Congratulations to Lalaina Randriamanantenasoa on being selected as PEN’s November Educator of the Month! Special thanks to Susie McGuire for her nomination and blog submission.
I have had the pleasure of working with Lalaina Randriamanantenasoa in Madagascar for the past four years. She is dedicated to helping others and has a special gift for inspiring people to take responsibility for the environment and the precious primates that live there.
One of Lalaina’s goals is to work with rural communities to improve their livelihoods while living in harmony with nature. She has actively planted more than 20,000 trees with eight local schools as part of our environmental education program.
Lalaina is Conservation Fusion’s Malagasy Education Coordinator and official representative in Madagascar. She wears multiple hats and is a teacher, translator, liaison, and facilitator. Lalaina makes each task fun and handles all situations with a smile. She also serves one month each year volunteering for the international non-profit Operation Smile and is active in many youth activities, serving as a mentor.
In addition, Lalaina attends meetings in Antananarivo, tends to all Conservation Fusion (CF) affairs with the Malagasy government and ministries, and coordinates our activities with teachers, students, partner NGOs, and government officials.
Lalaina grew up in the city of Antananarivo. While in school, she learned very little about lemurs. The Malagasy education system places little to no emphasis on local biodiversity and children are taught to focus on learning about zebu, chickens, and goats.
Upon our first education adventure to the rural Kianjavato region, Lalaina had the opportunity to see lemurs in the wild for the first time. She was so surprised and amazed and quickly embarked on an ambitious schedule by always coming up with innovative ways to empower - not give to - the local people. She always reminds them to take ownership.
Lalaina says, “Lemurs are our national heritage, but most of the children do not know what they have and that these primates are only found in Madagascar.”
She has implemented numerous innovative, hands-on lessons that all relate back to the interconnectedness of the lemurs, the forest, and the local people. Lalaina adds, “Lemurs are our future. These special species help spread seeds that regenerate the forest, which creates an interdependence between people and [non-human] primates. If the lemurs are gone, they cannot disperse seeds.”
Lalaina’s ability to connect and inspire has led to the formation of a local teacher’s association and vegetable gardens at each of the schools CF works with. These gardens not only create teamwork and pride, but also fill a special niche in providing food for children in lieu of hunting lemurs.
When asked why PEN is important to her as a primate educator, she explains, “Networking and sharing with others can give us opportunities to grow as educators and to become more efficient in our work. The participation of every organization is important if we want to be successful in our primate education programs! Thank you, PEN!"
This blog post was written by Susie McGuire. Susie is the Founder and Director of Conservation Fusion, a non-profit organization educating communities in Madagascar. Their mission is "Educating to build and strengthen our world."