Akany Avoko Faravohitra is a non-profit organization in Antananarivo. They home around 50 girls of all ages from all around Madagascar. Some of the girls are victims of physical or psychological abuse. Others are underaged girls in conflict with the law that are awaiting trial. These girls are sent directly to the home by the Malagasy Government.
This home is doing so much more than just giving the girls a safe and stable environment. This includes clean clothes, 3 nutritious meals a day, rooms and physical and psychological health care. Akany Avoko Faravohitra also helps the girls access education as well as teaching them both vocational and life skills. This way, they are much better prepared to return to their normal lives with a good opportunity for an independent future.
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The girls at Akany Avoko Faravohitra
Most of the girls at Akany Avoko Faravohitra have had quite a rough life and are lucky to get the opportunity to a new start at the home. Some of them are awaiting trial, and the home gives them the security and support they need to get on the right path. Others have been abused.
The home focuses on helping the children rebuild their belief in themselves and when possible restore the ties with their families. Their aim is to give the girls the strength and skills they need for a sustainable future where they can make a living for themselves.
The children´s home provides different forms of educational activities. First of all, they offer spiritual education to the girls. Christianity is widely practiced in Madagascar and attending church is an important part of the girls’ routines.
Focusing on religion helps many people around the world through difficult situations, and hopefully, this helps the children and young ladies to focus on something positive bigger than themselves. They also attend Sunday school and prayer discussion groups. This is a good way of talking openly for the attendees.
Further, Akany Avoko Faravohitra encourages them to join activities like the scouts or singing in a choir. The value of joining activities like this is enormous. Both for the development of the girls’ skills and for the socialization in groups of likeminded children. When life has been rough it is incredibly important to play and enjoy activities that make them have fun.
Secondly, the home offers education from primary school to university to secure the girls’ future. According to an article from late 2018 published in usatoday.com Madagascar is ranked as number 9 of the poorest countries in the world. This makes education crucial for a worthy future. Especially in the capital, Antananarivo.
On my last trip to Antananarivo, I talked to a taxi driver that told me he had studied a master degree but earned more as a taxi driver than what he would earn in his profession. Anyhow, he said that without education, his chances of a good life would be minimal. In perfect French, he mentioned that only 30% of the inhabitants in the capital has money to eat normally. The rest can only afford one meal a day. I can only assume that malnutrition is a major issue if this man is correct.
Looking at this information shows the incredible value Akany Avoko Faravohitra gives their girls through offering education and teaching vocational skills to secure them a sustainable future.
As you see, academic education is extremely important in Antananarivo. Nonetheless, vocational skills are just as invaluable to have good opportunities in one of the poorest cities in the world. Akany Avoko Faravohitra focuses just as much on this as they do on academic education. Because they know the significance this makes for the girls’ future.
You can look at this as the sustainable part of the education. You might have an education, but that doesn´t guarantee you a job. Without a job, you won´t earn any money, and without money, you can´t buy any food. If you know how to grow vegetables, though, you suddenly have food and something you can sell and earn money on. If you know how to weave a basket, you can carry those vegetables to the market and you can even sell baskets to buy other things. This is the reality for people in large parts of the world. Madagascar is no exception.
The girls at the home are trained in basketry, sewing, embroidery, cooking, hairdressing and other skills that can help them get income. When I visited the home, I bought some beautifully decorated table cloths that the older girls had made. They also sold weaved baskets and handbags and other items they had made.
Sustainable sources of income
Akany Avoko Faravohitra is focusing on growing its sustainable income sources to become less dependent on donations. Though they have started a child sponsorship program, they have started several other projects to secure their economy.
In addition to the “shop” where they sell homemade handicraft to visitors, the home is growing their own vegetables so they have a natural food source available. This is an important part of teaching the girls how to support themselves also when they are ready to move out of the home. Also, they regularly organize fundraising events and even give guided tours to tourists around the city.
Their latest project has been to open a café, hairdressing salon and crafts shop for visitors. The café offers lunch and dinner though must be reserved in advance. This gives a proper job and training to the girls hired. This is a good opportunity both for the girls involved to get work experience but also for the home to get a sustainable source of income.
