Teaching Self Defence in Madagascar
For most people, Madagascar conjures up the amusing animated film. In reality, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, where thousands of children are orphaned and live on the street. Predators come around in vans and abduct those children for sex and organs trafficking.
I have been given the rewarding career of teaching people how to protect themselves from aggression and assault. So when I read about these people at risk in Madagascar, I really hoped I would be able to help them.
I had the privilege of travelling to Madagascar in September with a group including doctors, nurses, accountants and teachers to work with CSM.
Imagine taking your professional skills to a completely new environment and adapting them to the local conditions – exciting and challenging!
Brendan from CSM drew up a schedule matching the skills of each person, and my task was to run five self defence classes, as well as teaching English and assisting in the garden.
When I teach corporate clients in Australia, we have luxury and comfort - carpeted rooms, AV equipment, air conditioning, catering. In Madagascar, although the teaching venues were nothing like this, the learning environment and outcomes were exceptional.
The first groups of students in Tana were mothers of the children who are sponsored into school by CSM and given breakfast at The Living Centre. On the first day, a group of approximately 20 young women with innumerable toddlers in tow, streamed into The Living Centre ready to learn.
They deserved a professional presentation, so I was wearing my uniform, and had a whiteboard, charts, laptop and trained assistant to create an effective learning atmosphere. Thank God for our enthusiastic translator, Vonjy, otherwise our body language and mime skills would have been stretched to the limit!
I was so impressed with their willingness to learn, and intelligent questions, about complex topics like the legal guidelines of self defence!
The afternoon group were again very eager, and took in the skills so readily. I was heartened by the universal language of learning, giving and sharing that we can access simply by being available.
The most interesting and challenging environment to teach in was a dusty outdoor place only accessible by foot, in a tiny rural village. I still took all the equipment to make it look real and professional.
One of the most touching moments was when at the end of a session we invited questions, and one of the students said: ‘With such important skills as these, repetition is really necessary. Is it possible that we can have another class?’ So another class was organised, and everyone plus more turned up.
We sincerely tried to adapt our skills to local needs. When we found out that alcohol-related domestic violence is a big problem, we put the skills into scenarios like: your husband comes home drunk, and here are the defusing gestures and safe positions you can use. Another common risk was having valuable items stolen on market days, so we showed how to apply the skills in these locations.
The whole experience was a wonderful opportunity to show God’s love in a practical, effective way. I look forward to returning to teach new students, and run refresher training for the 100+ eager students we met.