MadagascarConnect introduces local students to the environment, economy, culture and people of Madagascar. Students examine local and global issues as they prepare for a biennial trip to the country. While there, they engage with community-based organizations and leaders, teach rudimentary English to artisan-vendors, participate in a reforestation project and connect with local children through dance and games. Upon their return from Madagascar, students share their experiences with our own community, raising awareness and building cultural connections.
MadagascarConnect grew out of a relationship forged between Dr. Patricia Wright, preeminent anthropologist and conservationist, and the Rhinebeck Central School District. Dr. Wright is renowned for her work on wild lemurs in Madagascar. She was instrumental in establishing Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar and Centro ValBio, a modern research station adjacent to the park and affiliated with Stony Brook University. She and philanthropist Susan Findel, eager to bring learning about the beauty and challenges of Madagascar to K-12 students, presented an opportunity to provide their knowledge and expertise to programming about Madagascar in the schools. Middle school teacher Henry Frischknecht spearheaded such programming over several years. His addition to the CultureConnect board in 2015 led to the development of the MadagascarConnect program.
Our inaugural trip, in 2017, brought five high school aged student ambassadors to Madagascar for three weeks. In 2019, seven ambassadors will be going.
In 2018, a pen pal program was inaugurated between Rhinebeck middle school students and students at Zara Aina, a program in Antananarivo for at-risk youth.
Over the course of the year before traveling to Madagascar, selected ambassadors plan and execute fundraising activities and take part in intensive education about Madagascar. During the three-week-stay in Madagascar, ambassadors participate in both educational and cultural activities, such as, diving into theatre performances with Malagasy students, observing research, meeting with resident scientists and officials, exploring the natural environment and working with local Malagasy artisans.
Ambassadors must apply to the program and are selected by a committee of the CultureConnect Board of Directors. The ambassadors for the 2019 trip have been selected. The next opportunity to apply will be spring 2020.
Questions about the program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The vision of MadagascarConnect is to make the connection with the global community accessible to any student who wishes to expand his or her world view, regardless of economic status.
Video of Madagascar taken by Board Director, Henry Frischknecht during a visit in 2016