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Country Director's Welcome for Madagascar

Tonga Soa!

Greetings from Madagascar,

Many Americans have heard of Madagascar thanks to the animated movie starring the lemur King Julian, but may not be quite sure where this large, unique, and beautiful country is actually located. Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island – after Greenland, Papua New Guinea, and Borneo, and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, about 250 miles off the coast of Southeastern Africa. Its coastline stretches over 3,000 miles of beaches and coral reefs. Madagascar features very diverse and distinctive terrains and habitats: ranging from volcanic mountain chains (highest peak at 9,400 feet), central highlands to the humid rainforests in the east, dry sandstone cliffs in the west and karst forests in the north.

It is home to over 70 species of lemurs that can be found nowhere else on Earth, holds more than 50% of the world’s chameleon population, and has over 10,000 endemic species of plants. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, where only 11% of the roads are paved, most of the population has limited access to basic water and sanitation services, and deforestation has taken a major toll on the unique biodiversity and agricultural prospects.

Over the last 30 years, almost 1,700 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Madagascar. We hold dear the long and revered tradition of effective and meaningful community engagement carried out across our three sectors: Agriculture, Health, and Education. We are not here to change the country, nor the customs, beliefs, or traditions of the people. Each Volunteer that serves here is part of the legacy of forming relationships, building bridges, planting seeds (actual and proverbial), and working in partnership with host communities at the grassroots level to make a difference. As a people-to-people development agency, understanding and respecting other cultures is crucial to our success. Rather than providing foreign aid or other economic assistance, Volunteers share their skills and experiences while living in local communities, working alongside and learning from local people. This day-to-day interaction gives Volunteers a unique perspective and the opportunity to address development challenges while strengthening mutual understanding.

Our training facility is located on the tranquil shores of Lake Mantasoa, about three hours from the bustling capital city of Antananarivo. Peace Corps Trainees spend almost three months there for Pre-Service Training (PST) and get the opportunity to live with Malagasy host families during this time. It is the perfect setting for learning the Malagasy language, expanding technical skills, and developing intercultural competencies such as humility, active listening, curiosity, and empathy. We have a team of talented and dedicated local staff who are here to support you throughout your service in a variety of ways. The training staff who share their passion for teaching the various dialects of the Malagasy language come together during PST to introduce Malagasy culture. Trainees in Madagascar are not required to speak French before arriving in country, and Peace Corps Madagascar does not teach French during formal training programs since local language is considered the key to understanding community needs and approaches.

Mariah Cisse, Country Director

Peace Corps Madagascar offers a culturally, personally, and professionally enriching experience to Volunteers who arrive with a mindset of community service, humility, resilience, and flexibility. We appreciate your interest in joining the legacy of service in Madagascar. I encourage you to check out our Facebook page, read stories from previous and current Volunteers, and learn more about what serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer really means. I can tell you from experience, it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it!

Warm regards,

Mariah Cissé
Country Director
RPCV Senegal 2004-2006