About mountains of rice and medical check-ups

Last week I wrote about a trip I took west of Antananarivo. I was travelling with Tanja and her team from Mobile Hilfe Madagaskar, who run a mobile clinic and dentist van, as well as a permanent clinic just north of the city. Apart from their work into the city several times a week, they also provide medical assistance to communities that either don’t have hospitals or clinics, or who can’t afford to access either private or government-run medical facilities.

This time they were going to Miarinarivo, about 90 km (a two-hour drive) from the capital city, to work with an NGO called Alabri. We left early and stopped half-way there for breakfast: mountains and mountains of rice with pockets of dodgy-looking meat for flavour, and burnt-rice water to wash it all down.

Miarinarivo is a smallish town of around 16 000 inhabitants. It has 14 schools, with approximately 4 000 pupils, around 1 000 of whom travel in from the countryside.

Alabri was started to care for those students who couldn’t afford to stay in town, and who would otherwise have had to return home, thus missing out on an education. At the time of our visit they were building on to their centre – an old marketplace – which currently houses 100 students. The centre also feeds their 100 kids plus another 200 or so “needy” pupils every day.

Mobile Hilfe was to spend the week there giving free dental and medical check-ups to all the children. The first morning was spent on administration – getting all the permissions we needed from local authorities and whoever else needs to give permissions for charitable work to be done. Madagascar and torturous bureaucracy are unfortunately synonymous. After lunch (more mountains of rice) we got down to business. I can’t say that the children enjoyed having us there, but it was rewarding to see the work and selfless commitment by all the staff – many of whom volunteer their time. And, of course, the children’s broad smiles once their visit to the dentist was behind them.

Here, a few photos from the day I got to spend with the team and the children at Alabri …


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