Centre Fihavanana

887 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2018

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Reasons for trip

For the last ten years, my annual list of things to do has started: 1. Finish embroidery, 2. Lose weight. Well, this year, my embroidered map of Yorkshire was completed and I wanted to find a good home for all my remaining embroidery silks, and an inherited box of associated bits and pieces, before I was tempted into taking up my needle again.

Prior to our trip to Madagascar, I was checking out Rainbow Tours website on Responsible Travel, and discovered the home I’d been looking for. A visit to Centre Fihavanana was arranged whilst passing through the capital Antananarivo. The centre, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, helps with the education of children and young girls most in need.

On arrival we were led up steps, passing an empty school room, and were met by Sister Annamma. As she didn’t speak English, and our French is poor, our guide translated.

We heard that the school is open to children aged from 5-14 and, as well as learning to read and write, they’re taught cleanliness and bodily hygiene with the aim of them returning home to pass the messages on to their families. This along with two meals a day, aims to improve their health and cut down on medicines required. At the end of the year they prepare the children to enter public or private schools so they can continue their studies.

They also admit 50 girls between the ages of 14-16 for two years of education and vocational skills like dress making, sewing, embroidery, basket making, pastry making, cooking, hair dressing and computer science. This is an attempt to avoid them going into prostitution or becoming mothers at an early age.

As I unpacked the bag of threads, books, cards and material, the Sister seemed very impressed and as we were surrounded by cross stitch cards for sale and a huge cross stitch sampler hung on the wall, I knew it was going to the right place.

In the next room we were shown table cloths which the older women embroider with local scenes of lemurs and baobab and heard how exports abroad are down, as they cannot compete with cheap machine-made Chinese products.

I left feeling pleased that my gifts would be well used but slightly concerned that “2. Lose weight” will move up to the top of the 2019 list.

Helen Jackson

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