Madagascar may well be the most extraordinary country in Africa. The first big group of people that settled there, probably around 500 BC, were from ‘Australian-Asiatic’ origin. The language of Madagascar today, still has a clear relation with ‘Polynesian’ languages. The second big group of the population is from Bantu origin and they joined around 300 AC. The Malagasy of today form a special mixture with interesting faces.
In 1897 the kingdom of Madagascar was conquered by French forces and annexed to France as the colony French Madagascar. In 1947 the Malagasy revolted against the French, but were defeated. Only in 1960 the country became independent of France.
Until today, successive governments of different signature were not able to guarantee the population a kind of prosperity, hence Madagascar being the poorest country where I worked so far.
According to the Development Program of the United nations 71,3% of the Malagasy live below the poverty line, and it clearly shows!
Madagascar is a very special country for another reason too. Because the island separated millions of years ago from Africa and India, at the time the continents were formed, nature could develop in its very own way. Thousands of plants and animals are nowhere else in the world and this makes the island very attractive by nature lovers.
PUM MISSION (www.pum.nl)
The mission with which I was sent to Madagascar contained advising the Chamber of Commerce in Nosy Be [a touristic island at the north-west coast of Madagascar] with establishing maintenance schedules for the local hotels.
At my arrival however I discovered they expected more. The Chamber of Commerce invited local technicians of hotels and local small enterprises to subscribe for a ‘Training to maintain household equipment, air-condition systems, plumbing and sanitation’.
I normally am not scared to improvise, but this was clearly not my skill!
Luckily I already asked the Chamber of Commerce beforehand to organize a meeting on the day of my arrival with people of concerning sector, so we immediately could start with adjusting the program
About 15 men aged between 25 to 45 years subscribed for the training and paid 35.000 Ariary. The legal minimum income in Madagascar is 140.000 Ariary per month, so the training was expensive for them. [1 € = 3000 Ariary]
Our first action was to visit a series of [re]building-sites of small hotels in the city to see how pipes and wires were put in. In existing buildings these are fixed on the walls and ceilings. Nice of not, whatever works.
In new constructions grooves are grinded in walls and floors, the pipes put in and neatly covered. We saw that in all new rooms more electrical points were made than were existing in older buildings, so the need to plug in more equipment such as phones and tablets is known.
The participants found out rapidly how they could anticipate.
It was astounding to see how with a minimum of good tools a lot of work could be done.
We also visited a big empty lab of the Oceanic Research Institute to see what needed to be fixed and replaced... practically everything, we discovered. Two years ago they made an estimate and they still are waiting for the moment that the direction will say that the money is available!! Except that the employees also have to wait regularly several months for their salaries.
BEHIND THE SCREENS
Next we went working a few days at 2 big luxury hotels at the beach.
We were allowed to see and inspect all big spaces. We wrote down what was wrong or broken. The aim of this item was to start this from a logic point of view and learn to observe critically. We inspected the hotel from the entrance of the area, via all buildings to the back side and then from ground space to the top floor and the roof. And inside all spaces from ceiling to floor.
And so we visited everywhere behind the screens and a ‘new world’ opened for everybody. By looking critically, the participants could find small things to repair everywhere: a broken switch, a contact box that was too close to the water tap, wiring that was held together by tape or staff rooms where no Dutchman would agree to sit.
At one of the hotels everything seemed to look well at first side, but looking in places where no guests would come, it was chaos. Everywhere there were electrical wires that were not in order, or fixed to the outside walls without protection against rain. And what to think of a complete gathering of household equipment: refrigerators, laundry machines, televisions etc.
The owner of this hotel gave 2 reasons why these items were not thrown away properly.
1. Maybe they still could be repaired.
2. When she said that something could be removed, her technician would probably say nothing could be repaired anymore.
Anyway, my group of course followers started to see what could be repaired and within an hour one of the laundry machines was working again. Also a second laundry machine soon worked again and after changing the digital thermostat into a mechanical one, also one of the cooling show-windows was working again. And again it was very special to see what these people could do with very little tools and how quick they learned with each other and from each other.
Because not all could work on the defect equipment, I brought my laptop to show them how they could visit useful sites on the internet to find or order spare-parts or to see tips and instruction films for installing, connect or repair equipment. As this was a new phenomenon for most of the group, Michel of the Chamber of Commerce arranged a full afternoon in a cyber shop to allow all to browse and find out for themselves what was possible.
In the meantime we made a frame for a year-round maintenance with the technicians of 2 luxury hotels. This has been discussed with the hotel-management including explanation how to complete it. I will follow this by mail, because my mission is only a success when they sent me a complete scheme later this year.
Enjoy the story
Love from Elly and mart
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