Rebeka Ramangamihanta ’16 worked on a polio awareness campaign this summer in an internship with UNICEF Madagascar made possible by the 2015 Class Commencement Gift. She writes about her internship and the rest of her time in her home country of Madagascar.

Rebeka holds a "thank you" sign for her Lafayette internship stipend while standing in front of a polio poster.

Polio Poster and thank you note for the Lafayette internship stipend

Hello everyone, I would like to share with you about my summer, which by the way is already ending since I am now back on campus. Right after my semester abroad in Dakar, Senegal, I went back home, to Madagascar, to intern at UNICEF Madagascar but also to spend time with my family.

Little brother and friend canoeing

I had two weeks of just relaxing in Madagascar before starting my internship. For these two weeks I was just home watching TV, hiking with my brother and his friends, and exploring Madagascar. During my trip to Senegal I encountered more of Senegal as a country than some Senegalese people. This made me realize that I needed to discover more about Madagascar, my own country, more or as much as tourists do.

View from the hotel of a body water in Madagascar with Rebeka in the foreground

View from the hotel

For that first weekend, my family and a friend went to a small city called Ampefy about 80 miles south of Antananarivo. This friend was a tourist whom I had just met a few days before. I think it makes it better to visit a place I call home with a tourist because they bring a different perspective than if I were to go alone or with any of my compatriots. Being with this friend made me appreciate Madagascar better because he noticed and appreciated those small things that I took for granted and it allowed me to learn even more about my country.

A stream with foliage on both sides, and hills and blue skies and white clouds in the background

After those two weeks, I started my internship with UNICEF Madagascar with the Communications for Development (C4D) section. I was mostly working on the polio campaign as UNICEF in the role of social mobilizer for the polio outbreak response campaign. After two cases of polio were found in September 2014 and January 2015, national campaigns have been carried out in the regions affected but also later nationwide. I had the opportunity to work particularly on the national FAV polio of August 2015. I also did some research about social, economic and political context in Madagascar for the communications strategy. For more practical experience, I was working indirectly on making a film on polio and a lot of translations for posters.

Shot of Rebeka's big brother jumping

My big brother jumping

After my internship with UNICEF, I decided to write my senior honors thesis about the political, economic and social causes of polio cases in Madagascar when it is supposed to be eradicated worldwide. As I was searching for approval from the Ministry of Health in Madagascar for this research, I was asked to be a regional coordinator for independent monitors for the August campaign, which was a 10-day contract. I then worked on polio until the day before my last day in Madagascar. I had to coordinate and collect data on the effectiveness of the polio campaign in the Analamanga region (where the capital is) from 24 monitors.

The waterfall of Chute de la Lilly in Madagascar

Chute de la Lilly

The summer went by very fast, but I am very thankful for it and I learned a lot from the people I met and everything else. It was busy but very rewarding.

Canoeing with my little brother and friend

Selfie with the band :)