LARCHMONT, N.Y. – To many Larchmont villagers, Madagascar is a far-away place known for its beauty and wildlife.
But along with its unique ecosystem, Madagascar is a country also known as being rife with political turmoil, suffering from a dysfunctional education system and continuous over settlement in its forests, with the majority of its population living below poverty level.
Larchmont resident and 2005 Mamaroneck High School graduate Daniella Rabino didn’t intend on staying in Madagascar when she first studied abroad at Ranomafana National Park in 2007. But after meeting teachers and children who lived hours from main roads, across foot-bridges and mountains, who wanted to do nothing more but learn about the outside world and culture, she knew she would be going back.
“Only in Madagascar do you find people with so much hope and so much love that they have the whole village greet a strange foreigner in song, give them their chicken's egg and invite them to sleep in the schoolhouse that they live in, because it's raining,” wrote Rabino in an email. “That's Madagascar, and Madagascar's not committing ecological suicide. It's been a destiny prescribed for them, without the tools to protect their future, but we're trying to change that.”
For the summer months of 2012, the Rotary Club of Larchmont sponsored Rabino as an ambassadorial scholar to go back to Madagascar to continue what she started in 2007. Currently, she is studying the initial phase of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for her thesis and is back at Ranomafana National Park, based at the Centre ValBio research center. She is working alongside Dr. Alison Jolly, one of Madagascar’s leading voices for children, to gain a master’s degree in international education and development from the University of Sussex. She is focusing on using parks as local resources for children's involvement in conservation and sustainable development, in an effort to further education and development in Madagascar.
“Dr. Alison Jolly and I set up a major conference for Madagascar's Environmental Education with my MA that led to an official alliance in Madagascar's capital, bringing together many major groups,” wrote Rabino. “I feel very fortunate to be supported by an incredible organization, rooted in building friendship to accomplish good around the world.”
Rabino will return to the United States, and Larchmont, in two weeks, but is determined to go back to Madagascar and continue working with the children there.
“If Madagascar's children are readily leading the way for more sustainable communities with parks as local resources, then I'll go back to being an elementary school teacher,” wrote Rabino. “But until then, I'm just trying to take one step at a time, and see where I fall.”
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