Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Madagascar...Here I Come!!!

Hi friends!! Thanks for stopping by my blog in your surf session of the world wide web. I'm creating this page to log my endeavors in preparation for my upcoming trip to Madagascar and then also to keep everyone in the loop when I actually make the big journey to Africa.

First a little background on how all this came about and exactly what it is that I'll be doing in the land of the lemurs...

In the past few years I've thought more and more about just how lucky I am. I was born into the best family imaginable (I may be a tad bit biased, but seriously...they're incredible) in beautiful Maryland where I grew up with every opportunity to dream big and chase my goals. I've always had clean water, ample food and a safe and loving home. As a kid growing up in the United States, going to school was just run of the mill standard operating procedure. Little did I know that I was a part of a small and incredibly fortunate group of people in this world who are granted access to all of these golden tools right at our fingertips. Although I've been acutely aware of the value of hard work, I've never had to worry about basic necessities, yet many struggle to obtain them on a daily basis and work hard yet continue to suffer. I see it as unbelievably unfair that although knowledge on providing basic necessities exists, there are still those who go without every day. I'd like to work to enhance the quality of life for those less fortunate because everyone truly does have the right to be healthy and happy.

Madagascar. Photo courtesy of Azafady
Those of you who know me know that I've got a pretty strong affinity for all things outdoors. I'm truly awe-stricken by the magnificent beauty displayed by the natural world. Even more amazed am I at the harmonious balance found within natural ecosystems that allows species to truly thrive together. Unfortunately, many of these communities are gazing into a dismal future due to the rapid artillery fire being unleashed upon them by an advancing human population with ever growing needs. Although a remarkable species, we homo sapiens have made our presence well known, often times at the expense of the species with which we cohabit this earth. However, this does not have to be the case. We don't have to exist as an omnipotent species leaving behind a legacy of degradation and destruction. With a combination of education, ambition, perseverance and a lot of love we can turn things around and learn to live as harmonious members of one earth.

Me in Santa Barbara on a bike trip along the California coast.
Photo courtesy of my partner in crime, Paloma Duarte.
I've made quite a few adjustments in my day to day living over the years to make my life more environmentally and socially responsible. I've gotten my B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy. Meat has not been a part of my diet for years, I've favored my bicycle over my car, grown some of my own produce (from a big garden in Maryland to a small patio in California) and taken a liking for second hand goods. I've turned off lights and turned to sweaters instead of a heater. I've worked on habitat restorations and provided environmental education to children and adults alike. I've volunteered at nursing homes and donated my time to providing meals and bits of joy to the homeless. Through these ventures, I have met some dedicated and truly inspiring individuals that have helped me become who I am today. I say this not in self congratulations, for I am light-years away from perfect, but as a testament to what I've done that's led me to this point. I still have much more learning and growing to do in my life and am eager to keep going.

So how to combine these passions for assisting and learning from those less fortunate while preserving and enhancing the state of ecological communities in jeopardy? Enter Azafady.

Azafady's Mission Statement:

"Azafady aims to eradicate poverty, suffering and environmental damage in Madagascar. Our mission is to alleviate extreme poverty and protect unique, biologically rich but greatly endangered forest environments in Madagascar by empowering some of the poorest people to establish for themselves sustainable livelihoods and improve their health and wellbeing."

Azafady is a registered UK charity that's been working on projects in southeast Madagascar since 1994. In April I'll be joining Azafady's Pioneer Program and volunteering for ten weeks in areas throughout the Anosy and Androy regions of Madagascar. Madagascar is truly a one-of-a-kind island nation. Home to remarkable biodiversity and extreme poverty, this area certainly deserves attention and care.
A previous well digging project.
Photo courtesy of Azafady
Azafady's projects in the past have included...

Digging wells to provide access to clean drinking water...
     Only approximately 25% of the island's population of 20 million people have access to safe, clean drinking water.  This number falls to as little as 4% in some rural areas.

Improving planting and harvesting techniques...

A previous agricultural project.
Photo courtesy of Azafady
Lack of food is a continuous problem in Madagascar which claims many lives. A harsh climate which experiences prolonged droughts and intense rain events makes agriculture difficult as does a lack of access to seeds and agricultural education. Azafady teaches sustainable agricultural methods for food procurement as well as for propagating trees to re-vegetate degraded forests. 

A previous stove building project.
Photo courtesy of Azafady

Building stoves to increase both the safety and efficiency of cooking...

     Using a combination of clay, zebu dung and grass, these improved stoves use 60% less firewood than an open fire, meaning fewer trees being cut down for cooking and less time being spent cutting and transporting wood. The improved stoves are also safer than cooking over an open fire as the risk of burns and smoke inhalation is reduced.

These are only a few of the many projects that Azafady has implemented. It's certainly going to be difficult work but a worthy and necessary cause to say the least. They've got a great website that details their project work and goals much better than I can so check it out...

I'm so excited to get this process started. I've got quite a bit of work to do before I get to actually travel to Madagascar, so I'll be posting updates on how things are progressing. Fundraising is my main task at hand at this point (which I'm a little nervous about), so I'll be sure to keep everyone in the loop on upcoming events. If you're reading this and have any experience with fundraising, I'm welcoming any and all suggestions! Or if you have questions about what I'm getting into or if you just want to catch up, send me an email:

Thanks for taking the time to read over this and check back soon!

Love you all,


  1. Yo Shannon! You're blog is killer! keep it up! If I can help in any way, please let me know! Let's get you to Madagascar!

    Jake Haney

  2. SO excited for you! This is amazing and I can't wait for you to begin your journey!

  3. Shannon,

    This is amazing and everything you have wanted to do! I am so happy for you, and will check often. Let me know of any fund raising efforts I can do in Baltimore!!