The Ambohitrakely bridge and school inaugurations were such big news locally that they were one of the lead items on both the Malagasy and French language news reports on TVM the day after. This is the clip from the French speaking news broadcast. Thanks to journalists at TVM for sending it through.

I’m sure you’ll recognise some of the cast of characters from my blog about the day Bridging The Gap – Brian Donaldson cuts the ribbon alongside the man from the Ministry in his fabulous suit. The straw hat and wafty dress behind are modelled by yours truly!!

The following clip is our video of the bridge opening … it captures a little more of the local band’s music and the windy, red dusty day.

Madagascar needs another 3000 primary schools in order to offer a start in life to every child. Projects like this only exist with thanks to charities like MDF and the Kitchen Table Charities Trust.

You can donate to KTCT here


It’s been a glorious day here in Cambridge today – and I went on a Geological walk with the Friends of the Sedgwick museum. From the wonders of Wandlebury Ring to the old flint church in Linton, to a water tower … built in 1934 which now stores some 400 cubic metres of water and serves the surrounding villages – remember that figure.

I got home, achy feet but very happy with a smattering of freckles and a red nose from a day in the sunshine and found a whole wodge of email correspondence from Brian Donaldson, the Chairman of the Grants Committee for the Kitchen Table Charities Trust (and Founder and Patron of the Madagascar Development Fund – MDF). The emails were full of the story and photos of the Inauguration of the Ambohibato Water Project…. their new water tank holds some 2 cubic metres and is fed from a natural spring above the village. The access to this fresh water will radically transform the health and the prosperity of both the community and the individuals that live there. The project was made possible by the generosity of four individuals who raised the necessary £1,700 – yup that’s all – only £1,700. Shocking to think that people pay that for a fancy washing machine or oven in the UK… The Inauguration took place on Tuesday 20th April in a tiny village called Ambohibato some two and half hours bumpy dust road drive North East of Antananarvio the capital city of Madagascar. The photos and many of the words below are taken from Brian’s emails today.

Ambohibato village

This picture shows the village with the mud hut belonging to a young woman Esther – in the foreground.  6 feet by 4 feet – with no furniture – just a raffia mat on the floor and a couple of enamel saucepans – her only possessions. Esther’s husband abandoned her when he learned she was pregnant.

Esther outside her home in August 2009

She now lives in this thatched,  mud house on an income of 4 pounds a month – earned by doing odd jobs for the better off in the village and selling eucalyptus leaves at the nearest market,  a two hour walk away.

The Ambohibato project involved building a two cubic metre concrete collection tank adjacent to a spring emerging from the hillside 850 metres above the village of Ambohibato,  and running pipes down to the hillside to two stand-pipes -one in the “playground” of the primary school;  the other adjacent to the nearby village.  The villagers supplied all the locally available materials,  including rocks,  sand and gravel,  and were responsible for digging the trench where the pipes now lie. The money needed for this project  (£1,700) was raised by two brothers,  Simon and Mirko Kamann,  who ran last year’s Berlin Marathon and raised sponsorship among friends and family,  and a donation by Peter Coe and his wife Julie Walters,  of Tudor Reilly,  a corporate communications agency focused on health care

Copyright © 2010 Ellie Stoneley and Brian Donaldson

Big hurrah for Air Mauritius who have been extraordinarily helpful … flight rebooked for Sunday 15th May.

So – volcano – start behaving please, simmer down and stop with the whole ash cloud thing – thank you.

Brian Donaldson has been so helpful on the ground in Madagascar and is replanning the schedule of visits to projects – and has fitted in a weekend break at Vakona Forest Lodge to look at some lemurs which will be exciting (if a little expensive but hey this really is a tremendous opportunity) … I have totally self funded my trip and pay for own accommodation out there … all the money raised (now £925 – on the justgiving page) goes directly to the Kitchen Table Charities Trust (and has gift aid added to it – so all the more reason to donate).

So strange sitting here on a very windy blustery blue kind of day in Cambridge knowing that as I type Brian is at the inauguration of the Water treatment centre with all the villagers and so on… I hope it is a glorious day there and so look forward to seeing all the photos.

Just spoken to Air Mauritius;  the flight is still scheduled for 9pm Saturday night – blow away dust cloud blow away out to sea …

all being well we will take off at 9pm, have 5 mins transit in Mauritius and then arrive in Tana at 1.30 on Sunday to be met by Brian Donaldson the chairman of the grants committee for KTCT and also director of the Madagascar Development Fund – and former British Ambassador to Madagascar.

So … fingers and toes crossed.

If all goes according to plan then this is a flavour of what I will be doing in Madagascar (taken from an email just now from Brian):

As part of your programme we have arranged the inauguration of a clean water project in a far-distant village on Tuesday, (early start) which it is now too late to change (villagers and local authorities informed; plaque – with date of inauguration already made). It would be a great pity if you were to miss it. The scenery is breathtaking.

Please ash cloud blow in the other direction …