I have never done this sort of thing before, but I have an idea that I’d like to share with you. As you know I have started a research project in the Eastern rainforest of Madagascar examining the development of young lemurs from birth until weaning. The research is going really, really well, we learn SO much, every single day. But, as you know, babies grow up remarkably fast. I’m hoping to make this a long-term project and so for starters, I will be back in the rainforest with the lemurs in less than 2 weeks 🙂
So what is this letter about? Well, since I started working in this forest with these people, I have developed a burning sense of responsibility for the people who work for me. Madagascar is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. The people who work with me, and who are so critically important to my research, make between $2 and $5 a day. “So pay them more Jody”, that’s what you must be thinking, that’s what I thought too. So I hire more people, give them more work, feed them 3 meals a day, I’ve bought them good rubber boots to work in and I buy them warm clothes for their kids. The village is high in the mountains where it rains a lot, and it is quite cold. Most kids do not have shoes or warm clothes. Personally, I find it so overwhelming and sad, sometimes I feel like I should take the money I spend on flights to get to Madagascar and just give it to these people instead! But that’s not sustainable. By developing a lemur research project, there is much more potential for long term jobs and income for these people…so I need to make my research funds last.
Here’s where you can help. Public school in Madagascar costs money. Parents have to pay per month. In Anevoka (the village near my research site) even if kids do well in primary school and pass their final exams with flying colours, they will most likely not continue schooling. That means that at 10 years old, most kids are finished with school. The closest secondary school is in a village only 15 minutes away by car….but there are no cars/buses available to these kids so it is a 2 1/2 hour walk. And of course there are the fees. I’ve been thinking about this so much, and here is what I’ve worked out.
* The secondary school year starts in October.
* School fees are $15 a month ($150 for a school year)
* To pay for room and board as well is $5 a month ($50 for a school year)
The daughter of my guide is named Antoinette. She is 10 years old, a talented artist, and is superbly bright. I think she would make a fantastic biologist one day, and I’d really love to see these kids grow up to work in their forests as researchers. When I explained all of this to my Mom, she said she would love to pay for Antoinette’s secondary school education. And so we got to thinking….and ZAZA was born (ZAZA means child in Malagasy). This is a tiny project, no administration fees. If you would like to take part, in any way, please contact my Mom or myself through this blog or by email. My Mom will wire any money to me in Madagascar, and I will give parents cash for their child’s secondary education. I will gift it to them as a scholarship, and I will let you know exactly who got your money, and how it is being spent. I know I can’t solve all of the challenges facing these kids, but I know this will help. The number of scholarships will depend on the amount of money raised. Thanks so much for reading this, Misaotra beseka!