Today was a major day for Centre ValBio- the inauguration of the new research, arts and community outreach building, embedded in the southeastern rainforest of Ranomafana, NamanaBe Hall, meaning “big friendship”.

Photo by Dede Randrianarista (Taken from: Scientific American Blog)

Today, Dr. Patricia Wright was the first (and only one) to be awarded the third and highest honor that you can receive in Madagascar, the Commander Medal of Honor, for exceptional work throughout her career. It was a major celebration. Children throughout the local villages performed dances, and major bands, including grammy award winning Tarika Be, performed, traditional zebu were killed as part of traditional ceremonies, and other impressive guests, including the President of Stony Brook University and Helsinki University, the Prime Minister, and Miss Madagascar arrived into town. Our researcher home expanded to fit almost 800 people from the local and global community, to join us on a day pouring with rain- a sign of good luck in Madagascar.

I was given the honor to design a room in NamanaBe for the children, which is home to the new education resource library, as well as a creative workshop and learning space for the children and youth. Study abroad students and fellow researchers helped me pull this room together, and in Dr. Wright’s kabary (speech), she acknowledged us by name, her longterm researchers, as those who keep Ranomafana moving into the future. And after the children’s dances, I also gave a short speech alongside Education Director, Florent Ravoavy (customary to keep it short, since I am young) to celebrate the energy that the children and youth are bringing to care for the future of the Ranomafana’s forest and its communities. So… the NamanaBe children’s room:

Study abroad student, Dylan, checks out the children’s artwork. And here are the children working on their artwork… 

Dr. Wright and I pose below the Malagasy Proverb, “One tree doesn’t make a forest”.

This ladder, used for the stuffed lemurs (made by the local women’s artisan group) and for the Ako books (Ako Project), was taken from the construction of the building.

We’re hoping this room provides a creative base for the core education team to lead the children and youth in transforming a healthier and more sustainable future. Of course, in Madagascar, it’s as important to celebrate now, as it is to plan for the future, so when Tarika Be performed, we all had a great time —

Most photos courtesy of Noel Rowe (Primate Conservation International)