27th August 2011
I traveled out to Madagascar at the beginning of May with my daughter Caroline and Kelly Bowerman. I had never been to Africa before or even been on a long haul flight before, so it was quite an experience! We traveled from Bristol via Amsterdam and Nairobi to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, and all the flights went well. We arrived at mid-day and were driven to the children's centre. As we approached the house, the children heard the car and they all came running out, calling: 'It's Mama Carolina!' They were so pleased to see her as she had been away for one month. She was also longing to see them too! They gave us a great welcome and we went in and met them all, followed by a tour of the house.
At that stage, they had about 14 children ranging in age from babies to 14 year-olds but this house (in theory), can house about 50. It's rented and they still rent the smaller house for staff etc, which is where we stayed. Whilst there, we helped with feeding the babies, playing with the children and helping with a birthday party for a little boy called Micah who was 1 year old. The children are very loving and get on well together most of the time!
At that stage, they had about 14 children ranging in age from babies to 14 year-olds but this house (in theory), can house about 50. It's rented and they still rent the smaller house for
staff etc, which is where we stayed. Whilst there, we helped with feeding the babies, playing with the children and helping with a birthday party for a little boy called Micah who was 1 year old. The children are very loving and get on well together most of the time!
On our second day, Caroline had to go to the courts in town to get papers for one of the children, so we went too. 'Tana', the capital, is about 30 minutes drive away. It is bustling, full of small French cars belching petrol fumes, long traffic jams and lads trying to sell you phone credit, bananas, etc through the car window. Also, in the traffic, are ox carts carrying goods. While Caroline was in with the social worker, a policeman came in to say that they had found three different boys abandoned on the streets that day. One of the boys, aged 7, had been taken to the local market with a bag of clothes by his mother who said she would return but never did! We ended up taking all three home with us. They are lovely children and one of them has since been re-united with his parents.
The next day we got 3 more children including baby twins of 4 months.Caroline then had to find more Malagasy house-parents to look after them. This last week she has been given two more babies so she now has 21 children. The family is growing! It was great to see how she copes with all these happenings on a daily basis and she sees great answers to prayer. Recently they actually ran out of money one weekend and on the Monday had no food left. They were praying about this when a van drove in and a man from Lions International, whom they had never met asked it they could use 160 bread rolls and lots of chocolate bars! It was amazing and the next day more money came in!
The next day we got 3 more children including baby twins of 4 months.Caroline then had to find more Malagasy house-parents to look after them. This last week she has been given two more babies so she now has 21 children. The family is growing!
It was great to see how she copes with all these happenings on a daily basis and she sees great answers to prayer. Recently they actually ran out of money one weekend and on the Monday had no food left. They were praying about this when a van drove in and a man from Lions International, whom they had never met asked it they could use 160 bread rolls and lots of chocolate bars! It was amazing and the next day more money came in!
They have 2 teachers coming each day to teach the children and considering most of them have never been to school, they are doing really well. The official language is French so they are now being taught in French, but they all speak Malagasy which is an interesting language of Indonesian origin. They take all the children to the local church on Sundays and folk from the church have been very welcoming.
I only stayed for two weeks, but Kelly stayed for four weeks. On my last weekend we managed a trip to the rain forest and saw lots of lemurs - which was great. When we were there, a girl from Belgium was helping out, but her visa expired and she has returned home. Patty and Julio who help her run the base, have gone to Mission School in Mozambique for 10 weeks so Caroline is short staffed. She really needs more permanent staff, but various folk are helping when they can. A firm in Bristol have been paying rent on the larger house for 6 months and this comes to an end in July, so prayer for this would be appreciated. Also they have a Landrover which is now not large enough for all the children so Caroline says,'Please ask everyone to pray for a minibus for us'!The container full of goods is finally on its way and should reach Madagascar at the end of July. They are looking forward to receiving all the children's clothes, toys, furniture etc. I had a great time and it was wonderful to see the country and to meet all my grandchildren. I am looking forward to next time.
12th January 2011
A visitor's view
A warm welcome awaits all visitors to the 'Mad House'. The Malagasy team (Patty and Julio and Tina and Gerard), as well as Caroline and Rachel are always pleased to welcome you and whatever time you arrive, they make you feel that you're their priority at that moment.
It starts to get light around 5am and it's a good time to enjoy the coolness and peace of the day before the children and animals wake up! Tina starts work early. She feeds her family as well as the 2 boys (Tiana and Fifi), who now live with them, before they start school. She often starts preparing lunch before 8am. She goes out to the local shops to buy the ingredients before lighting the two charcoal stoves in the yard, ready for her huge cooking pots. A lady arrives to wash the clothes (it's a wonder they survive here for long with the scrubbing and pounding they get!) and after a few hours out in the blazing sun, the clothes are usually dry. Once the food is bubbling on the stove, Tina starts cleaning inside the house. Floors need to be swept and polished and bathrooms and toilets cleaned. All the time she is coping with her eighteen-month-old daughter, Yasna, who frequently demands attention or a feed from her breast. Clarissa has changed her job of washing and ironing clothes to care for the three children (Ravaka 7, Sansia 4 and Michel almost 2), who have just come to live here.
The morning is punctuated by various arrivals at the gate, mostly women looking for work, or those concerned about a sick child. They are seen by either Caroline or Rachel, usually with someone to help with Malagasy interpretation. There is a vast ocean of need here and both Caroline and Rachel need great wisdom to know which people they are able to help with the limited resources they have. On Tuesdays, Julio leads a Men's meeting and on Thursdays Rachel is responsible for the ladies group.
