In October of 2005 the company I worked for, Globalcom, allowed me to go on sabbatical for 30 days. I went to Madagascar to visit Salfa, an organization which provides healthcare for the Malagasy people.
Rather than change the tense of this or alter its immediacy I'm leaving the intro below as I wrote it while in Madagascar. I am back now, of course, and have polished things up just a bit. It's long, but if you take the time to read it, you'll get a good idea of what it's like to drop into another country, culture, and ethos, trying to be helpful. I suspect visitors to the United States have some parallel troubles with how we do things here.
Many of the pictures are rough, but some are very pretty. (That's not me taking a bow -- Madagascar is beautiful and I took a lot of photos, so some of them HAD to come out OK.) If you need one, take it, but include a link back to this site.
If you want to, you can jump past to the day by day.
In particular, it let me take this sabbatical and will allow me more. I can't imagine working for better employers.
The work I do at Globalcom is fun some days and very challenging. My coworkers and my bosses are good friends. But when the day is done, while I work both for my employers (to increase profits), and for my coworkers (to make them feel more efficient, and to increase their value in corporate life), it's not like working for someone in the sense of making their lives profoundly better.
That's not what I do here in Madagascar, either. As usual, I'm in a support role, helping those who actually do the work do it better. But those here who do the work are specifically and directly helping people -- this is SALFA, a Lutheran medical group which operates within the Madagascar health administration. Fighting infant mortality, death of women in childbirth, tuberculosis, and any number of other medical destroyers of life and quality of life here, SALFA is that unheard-of combination: both well-meaning and effective.
I'll be here until November 17 and while I'm here I'll be doing anything I can to help them function -- specifically, function with their computers and networks.
For a starter course in all things Madagascar, take a look at the CIA's World Factbook for Madagascar. Take a look specifically at mortality and birth rates. They are key. That and GDP. Compare those numbers to the United States and India, just for yucks. (Here's a sneak preview: India's GDP per capita is four times Madagascar's. Madagascar's infant mortality rate is ten times that of the United States.)
Then take a look at the day by day pictures and text for my visit. Not all the days are full and the text will change from day to day as I revise previous entries -- there's a lot to see and learn, here, and it takes me more than a day to get one day written up.