Madagascar: education to lead people out of poverty
11 August 2015 Projects
The Saint Bernadette Conference is based in Ampitatafika, (district of Antananarivo South). The President is Marianne Razafiarisoa, and there are 12 active members, aged from 19 to 65. Given the lack of an educational structure and growing demand for training, the Vincentians have combined their energies to meet these local needs, creating a centre called “MA-CLEF” (My Key), symbolising the hope for a better future linked with educational success…. “The KEY to success!”
The centre opened in December 2009, initially offering language courses (French and English). The training programme was expanded: in September 2010, the technical school started up with courses in Management and Business, followed a month later by higher-level training in International Business Management, Communications and Law. The idea of helping young people to access professional studies and training had already begun to emerge. An orphanage at Vatomandry (east coast of M/car) and a Catholic social centre in the capital began to send orphans to board at the Centre.
In 2012, the centre faced budget problems: scanty income from training courses was inadequate to cover the increased rent demanded by the owner of the premises. At the end of the lease, the volunteers decided to move the centre to cheaper but smaller premises, which could not accommodate the technical school. It had to close, to the great disappointment of the students’ parents. Only office technology and language training, along with the 4 higher professional courses, will be retained.
Aggregated in 2013 by the International Council General, the Saint Bernadette Conference operates on donations that often come from the volunteers themselves, and rarely from outside sources. Conference members provide help to students for their tuition fees as well as school supplies. Some of the young people are orphaned, and others are from families living in poverty, coming from social centres all over the island. Marianne Razafiarisoa, the Conference President says: “These young people are resourceful despite their financial problems. They want to escape from poverty, that’s why they are studying to obtain qualifications and gain the necessary wisdom and skills”.
The MA-CLEF Centre operates with volunteers: 5 teachers, a social assistant and 3 trainees. It is also open to children from nearby schools, offering recreational activities and learning support. “We are giving everyone a helping hand, and we share the tasks according to our duties” explains Marianne.
“The St Bernadette Conference is also working this school year to fund a trip to Majunga (a beach resort on the north west of the island) for students, organising “cake-based activities”. Only 2 of these students have ever seen the sea, and none of them has visited Majunga. If they had to rely only on their families, they would never be able to travel. It is already hard for them to pay for their schooling”.
Aware of how education is the key to escaping poverty, the leaders and the volunteers at the MA-CLEF Centre are working together with the same objectives:
- Teach, educate orphans and young people in need to become responsible, worthy citizens;
- Train young people, raising their awareness of possible professional skills to ensure they have a better future;
- Share knowledge and skills as well as our trust in God, for a better life, despite all the problems they endure.
- Offer permanent social support: not just help for learners, but also listening to people’s problems, whether in relationships or in their working lives.
The Centre presently operates through the huge commitment made by Conference members and volunteers, but its position is still precarious: the premises are old and at risk of collapse, the owner has also indicated that the lease will not be renewed. They will have to move again in 2016.
Despite the uncertainty over the future of the Centre, the Conference members are not short of projects and ideas for the future, such as purchasing a place where they could settle in the long-term, without worrying about a lease, and later on opening a home for the orphans cared for by the conference. Above all, they want to escape their isolation and link up with other Vincentians around the world, to share their own realities and exchange ideas.
The President goes on to say: “We realise that there are very many of these young Malagasy people (orphans and children in need) whether from the capital or elsewhere, seeking help and occupational training, such as that which we are offering. The number of requests for help increases daily, and we cannot meet them all. But we are not giving up, despite all the difficulties (financial, logistical, relationships, etc.) because we all know that GOD will help us in our sacred mission....We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8,28)
Our slogans: “Dignity – Perseverance – Success” - “LOVE – SERVE – SHARE” Lend us a helping hand, Vincentian brothers and sisters, for these God-given missions!
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