Madagascar is often referred to as the “8th Continent” because this island nation is so unique in its flora and fauna. However, charcoal practices and slash and burn farming have caused the destruction of more than 88% of the natural forests. When forests are depleted, animals flee, the water table drops, crops die, massive erosion occurs which causes destruction of the ocean reefs, and people become deeply impoverished. In Madagascar, 90% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
Jamie is the international director of Eden Reforestation Projects directing large-scale reforestation work on the northwest coast of Madagascar. Since its inception in 2006, Eden Projects has planted 290 million trees on the Northwest Coast of the Red Island. As a result, over 2,600 men and women have received steady employment thereby lowering their vulnerability risk while simultaneously providing a sense of dignity and value as a mother or father who can provide for the needs of their family. Children are being sent to school, families are able to seek medical care, men and women are able to escape modern-day slavery in the form of debt bondage, and individuals are able to start their own small businesses. Families are being lifted out of extreme poverty and, as Jamie states, “there is hope for a better future both for today and for the generations to come.”
According to the World Health Organization, more than 800 women around the world die each day in pregnancy or childbirth as a result of preventable complications. Most of these deaths occur in the developing world. In May 2013, Alissa opened the Sarobidy Maternity Center (SMC) in Mahajanga, Madagascar, to respond to the lack of qualified, compassionate care offered to women during a vulnerable time. The 14-month program provides full-scope, free-of-charge prenatal care, labor and delivery services, as well as postpartum care and well-baby services for six months. Additionally, SMC provides comprehensive laboratory testing, ultrasound services, medications, vitamins and high-protein snacks as well as weekly health education, Bible studies and family planning services to the women in the programs. To date, SMC has provided over 11,400 appointments to impoverished women and babies within the community while simultaneously sharing the deep and transforming love of Christ with women and their families.
Traditionally, the predominant religion of Madagascar is ancestral worship. Today 52% of Malagasy people still follow their traditional beliefs while 41% embrace Christianity and 7% claim Islam. Despite the high number of Christ-followers, many Malagasy still retain their traditional animistic practices.
Amidst all of this, God is at work. He is pouring out His blessings upon this work and the people of Madagascar. Through the reforestation work and the Sarobidy Maternity Center, women, men and children are hearing about Christ–Muslims, witchdoctors, animists, and nominal Christians. The individuals that are caring for creation through reforestation are being drawn to the Creator. Women who are being cared for at the Sarobidy Maternity Center are experiencing that they are precious in the eyes of Christ. The Lord is drawing His children to himself, He is speaking truth, He is restoring broken relationships, He is transforming lives and He is reigning within hearts!