December 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Amanda Hildt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Madagascar: Peace Corps Madagascar : The Peace Corps in Madagascar: December 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Amanda Hildt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar

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Amanda Hildt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar

Amanda Hildt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar

For three months, Hildt said she lived with a host family in order to pick up the language. "It's like growing up all over again. The first things you learn in the language are 'I'm full' and 'I'm hungry,'" Hildt said. "Three months later, you're having political discussions."

Amanda Hildt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar

Tough love

University students volunteer for Peace Corps; overcome challenges to help others

Daniel Reinish, Cavalier Daily Staff Writer

A creatively designed curriculum may be able to bring diversity from the outside world to the students in the classroom, but some members of the University community have chosen to try this the other way around.


Hildt noted that she had very little previous experience in the local language.

"I knew how to say 'hello' and 'thank you,' and that's it," said Hildt, who volunteered in Madagascar from 2001 to 2002.

For three months, Hildt said she lived with a host family in order to pick up the language.

"It's like growing up all over again. The first things you learn in the language are 'I'm full' and 'I'm hungry,'" Hildt said. "Three months later, you're having political discussions."

Hildt said she became interested in the Peace Corps because she "had been in school my entire life, and I really wanted to do something for the world."

She added, "I couldn't handle going straight into a job and all the monotony in that."


Hildt lived within what she described as a sort of nature preserve inside a forest. Her hut had no running water, and she said she had to fetch it from a pond at the bottom of a hill.

And with nature comes animals. Hildt noted in particular that she was living in a lemur sanctuary.

"I had this romantic vision of lemurs stealing my food," Hildt said. "And they actually did!"

When not chasing chickens and lemurs out of her home, Hildt worked at her official assignment.

Hildt said her task in Madagascar dealt with developing and introducing methods to prevent slash and burn agriculture.

She noted, however, that while the people were particularly motivated, it was hard for them to accept some of the changes she was proposing -– even concepts as commonplace to Americans as compost.

"People would say, 'I have to feed my family,'" Hildt explained. "The slogan goes 'It's the toughest job you'll ever love,' but it gets into you."

Hildt found that the difficulties of teaching definitely came with rewards.

"Teaching is a really great way to learn so much about who you're teaching and the culture you're in," she said.

Hildt said she felt she was learning more from the people around her than they learned from her.

She said she was able to observe, for example, how the culture dealt with a large amount of death through a simple 24-hour custom of keeping the deceased company "so he doesn't feel alone while finding his ancestors."

Another challenge that had to be overcome was tools that were often less than ideal.

Hildt said the only tools available when building a model station to serve as an example to the villagers were a local version of a shovel and what she said was essentially a machete.

Even so, Hildt said she would often be laughing all day long.

"The simplest thing there can get a laugh, and that was really pleasant," she said.


Hildt's stay came to a more turbulent end than Schuster's. Hildt explained that because of unrest following an election in Madagascar, she was forced to evacuate.

"I don't like to think of that unfortunate end to an amazing experience," Hildt said. "I felt completely fulfilled and had that sense of purpose that people want to have in life at some point."

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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