A program that is easing the poverty of the Malagasy people, while helping to save the endangered lemurs, which are found on the island of Madagascar has taken flight thanks to a young couple’s relentlessness.
The nation’s economy is the fourth fastest-growing in the world. In fact, one-fourth of the globe’s vanilla comes from the island. Yet the vast majority of the adult Malagasy people can’t even read, so they don’t benefit from the higher-paying jobs. They are left to fend for themselves, living off the land—which encroaches on and endangers the wildlife surrounding them.
The couple, Shana and Vlad Vassilieva, learned all this from their tour guide, JJ (Jean-Jacques Rafenomahazomanana), a passionate local who shared his vast experiences of Malagasy culture and led them beyond designated tourist zones, into isolated villages.
There, they noticed that the schools for children had no books—and the agricultural practices in villages were not sustainable. They decided they could address both these problems, by tackling the literacy issue.
They partnered with JJ to create the Mobile Library Project, designed not only to teach people about letters, but also about their lemurs.
“One of the main goals is to help the Malagasy see how much can be gained from the forests and nature when you take care of it and practice more sustainable methods,” said Shana. “So while kids and adults are learning to read, they are also learning how to thrive off the lands in more mutually beneficial ways.”
The non-profit Mobile Library Project employs two additional educators and operates out of a van that travels to four villages every month in coordination with local schools.