Madagascar is a magical place filled with species and ecosystems found nowhere else. It is home to some of the most unique and endangered plants and animals including the lemur which cannot naturally be found anywhere else in the world. Sadly Malagasy children grow up without hearing a peep about it due to its skeleton of an education system post colonisation. Project PLAY (Protecting Life through Active Youth) looks to create children’s clubs that will open the doors for children to explore their ecological identity and create a more hopeful destiny.
Pocket Robin caught up with New Yorker Daniella Rabino, Researcher and Coordinator of PLAY. She tells us in her own words what drew her to Madagascar and her aspirations for the project.
My mentor, Alison Jolly, is the reason I came back to Madagascar. She never gave up on this island, and suggested that any setbacks were only lessons on a much longer journey. She was the first researcher to study lemurs here, and, like so many other researchers that I’ve come to know, she first came for lemurs, but ended up staying for the people.
Much of Madagascar is extremely remote, villages separated by streams and mountains, and heavily rural – with 80 percent of the population farming rice. And then, with rapid forest loss and the spread of eroded landscapes and silted waterways, communities fall under stress of spreading hunger, landslides, disease, and ultimately poverty. Children under 18 comprise two-thirds of Madagascar’s population, and unless young people grow learning to care for the land of the ancestors, tides will only grow more desperate.
But despite the challenges, there is a courageous spirit of hope that glimmers around Madagascar: a dedication to protect the past and care for the future. This is why it will be exciting to see what can happen when children have tools to engage with their communities past and present, and join the adult voices to add their own stories for their island’s future. PLAY will open space for children to hear stories about conservation and their community, and begin to create their own destiny, as they explore the secrets of their growing world.
PLAY will design children’s clubs in villages, collaborating with village leaders so children can build their relationship with their world and care for their home. The children will begin with stories about the island’s treasures to explore Madagascar from local and global perspectives. The clubs will invite its members to create an active sense of place using map-making and design to become agents of hope for their communities.
PLAY is still in its infancy so we wish Daniella the best of luck and look forward to catching up with her progress soon.