Honko revisited is a new feature of our blog, where we are getting in touch with former volunteers to look back on their experiences in Madagascar and see how their time at Honko has shaped where they are now. First up is Jes, who volunteered for us in 2014!
1) When did you volunteer for Honko and what was your role?
I volunteered at Honko for 3 months in 2014 and I was a mangrove monitoring project volunteer. I was one of the first groups of people to work on this project so we were responsible for marking out the plots for future volunteers to come back to.
2) What is your best memory of volunteering at Honko?
So many! I couldn’t possibly pick one. Getting to know the other volunteers, staff and local people was obviously amazing. I was lucky to do a few trips in my time including national parks and whale watching with some of the other volunteers. I was there for World Mangrove Day which was such a fun day and actually fell on my birthday weekend, I remember we played a game called “pin the propagule on the mangrove” which sounds weird but that’s just what you do when you’re a mangrove conservationist! Just everyday work life was great too, simple things like having dinner around the table and playing cards by torchlight!
3) Looking back, what was the best thing you achieved during your time at Honko?
I learnt a lot about the mangroves and how beneficial they are while I was in Madagascar. Although I didn’t conduct any independent research I think the work the other volunteers and I did whilst there was crucial groundwork for a bigger study on the mangroves which will hopefully result in the restoration of many areas that have been deforested and protection of the mangroves in the future. If nothing else I got to live and work in an incredible and unique environment and spread the message of how important these places are to friends and family.
4) Since your trip to Madagascar, what have you been up to?
I worked with Honko in the summer between my second and third year at university. I have since been continuing with my studies and I am doing an integrated masters in Marine Biology so I will graduate this year. Being at Honko has made me a lot more confident about travelling abroad on my own and I have been on trips that I might not have been on without this experience. It also genuinely made me a more optimistic person, seeing how little some of the local villagers had and even our basic living conditions made me very grateful for everything I have back home and really changed the way I look at things.
5) Is there any advice you would give to anyone looking to volunteer at Honko?
Just do it! It may seem scary but the best experiences are the ones out of your comfort zone. I had one of the best summers of my life in Madagascar. Honko works closely with locals and isn’t a massive organisation that just wants to take your money unlike a lot of volunteering opportunities these days. The only thing I’d say is maybe get flights that you can change because you’ll probably want to extend your stay, either to travel or to volunteer some more!!