Sarah Rose Robert

Sarah Rose Robert is currently pursuing a Masters of Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability, at Blekinge Institute of Technology.

Sarah Robert

What would it look like to co-create a society that lived in harmony with the natural environment? What does a connected and collaborative community look like? What role can an NGO and education play in sustainable development? These are just a few of the questions I took with me on my internship-adventure as an environmental educator with SADABE as I headed off for the streams, forests, lemurs, and farms of Mahatsinjo, Madagascar.

After many years of working with children in various capacities, I decided to combine my love for working with kids with my ever-growing passion to rediscover our human connection with nature. And so an internship with SADABE, which focuses on the holistic aspects of a healthy environment, was a natural fit.

The purpose of my internship was to build on the work of previous educators and to host a learning opportunity for the children in the community. In this way they could connect to SADABE's projects and research, and continue the meaningful cultural exchange that helps to lessen the perceived divide between locals and foreigners.

Every day dozens of children from the ages of 4-16 would hike from near and far, often with siblings on their backs, to join me in the afternoons. With the lemur researchers typically out in the forest all day, I was on my own except for my co-worker Lydia Rakotoson who helped immensely with translating and planning.

I hosted sessions about nutrition and healthy diets through learningful games. I was able to add some new Malagasy songs to my repertoire, share many songs in English, even translate new ones into Malagasy. Through visits to the fishponds and scavenger hunts we all learned about SADABE's various sustainable livelihood projects. Many days at our campsite there would be mothers, babies and families gathered to watch our fun and shenanigans! The enthusiasm shared by all the kids reinforced my belief that playfulness, laughter and joy are not only wonderful emotions, but powerful tools that we can use to connect and to learn.

The crafts, activities and sessions helped to connect the children to SADABE's ongoing biodiversity research. During a planned school visit we were able to lead games and activities with over 300 school children from the broader community. For many this was their first introduction to ongoing research. Through visits led by local researchers, the students took turns in smaller groups to see the lemurs closer up, and had interactive talks with Mitch and Jean-Luc, about everything ranging from lemur behaviour to the environmental benefits of having forests nearby. Despite living nearby, for almost half of the children, this was their first time seeing the animals close-up.

I learned a lot about cooperation from the children and families at Mahatsinjo. Working with SADABE has helped me see a bigger picture on the many aspects of sustainable development. My big questions about community, co-creation and the deep connection between social and environmental remain unanswered and only burn stronger. My time in Madagascar helped bring clarity to my own personal path as I returned to Canada to plan for the next step. I am currently completing a masters thesis on the role of community organizations in moving society toward sustainability, as part of the international program in Sweden, Masters of Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability, at Blekinge Institute of Technology . A big thank you to my family for their love and support on this journey, a big thank you to Karen and Mitch, Jean-Luc and Lydia, Christine and Edmond and their families for all the laughs and help. -- Sarah Rose Robert

Mahatsinjo Education
Video Diary: Sarah Rose Robert's 2010 Education Initiatives at Mahatsinjo

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