Weʼre raising £1,000 to create and publish environmental conservation story books for the young generation of Madagascar.
- Antananarivo, Madagascar
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Hi! My name is Beth Dickens, originally from Devon, UK and currently living in Madagascar. Art is something that has been with me for pretty much my whole 21 years - from a young age you would always find me with a paintbrush in hand. After my Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, I finally decided university probably wasn’t for me. I wandered off to South Africa and Madagascar to volunteer in wildlife conservation programs and ended up where I am now!
People say Madagascar is untouched. In some ways I agree and others I don’t. Yes, it is a place unspoilt by crowds of tourists however the unique ecosystems are far from untouched by the needs of humans. This is an ever increasing dangerous truth which will take many people coming together to stop it.
Madagascar is one of just 17 countries considered as megadiverse. Separated from mainland Africa by 80 million years of evolution, it is a country like no other with around 90% of species here found nowhere else on earth. Despite this beauty, there are many problems lying underneath. Alarmingly, Madagascar has lost 90% of its original forests since the arrival of humans around 2,000 years ago. 80% of this was lost just in the last 30 years. Its coral reefs, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems have also been seriously affected by humans and natural disasters. Due to an annual population growth rate of 2.8%, the severity of this degradation will only increase. We must try and install the passion and interest for wildlife while children are young. It only has the potential to grow and blossom.
I first came to Madagascar through a 6-month internship with the NGO ReefDoctor. I was living in the poorest region of the country among the fishing villages of the Bay of Ranobe. I fell utterly in love with the place, its people and culture. The strong emphasis on community and family bonds is something that I really admired and found refreshing - I feel it’s something some of us have lost in the western world. There is a sense of kindness that made me feel safe. Anyway, I couldn’t imagine myself leaving after such a sort period and I managed to stay on working as an education officer (& volunteer coordinator) for the NGO. Throughout my time there, I came to realise that education truly is the basis of conservation. Children are the future leaders and inspiration, and with the precious ecosystems in Madagascar rapidly declining as they are, their education in these matters is more important than ever.
One of the things that really stood out to me whilst teaching was the effectiveness of storybooks. The kids were captivated by the colourful pages and each time they read them, it was like their first time all over again. After incorporating this into my lessons and witnessing how effective it was, I wanted to expand on this idea, hence this project!
The books will be aimed at all children, however focussing more on children from rural areas where the need for conservation and education is in higher demand. Due to 64.7% of the people of Madagascar being illiterate, the majority being in these rural areas, the books will be friendly for all levels of readers and non-readers. This will be achieved by the illustrations. The double page, bright and energetic illustrations will be designed to tell the whole story – the text being additional. The illustrations will be hand drawn, created by a combination of water colour and colour pencil. They will be full of colour to represent this colourful country.
Conservation is not widely taught in the curriculum here and many teachers in the rural areas aren’t formerly trained. Not only will these books be educational for the kids, they will also be an easy school resource for the teachers. At the end of each book will be a set of questions relating to the story for the teacher to use.
The books are to be published by the Malagasy publishing company 'Vakoka Vakiteny'. 'Vakoka' means something precious and worthy of protection and ‘Vakiteny’ means reading. They are a small, dedicated team of 3 and I very much look forward to working with them! We are focusing on the rural South West region where environmental degradation is at its worst. If you would like to learn more about them, please visit their website .
I understand that conservation story books already exist, but none written in Malagasy. Instead of simply translating these pre-existing books into Malagasy, I want to make books that the children can actually relate to – not a book based on foreign lands. My books will celebrate their culture and traditions and include their endemic nature and landscapes. This way, the children will make more of a connection to the problems raised in the book and take them more seriously.
My partner, Tax, is dedicated to doing the translating. Due to the deep tribal history of Madagascar, there are 12 different dialects spoken throughout the country. For now, the books will be in Official Malagasy dialect, however I aim to cover as many dialects as possible in the future.
Each book will be paperback with roughly 40 pages each. Some illustrations will be laid over a double landscape A4 spread, while others a single page. I am allowing myself 2 months per book – however, life depending, this may have to change.
For a break down of all the books and much more information, please visit my blog!
Firstly, I want to say that neither the publishing company nor I are making any money out of the publishing of these books. All the funds for printing and creating these books are having to be raised ourselves. That is why this project needs as much generous support as it can get to be successful!
• Publishing costs
These books are being freely distributed to as many schools as possible in Madagascar. All printing is done in Madagascar.
£1 per A4 colour paper. This means per 40-page book, it costs £40 for a good quality scan.
• Art materials
Plan for Additional Funding
To supply a number of books to as many schools throughout the country as possible. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world meaning there are many areas to cover!
Follow the journey!
To follow the journey of this project please visit my blog!
& if you have any question please feel free to email me:
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Jun 29, 2018
I always knew you would end up doing something as important as this---amazing stuff!
Jun 24, 2018
Keep going Beth. I know your next book is well on the way so keep it up as your work is very important and those children you were teaching in Madagascar need the books to keep coming.
Jun 23, 2018
I hope my small contribution helps with your worthy cause. All the best.Jade
Jun 6, 2018
Keep this amazing work Beth and hope you will do more books for the next generation. Soa bibi namako !!!
Jun 3, 2018
Jun 2, 2018
Fab idea and beautiful illustrations.x
Jun 1, 2018
So proud of you bethy boo! Lots of love x
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