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Madagascar: A place of beauty and inspiration

I was taken aback by my own reaction; my breath stopped and my tears started to flow down my face. I couldn’t quite understand why I would react in this way. I have been working in international development for 12 years.

It didn’t take me long to understand.  I realized it was because I had never seen this type of impact, appreciation or change ever before.

This past October, I had the opportunity to accompany a group of young energetic professionals from the Aveda Canada network on a visit to the WaterAid Canada program in Madagascar. The group was made of four of the top fundraisers from the 2016 Earth Month campaign. The trip is an opportunity to see the results of the Earth Month campaign and gain a real understanding of the impact of their fundraising efforts to the cause. Perhaps they were also motivated by the destination country known for its beauty and unique qualities. After all, nowhere else in the world could one see a lemur or ‘the Avenue of Baobobs’.

On the first day we visited the Belavabary village. Belavabary recently had their “Big Day,” a term we endearingly use for when a community can finally turn on a clean water tap in their village.


On the day we arrived, there were at least 200 hundred community members lining the entrance way to their village, excited to welcome us in. They carried signs of all sorts, written in the local language, French and English. Thank You Aveda! Merci WaterAid!

This is when I surprised myself with a very real emotional reaction and finally a true understanding of what this crisis is all about.

I knew on so many levels that there were millions of people around the world suffering and worse because of the lack of clean water and sanitation, but this was the day that it became real. I shook their hands. I thanked them back. Their lives have now changed forever and I was lucky to be a small part of this.

And the celebrations ensued! The mayor of the Commune was at the village entrance along community members. The inauguration of 4 tap stands that day was like something I had never experienced. Speeches, music, dancing – from the village elders to the smallest children, demonstrated a true, meaningful appreciation of a life changing day.

Each of us from WaterAid and Aveda Canada were invited to cut the ribbon and say a few words at different water points. We were presented with multiple gifts of local handicrafts and fruit from the community. A community who could not afford these luxuries for their own families.

The word ‘celebration’ feels like a subdued description of what took place. A human connection was established despite the different worlds that we come from. And this went on all day!

By the time the sun was setting, we said our goodbyes and reflected on these people who we met, each relating in different ways with them.

I will never forget Noeline. She was the one young girl from this community that I already knew before arriving. She was the star of a video produced by Aveda Canada and WaterAid last year showing the pain and challenges both she and her community faced without access to clean water. It showed the lengths at which she had to travel each day to collect water for her family. Her face was one that I could never forget so I was instantly invigorated when I saw her come up to me with that big smile of hers.

She and her friends were then asked to perform for us – a beautiful dance in advance of inaugurating one of the new taps in her village. She danced her heart out and beads of sweat ran down her face. As soon as the dance was over, she leaped over the inauguration ribbon, turned on that tap and filled her water bottle with clean, fresh and even cool water. She took a long drink, and then shared it with her friends. This was no longer the girl with the heavy jerry can weighing her down. She was free to live her life, dance with her friends and go to school.

Last year Aveda Canada and WaterAid Canada celebrated 10 years of partnership. Aveda Canada and WaterAid have recently partnered to support two of the poorest regions in Madagascar: Belavabary and Sabotsy Anjiro. Both villages are now up to 43% and 10% water coverage, after starting with nothing. I can’t wait to see them all when we are at 100%.

Read more about the Aveda Canada and WaterAid partnership.

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