Further, the home offer tours around the capital for a small donation and activities like cooking classes and dance performances can be arranged in advanced.
Reintegration is one of the tough tasks the home is working on with the girls. Akany Avoko Faravohitras goal is to reunite the girls with their families where it is possible. Razafindrasoa, that works at the home, emphasizes the importance of preparing the girls for what they need to know when they reunite with their families. She especially mentions the importance of being prepared to what they are going to do when they will be back with their family and the society to be independent. “It all starts at Akany depending on their situation,” she says.
There is no doubt that the girls are treated as individuals and given what they need depending on their situation.
All the above activities are part of preparing the girls for the reintegration process so they are capable of returning home and handle the environment the best way possible.
Once the girls are back with their families, Akany Avoko Faravohitra closely monitors their progress during the first year back with their family. They also give economical support for their education until they are finished.
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Volunteer at Akany Avoko Faravohitra
The children’s home welcomes interns and volunteers that can provide knowledge within children and human rights, computer skills and lessons in English and French, reading and writing.
The employee that received me when I visited spoke well French and told me she had learned most of what she knew from a French volunteer that had been working at the home for several months.
Volunteers have also been giving environmental awareness sessions and sports and music lessons.
If you want to volunteer with children and youngsters you should have some kind of education and experience in the field you are going to volunteer in. As you can read more about in my post about things not to do as a responsible traveler, there are quite a few issues with volunteering with children that you should consider before you make your choice.
I perceive Akany Avoko Faravohitra as a responsible organization in a desperate environment working towards a better path each day, focusing on the girls’ future and safety.
When I visited the home, I was received by an employee that gave me and my partner a tour around the home to show us how they lived. The manager was not able to attend us that day. This made the communication slower as my French was not very polished at the time.
However, I have kept in touch with the home after, and Razafindrasoa has been to great help when putting this article together.
Visit Akany Avoko Faravohitra
It is also possible to visit Akany Avoko Faravohitra if you are only a short trip in Antananarivo. The employees will make sure you feel welcomed and give you a round trip of the home.
If you go on a visit, I suggest you ask if there is anything you can bring that they need. Any small gesture makes a big difference. When I visited, I had collected two big bags of clothes from friends and colleagues that I brought.
Note that visiting the children’s home should only be done if your intentions are to educate yourself and support the home in some way. It could be by buying souvenirs that the girls have made, visiting the café or have a haircut. Another good way to support the home is to spread the word about their work. This way more people can support them.
If your intentions are to get likes on your Instagram feed or show photos of you and the girls to promote that you have done a good deed, then don’t go. These are real girls with real problems that should not be exploited.
I recommend NOT taking photos of the girls unless they are in groups. Also, make sure you get permission from both the employees and the girls to take their photo. It is important that you don’t post any photos of the girls on social media that situate where and when it was taken.
You can read more about the reasons why you should not take photos of kids when traveling in this article.
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How to get to Akany Avoko Faravohitra
Akany Avoko is situated in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Air Madagascar offers flights from all local airports to and from Antananarivo. The airport is also the most common and easy international airport to fly into.
The children’s home is fairly central. From the city center, you can either walk the distance or take a taxi. Check out their official web site for contact information and directions. Ask your taxi driver to call if he does not find the way.
I recommend writing them a message on Facebook before you plan your visit to make sure they can receive you. They usually answer quite quickly.
Start planning your trip to Madagascar
Akany Avoko Faravohitra has a small guest house where you can book in advance. If this is not available search for a place to stay at Booking.com.
If you want a nice and quiet yet central place, I can recommend Maison Lavasoa. This is only a 15-minute walk from Akany Avoko Faravohitra, and I have stayed there on several occasions.
To start planning your trip I suggest using Lonely Planet Madagascar as a travel guide. Madagascar is a country with quite bad road connections and expensive internal flights so a little guidance can come in handy. I found their guidebook invaluable on my last one month trip to Madagascar.
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