Madagascar is famous as the home of exotic wildlife and extreme natural environments. But what strikes many visitors is the resilience and enterprise of its population, living under the most testing economic and climatic conditions. Tom brought home a portfolio of pictures of Malagasy children, by the renowned local photographer Pierrot Men, which sowed the seed of a memorial project, for which we teamed up with SOS Children’s Villages,through their school at Antsirabe. Our first project was to sponsor a special scheme known as ASAMA, which is an accelerated study programme for children and young adults who have missed out on primary education. It takes them through five years of primary education (in French) in a single year, giving them access to work opportunities which would otherwise be closed to them. We helped fund the construction of a new classroom, and sponsored the first year’s cohort of students.
The ASAMA project is now fully funded by SOS France, but we continue to support the school with funds for books, IT equipment, sports equipment, and all the other services they provide for the local community. As part of the construction of the classroom, the Village created a memorial garden for Tom, centred on a tree which is known for its medicinal properties. The tree was planted in 2007, witnessed by Lonely Planet’s Becca Blonde who was completing Tom’s survey of the island. The tree has now grown to a splendid size, providing shade and a focal point for the garden. Dilys and Stephen Parkinson visited the school in 2011 and 2017, and Tom’s sister Jenni worked there for six months in 2015, teaching the chldren songs which were still remembered in 2017.