At midday on weekdays around eighty or so hungry children assemble outside the gate. Gerard ticks off their names on his register before he lets them in and after they have washed their hands, they queue up for a bowl of rice and loca, whatever the topping is for that day (eg soup, beans, vegetables, meat). The heat of the noonday sun is intense and the children head for the shade of the veranda or the newly built shelter to eat their food. Many are dirty, dressed in filthy rags, with runny noses. Older children feed younger siblings but there are always lots of smiling faces, especially if there is a photo opportunity! After the food is finished the children have club time, led by Julio and Gerard, when they love to sing and have stories from the Bible.
When the children have left, Tina and Clarissa wash up and then continue with their chores, sometimes finding time to rest for a while. Often more visitors arrive. Most Wednesday afternoons, some of the team visit the Children's Hospital in the city to play with the kids and, when the opportunity arises, to pray for them. The afternoons are unbearably hot at the moment but the rains have not yet started properly. This is a good thing for one reason - it means that there aren't too many mosquitoes around. However, flies are a constant problem! Most days there is virtually no water in the taps but this problem is overcome by collecting water, when it is available, and storing it in big blue barrels, for later use. When the rains come, with the accompanying thunderstorms, the power often goes off for a time.
One evening a week, Caroline and some of her team visit the city centre to meet up with the homeless people who live there. She always gets a very warm welcome from adults and children alike and takes them all to a local street stall, where she is able to buy rice and loca for them very cheaply. Sometimes there is an opportunity to share something spiritual with the people or to pray for their needs.
It was a real privilege for us to see for ourselves the work that Caroline and Rachel and their team are doing in Madagascar. They are certainly making a huge difference to the lives of many needy and vulnerable children there.
George and Ruth Richardson December 2010
18th November 2010
12th October 2010
Please pray for Clarisse who's baby boy, only 8 weeks old died yesterday (suspected cot death). Clarisse is the lady we told you about who now cooks for the Street Kids, she also has a 2 year old daughter, please pray for them both.
30th August 2010
WE GOT OUR NGO PAPERWORK TODAY!!!!!! We are now all offically registered as an NGO in Madagascar!!!!!! WOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
31st July 2010
Caroline & Rachel have moved into their new home!! Check out their photos in the Gallery.
28th July 2010
News from Madagascar - Caroline and Rachel have found a house to rent in the city. They should move in and sign contracts on Wednesday. Photos will follow soon but they have no internet access at the moment. All very busy and exciting with new developments every day - so watch this space!
18th July 2010
Caroline & Rachel have arrived safely in Madagascar!!!!!
11th July 2010
Caroline and Rachel are back in Pemba, Mozambique where Caroline has spoken about the baby house project at the latest mission school.The exciting news is that they leave on Monday 12th July and should be in Madagascar by the end of the week. They will stay with friends to start with and then plan to find a place to rent so that they can be in Madagascar for the next stage of planning the baby house.
21st May 2010
Caroline and Rachel fly to Zimbabwe and then Maputo next week to continue their training and gain further experience from other Iris bases.
5th May 2010
Rachel's parents visited Bristol to meet Caroline's parents and bring further supplies to put in the container. Check out photos in the 'Container Album'. Thank you to all who contributed.
20th April 2010
A BIG thank you to the sunday school at Pendennis Chapel, Staple Hill who presented the baby house with a cheque today.
30th March 2010
Caroline and her 1st team member Rachel Riemens fly back to Pemba today to commence team training!!!! Rachel is a midwife from Holland, please check out her story under 'team & blog', we wish them all the best.
17th December 2009
The Sudan Trip is going very well, the team arrived safely last week and have been helping to build a school. They will also be helping with the children. They have now managed to book flights out of Sudan on the 22nd December instead of the overnight bus. This should make life much easier but Caroline asks for prayer about this as sometimes the flights get cancelled and all of the team have other flights to catch on the 23rd.
Caroline does not have internet access at the moment so asked her Mum to
send these updates.
11th November 2009
Caroline flies to Pemba for 5 days, look out for her next blog coming soon.
26th October 2009
The baby that was admitted to hospital with TB has been discharged!! Check out the team blog for Caroline's update.
25th October 2009
Some great news this week when Sally Thomas (Caroline's Mum) spoke at SHINE, a women's conference in Newport. Sally was made to feel very welcome and a large amount of money was raised for the baby house.
Thank you so much to those who donated and a big thank you for inviting Sally to speak at the conference!!!!!
14th October 2009
Caroline is now running a baby house in South Africa until December!!! An opportunity for her to use her skills whilst the paperwork goes through in Madagascar! One baby is pretty sick and has been admitted to hospital tonight, please pray for him and his complete recovery.
Whilst in Madagascar Caroline viewed 3 plots of land, please pray for wisdom in choosing the right plot.
8th October 2009
Change of plan - Caroline flies to South Africa today. She will spend 6 weeks looking after 2 babies at a newly open baby house, one of the babies has TB but is doing well. This will be great experience for Caroline and of course she will be in her element, doing what she loves!
PAPERWORK HAS BEEN HANDED IN!!!!!!!
5th October 2009
Caroline met with The Minister of Foreign Affairs today, there are a couple more things that need to be added to the paper work but nothing that can't be done quickly and the papers should be handed in tomorrow - please pray it all goes to plan.
27th September 2009
Caroline returns to Africa today after 6 weeks back in the UK. First off she will visit Madagascar to look at potential land for the Baby House. Then she returns to Iris Mozambique to continue her training.
Plus I'm sure you have noticed a change in the website. Please bare with us while we continue to update Iris Madagascar, there are several more pages still to come!