It’s first light. The city is already
thick with noisy character, filtering in through half open windows to
waken those attempting the luxurious post alarm-clock snooze. Dawn
gracefully allows the sleepy eyes of the privileged to slowly adjust
to a new day while the streets beyond golden windows are already a
hive of buzzing bodies.

An area the size of an athletic track
is exploding with dark-skinned heads and colourful clothing. Such a
make-shift depot serves the street sellers with daily fresh produce.
This early morning frenzy supplies these informal merchants with the
produce they need to set up their area of pavement with neatly
arranged piles of produce … in hopeful wait for the rest of the
privileged city to submerge from comfort.
Antananarivo, or Tana as it is locally
shortened to, has its dirt and squalor like all third world cities,
but as with most novel experiences there is an atmosphere of magic.
Densely packed buildings with tiled roofs are intersected by narrow
little alleyways. A dirty mix of the old French colony and modern
Malagasy influence is accompanied by long-legged aggressive
chickens…the third world charm is thick and stagnant.
The city can be likened to an eclectic
mix of subtropical Africa meets third-world Europe. Rice paddies are
strewn between living areas, submerged in filthy water. People emit
from every crevice; on every corner there is a pop-up stall selling
fresh fruit, milky-sweet drinks, mobile phone credit, cigarettes,
shoes and even muti.
Madagascar has always been at the top
of my bucket-list for a travel destination, so to have arrived for
the first time as a volunteer with Operation Smile is beyond
coincidental. A team of volunteers from across the globe was based in
the capital city, Antananarivo (I can finally say that without
sounding like I have a speech impediment), for ten days.
The work that Operation Smile does is
truly amazing. The children that come in to be screened for surgery
have serious cases of cleft-lips and -palates, creating health,
personal and social obstacles in their lives. However, only a few
days later after surgery, they can smile like all their friends. I
had the intermittent happy tear in my eye throughout our time at the

Apart from the few staff, everyone that
is involved volunteers their time willingly. It really is inspiring
to meet surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, dentists, plastic surgeons,
photographers and every-day people coming together to make a
difference… to make a smile. There are so many people involved that
take leave to work long taxing hours for this cause. If only everyone
in the world did something like this just once, the world would be a
better place and something would shift in each individual involved.

There is so much
goodness and good will experienced. I am honoured to have been part
of the team. These people really do care!
from the island:

ATaste for Medicinal Plants of Madagascar