endangered Lemurs, two thirds of the worlds chameleon species and the cancer treating rosy periwinkle.
  • 85-95% of the original forest cover has been destroyed, mostly due to slash and burn agriculture.

To solve the environmental issues Azafady aim to tackle poverty and promote sustainable livelihoods to ease the pressure on the forest. To that end Azafady is as much a humanitarian charity as an environmental one.

Please help, we live pretty cushy lives compared to this lot. Even if it’s just one less bottle of wine or one less Chinese takeaway, the money could go towards helping some of the poorest people on Earth and protecting a habitat that’s really on its last chance. Without intervention it will be gone forever, extinction isn’t reversible.

And lastly……. Some quotes from famous people

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH on Azafady and Madagascar in 1999.

‘Although this immense island has now lost much of its vegetation, its forest still survives on the South East Corner and it still contains spectacular populations of monkey like Lemurs and much else besides. At the moment the forest is gravely threatened by short-term development and by the risk of fire. Project Lokaro [a conservation initiative of Azafady] aims to save it.’

GERALD DURELL on Madagascar in 1994

‘It is essential that the world realizes the biological importance of the island and the plight of its people and hurries to the rescue of this extraordinary corner of the globe’