"We were not supposed to leave. We have to go back [to the island]!"

-Jack Shepard

Friday, November 9, 2012

Help Make My Dream Come True!

I’m coming home in January!  My time in Madagascar is so close to being finished; I’m not sure if it hasn’t really hit me yet or if I’m just so excited to move on with my life that I’m just going to skip the surreal leaving-my-home-for-the-past-2-ish-years gloomy phase.  I’ve been teaching my classes double time to finish them by December.  I’ve already got most of my paperwork in order and have my stuff mentally arranged and packed.  The only major thing left to do is realize my dream/#1 Peace Corps goal that I’ve had since August 2010: Build an English center in Fort Dauphin.  It’s well on the way to becoming a reality – the major obstacle right now is money, not to mention time.  I originally promised myself that I would never have to ask money from my family and friends for a project, but I also never thought I’d be leaving so abruptly with my English center so close to being completed.  I’ve posted tidbits here and there about my efforts to create the center throughout the years, but here’s a more comprehensive description:

I have a dream that someday the people of Fort Dauphin will have a place to gather to speak, listen, read, write, and learn in the English language.  Colonial ties to France are slowly diminishing in Madagascar, and cultural and economic influences from countries like South Africa, Britain, and especially the United States are rising.  Fort Dauphin is an even more special case in that an unusually high proportion of people here can already speak or have a real desire/need to learn English, largely due to the influence from the Anglo-Australian mining company, former American Lutheran missionaries, and international tourism.  Some days I literally cannot leave my house without some person, business, or organization asking me to teach them English.  I’ve often said that Peace Corps could put 10 education volunteers in this town and it still wouldn’t be enough to meet the demand.

There used to be an American English center here, but it failed largely because it depended too much on foreigners to teach and run it.  My goal is to create an English center that is from the community and for the community.  I want it to be run by local English teachers and enthusiasts, not by Peace Corps volunteers or outside interests.  It will be a place where students can read books and literature, use interactive computer programs, hear and watch English with AV equipment, and learn it together whether in classes or casual interactions.  I also want to stress that this is NOT my idea.  The community not only inspired it, but asked for it directly.  I’m just helping the people in Fort Dauphin implement their own dream, which is why I believe it will be both successful and sustainable.  What I’ve obtained so far is a location donated from the Regional government and a good start-up collection of books (mostly about environmental issues and America) donated by the US Embassy in Antananarivo.

All that said, the project has start-up costs, but I have less than 2 months to get it up-and-running.  I’ve been using a lot of my own money to cover minor expenses, but that’s only going to get us so far.  We will of course be soliciting donations from local businesses, organizations, etc., but that could take a while, especially since everything moves slower in Madagascar.  Some things we need to pay for immediately: Repairs to the center location (think leaky roof, missing windows, rusty locks…), paints and brushes to decorate the walls, furniture (chairs, tables, bookshelves), a whiteboard and markers, general office supplies, electricity, signs and advertisements, and an opening ceremony.

So please, if you have a few extra dollars (even just $5 will buy a can of paint) or a larger sum that you were considering donating to a worthy cause, please consider donating it to my English center project so that the people here in the south of Madagascar can learn English, advance their careers or their studies, learn the value of community involvement and volunteerism, and – most importantly – love America more than France!  Kidding…

If you’re interested in donating, please contact me via email or Facebook, or you can talk to my mom.  I can’t give you tax deductions, but I will paint your name or your company’s name on the wall of the English center!  I’ll also send you pictures and updates.  Also, if anyone is interested in donating books, equipment, or other materials, we’re definitely in need of a more complete resource center.  You’d have to pay for shipping, but I think there might be discounts if you send library materials.

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