Vao Vao, Big News.

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Big news. I will be returning to Madagascar.
Thanks to UNICEF, I will be at Ranomafana National Park working with the Centre ValBio education team, developing the Saturday Classrooms and Junior Rangers programs, this June and July. We will begin to put lessons from these past five years of my professional development to the test. My aim is to help the teachers unleash their own creativity, so they can use their knowledge and expertise to guide Malagasy children, leading the way for Madagascar’s future. Of course, it’s also thanks to those without whom I wouldn’t be here, including the Rotary, Pat Wright, Alison Jolly, ICTE/MICET/CentreValBio, and many, many others. I am the lucky barer of many admirable mentors.
Good news from Ranomafana. I just spoke to researchers at Ranomafana National Park, and it looks like their call for help drew in some initial support for Cyclone Irina: Cyclone Irina. If you’d like to get involved, do consider donating: donate here! Another way you can help these communities is by helping me create an education resource library. I would love to rally Rotary around this project.
It would be great to get Malagasy teachers education resources, so they can practice education as an art, and an ongoing, reflective practice. Centre ValBio is a renowned international research station in the rainforest of Ranomafana that works in hundreds of impoverished communities. Research available at the facility is primarily biological. With over 65 employees working in surrounding communities, it has the potential to become a leading research center for social sciences, as well. The library will provide an incredible start- with research to guide practice and collaborative education development. And would undoubtably pose a lasting impact for these teachers, communities, fellow researchers, and socially-oriented study abroad students. Do contact me if you are interested.
Not really sure what we were trying to capture, but knowing our lives would never be the same. (Last few minutes at Centre ValBio, Fall 2007)
I am so grateful to everybody I’ve met along the way. Couldn’t have made it here alone, and none of the road forward will be mine alone either. So, thank you for all your support. It keeps me going. And fellow dreamers, mora mora (slowly slowly). Anything’s possible.
Love to all,

Visit to Horley Club.

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Jim and I had a really nice visit to the Horley Club this Thursday.

They were very interested in learning about Madagascar’s conservation, education, and poverty, and they were quite enthusiastic about getting involved! A very pleasant visit, a banner to share with the Larchmont club, the kindest words, and endearing British humor.

Here’s some highlights ala my personal paparazzi, Jim Hatfield:

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Thanks Horley Club!

Madagascar’s Silky Sifaka

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A friend of mine from the Madagascar research community, Erik Patel, is the star of this BBC series special on the plight of the beautiful Silky Sifaka (also known as the ‘Ghosts of the Forest’), found only in the forest of Marojejy, and narrated by the one and only David Attenborough. Please watch. It’s eye opening account and beautiful account of the complexity and conflicts facing the future of Madagascar and one of the top 25 most endangered primates. As Erik says, they are the heart and soul of this forest. How can we spend our lifetime not protecting it?

Watch here: Madagascar, Lemurs, and Spies


Cyclone Irina hits Ranomafana

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Dear Everyone,
As some of you know, Ranomafana is where I’ll be pursuing my thesis, and the root of my dedication to Madagascar. But it will be difficult to help children actively improve their lives through education, when their basic needs are so severely threatened. That’s where I could use your help. Cyclone Irina has recently hit hard in the region of Ranomafana. Many lost their lives, including a number of children, and many villagers have lost their agricultural plots (80% of them damaged) for the season, and thousands lost their homes (i.e. in Kelilalina, 33 out of 50 homes have been washed away). Centre ValBio research institution is the leading NGO in the region, and they are hoping to be able to supply these families with food and temporary homes. They also wish to honor the dead’s family, as ceremonies for the dead are a really significant piece of Malagasy society and culture.
Centre ValBio will work with the Madagascar National Parks and the Mayor’s office for relief. Dr. Patricia C. Wright, the mother of Ranomana National Park, relayed how much support would mean to their ability to help these affected people. As far as support, you are welcome to visit the Centre ValBio site at: www.centrevalbio.org and consider making a donation to “The Madagascar Emergency Relief Fund” (DONATE BUTTON). Any bit you can give will be greatly appreciated and would mean a lot to me personally.
Warm wishes,

Primate Getaway to Oxford Brookes!

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I had the nicest week away at Oxford Brookes University.

Anna Nekaris (Anna’s Site) was the best host in the world, as was everyone in the program. When Alison Jolly and I arrived, we met with a group of students either pursuing a theses in Madagascar, or devoted to a path in Environmental Education. Their buzz was contagious. Can’t say I was the least bit surprised to find the MSc in Primate Conservation an empathetic, laid back, adventurous and passionate group.

Alison’s talk was received brilliantly- I overheard murmurs of how nice it was to hear a renowned primateologist talk about both the needs of both people and the animals with a full context, plenty of hope and perspective, and loads of charisma. It was fun to engage with all of the students at the pub after, a tradition that they have every Monday. It was clear this was a really close group of students and professors with a lot of enthusiasm.

Not only was I able to meet with students and professors, but Anna helped me reunite with the animal kingdom! In her adorable 18th century English cottage, she has a little hamster, two bunnies, the happiest dog Figgy, a cuddly cat Algy, and just down the road, a stunning and sweet shire horse, Tin. Both Anna, myself, and Simon all went to visit Janet and Michael McCrea, of the McCrea Conservation and Education Fund for a wonderful home cooked dinner and a lively discussion about evaluating environmental education. And, Anna made sure that I finally ate crumpets!

And on Wednesday, I led the three hour seminar for the Environmental Education module (feel free to open the Session Outline). The feedback was positive, and we even got in a few wanderers from outside the program.

Here they are sharing a mapping activity…

I was worried that my days of getting drawings from new students was over, but at the end of the day, I got an inspiring design of an “Inclusive Park” with signatures. It’s obviously hanging above my desk to inspire these next two term papers.

Feeling totally revived. I’ve been missing my primate people. Thank you, Anna!

Peace Parks

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In case you’d like to know…

I’m currently reading this (Children and Nature), and thinking about this research area:

Peace Parks mark an important stride at addressing the roots for equity, stability and collaboration. As E.O. Wilson writes, peace parks “demonstrate a powerful instrument for achieving peace, one constructed at the intersection of science, environment, and international relations.”

Seaford-Martello Visit

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Last night, Jim and I went to visit to the Seaford-Martello Club!

Not only was it a lovely evening of wonderfully charming Rotarians, but I was surprised to find the Rotary Club of Sussex-Vale there too, who showed up in great numbers to join us! I couldn’t even tell who was from which club, because everyone was so comfortable enjoying one another’s company. And they even let me sit on the table to gave my talk! Hint to future clubs: that just may (will) win my heart…

But seriously, it really makes for a great experience to walk into a room filled with friends I haven’t met yet.  And thank you President Reg for creating an atmosphere that truly embodies the Rotary spirit of friendship. It seems like these first nine years are just the beginning of an enjoyable journey filling the world with goodwill and kindness. What’s better than that? I just don’t know.

xx Daniella

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