Leader Lyndsey from Hapton Guides visits Madagascar’s Kusafiri, the 5th World Centre in Guiding, For Arts4Change!

My name is Lyndsey and I am a Rainbow, Brownie and Guide Leader from Lancashire North West/ Lancashire East. On 11th-17th April I took part in Kusafiri’s Arts for Change event in Madagascar. Established in 2010, Kusafiri is the 5th World Centre, and is unique in that it changes location frequently, moving around Africa to allow more girls to have a World Centre experience. The event took place in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo with 69 participants from 13 different countries.

The theme tune for the event was the song “When We Shine” which was created by another Arts
for Change in Sangam. We even got to sing along and share a Malagasy version!
In Madagascar, Girlguiding is split up into three associations Mpanazava Eto Madagasikara
(Protestant Girl Guides), Faniloni Madagaskara (Catholic Girl Guides)and Kiadini Madagasikara (non
denominational).

During the event we got to have a real taste of Malagasy
culture, discovering the city as well as participating in community
action. The whole event focussed on enjoying a real exploration of
the arts, its impact upon us, and how it can help to change the
world. An activity I really enjoyed was choosing an art form to gain
a new experience and learn how to create something unique.

We met representatives from each federation and split off into groups for day trips
to see the kind of activities that the Girl Guides do within that association.

"Being a part of Girlguiding can take you to some amazing places and give you some amazing adventures and memories. I am lucky enough to have been able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience."

I chose to go to the metalwork factory, built from a large community with lots of families employed and a school on site.
The factory focuses upon training people the skills of being able to create lots of different items from metal in order to make a living.  This factory also strives to be extremely inclusive of all parts of society, giving chances to those previously overlooked including those with disabilities. The factory also has a massive shop with lots of lovely items, and receives many visitors who are offered the chance to buy unique handmade goods.

Arriving at the metalwork factory it was apparent it was a hive of activity, with lots of people, sounds of banging and tapping of the metal, and an almost electric atmosphere. Each of us selected an item that we wanted to make and were then assigned an employee to help us. I chose to make an incense/candle holder which really wasn’t very easy to make and took a lot of patience! The employee teaching us how to make our holder was also deaf and didn’t speak, but he also had great patience with us showing us how to do each step and helping us constantly along the way! The design involved cutting out stencils from the metal, lots of banging of the metal into shape/ tapping out the designs as well as soldering the metal together.   Once our product was all put together it went in a fire to be heat treated, producing a durable, incredibly hard finish. However because the base of the holder didn’t quite fit the top the ladies manning the fire insisted on sourcing correctly sizes bases! We had to plead to keep our bottoms as we didn’t care if it wasn’t perfect – we had made them! We were so proud of our finished products as it had taken around 5 hours to make. This was very slow compared to how fast the workers could produce them!

Another activity was choosing an art form in order to perform some community action within the city. I chose to join the drama group, which meant returning to the metal factory the next day to carry out some activities with the community’s children. Our sessions focused upon comedy and planning ideas the night before, we all got to see the effect on our behaviour of merely wearing a clown’s nose! We definitely got the children laughing and were able to do lots of silly games and activities in which we hope truly gave the children a day to remember!

The next part of the event was experiencing a day with one of the three associations. I chose the Mpanazava Eto Madagasikara Association and we got to visit a Guide Camp on their very own campsite. The association is going to be developing the campsite to include their own buildings and offices as well as a basketball court. When we arrived it was time for the raising of the flag, we then got to help make a change within the community by planting some trees on their land. The guides helped us pick our own spot and plant them in the ground.

We were then split off into smaller groups with a Malgasy Girl Guide who was able to explain to us about all the different activities which were happening around the campsite. This included looking at the different regions within the association and equipment used for outdoor cooking. We also engaged in a special project teaching girls how to make their own reusable kit for their periods. Unfortunately this is required as there is still stigma around this topic in the area, and often the products needed are unobtainable for a lot of women, mainly due to cost. The association then hosted lots of entertainment and dancing for Kusafiri participants, and I even got up on stage to share a camp fire song to reciprocate the sharing of cultures. Anyone who knows me will know I was in my element as I love a good sing-song!

 

Towards the end of the events we had our very own Madagascar Cultural evening and we had the opportunity to buy our own traditional Malagasy dress. We had to ask for help to tie our head wraps so they looked fancy, and some Malagasy guides also put some traditional make up on us! The evening included lots of entertainment with dancing, a fashion show, learning how to play traditional games and a traditional Malagasy meal in the evening.

On Easter Sunday we attended a catholic church service which was a an awe-inspiring experience just by the sheer amount of people that were able to fit into one room! I had never experienced anything like it, and I could only liken it to being in a packed stadium! It was a lovely way to gain another cultural experience within Madagascar, and one I would fully recommend if you have the chance.

 

The event as a whole was an amazing experience which developed my own knowledge about Guiding in a wider context, as well as learning about Madagascar culture and tradition and making lots of new Girlguiding friends!  The event was unique as it helped to develop my own understanding of arts and how it can make a change within our world and communities.

 

Being a part of Girlguiding can take you to some amazing places and give you some amazing adventures and memories. I am lucky enough to have been able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. Kusafiri is definitely a place in which you should support and help to develop, it helps girls all over Africa discover their potential, hosting international events and offering cultural exchanges like the ones we experienced.

Visit the WAGGGS facebook page to find more opportunities like Lyndsey had!