Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 26, 2017


I am sitting in the warm afternoon wind on a terrace overlooking Antananarivo city. Due to a cancelled flight I have got an extra day to reflect and think back to five days in beautiful Madagascar. I feel strongly about my visit here. I am inspired and encouraged. The staff team at the national YMCA office has been bending over backwards to show us warm hospitality like when we had pizza in the garden outside the office.

At the same time this is a modern YMCA with strong links to both the Africa Alliance and to the World YMCA and the philosophy of Youth Empowerment and S2C. Nirina is leading a YMCA focusing on empowerment and job training and job creation and entrepreneurship.

Madagascar YMCA has strong partners. On the photo above the Minister for Labour in the Malagasy Government is speaking at the breakfast meeting, attended by a number of top leaders from banking, corporate business, Universities and large NGOs.

I was invited to speak and I shared my story about Ian from the garbage dump in San Pablo who got education and a job through the vocational training system of the YMCA. The Minister bowed over to me and whispered in my ear: “Unfortunately you will not find many Ian-stories in Madagascar!”

The Minister was a very charming acquaintance. Next day we went to Antsirabe, a city 5-6 hours drive away from the Capitol. To our mutual surprise we discovered that the Minister and her husband stayed at the same hotel and we had a nice chat in the restaurant that evening.

90% of the population is poor and struggling to survive on 2 dollars a day. 3% are really rich and then you have a shrinking middle class on 7%. The Minister of Labour was genuinely motivated to work with the YMCA as a partner in the fight to improve living conditions for young people.

Nirina was facilitating this important event and was the true queen of the show.

Carlos was addressing the audience in fluent French on behalf of the African Alliance and told the Minister about the African Renaissance of the young people of the African YMCAs.

The Minister answered questions. She stayed with us for one and a half hour and had brought her top three Civil Servants from the Ministry. I was really impressed.

The audience participated in the lively exchange of opinions and viewpoints on the situation for young people in Madagascar.

Then it was time to say good bye to the Minister.

The meeting continued and here is the Director General of the Ministry speaking to us and making his statement that the YMCA from this day on would be an official partner to the Government in the implementation of the Labour policy.

It was especially interesting to meet with the two representatives of the local ILO office. We in the YMCA feel more and more close to the ILO both in Geneva and locally.

The Director General is a YMCA member from his youth and has a warm relationship to our Organisation.

Two days after the meeting we were making a stop in a small city where people were producing aluminium products in the old ways – very interesting. On the other side of the street a car stopped and the Director General climbed out and shouted to us. He had recognized us and stopped for a talk.

The representative of ILO explaining how they could imagine a closer collaboration with YMCA.

Then we are back to the real focus for all the above meetings and discussions – the young people and Youth Empowerment. Madagascar YMCA is really good at it. There is a club for absolutely all possible interests, and all these clubs go together and constitute a YMCA Power Space. Above is the beauty and cosmetic club.

Here the Monopoly Club (the streets on the game was from Paris and Champs Elyssée was the second most expensive. Rue de Paix the most expensive!)

Of course there is a Chess club!

And equally self evident a club for face painting.

This is the local art club, holding an impressively high level of performance in drawing and painting.

If you are lucky you can listen to 19 seconds of the Music club.

More clubs are exhibited in the courtyard outside the National YMCA office on a Saturday morning.

Here our friend from the Ministry talking with Nirina.

Our good friend Zo, the professional tour guide, was our driver during the whole stay and explained a lot of things for us. When I left the car to make photos of the grafitty, he came after me and translated the words and put it all into context. (See the blogpost “Madagascar Fantastico”).

So told us that his wife had asked him about his clients. After some stories his wife decided to join the YMCA and now Zo himself is doing the same. We proposed to create a Tour Guide club!

Below the S2C (From Subject to Citizen) Credo on the wall of the YMCA.

We all signed this credo in solidarity with all the young people of Madagascar.

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 23, 2017


On our way to an official meeting we came across this beautiful, impressive piece of art. As the meeting at the embassy will soon be forgotten, as many of such meetings only deserve a silent funeral and disappearance, this fantastic piece of raw grafitti on a wall along the river in Antananarivo deserves to be seen, to be loved and to be remembered for ever. It made my day.

A face of a child and a face of a Malagasy man. A face of an Arab man and the face of an Asian lady. Almost coming together, on their way to melt together, on their way to become one face.

The face of a man and the face of a woman. Coming together, melting into one face, growing into unity.

The Malagasy word MITOVY. Meaning “the same” – “equal” – “identical”.

A child with wide open eyes looking into the future. What kind of future is out there? Is there any fairness and justice? Am I given any future perspectives, any hope, any opportunities? At the side of the child in black letters the Malagasy word ZO – meaning “law” – “justice”. And EGALIX which is Malagasy slang for “equality”.

On the upper side of the wall barbed wire, on the lower side the river is eating from the soil.

The goddess of justice with the scale and blinded eyes. The symbol of fairness and justice and a safe space for a vulnerable child.

This part of it is just beautiful. Free circulation. Freedom and justice and equality. Perspectives for the future and hope.

Circulation. Leading to a prosperous and free life for all.

The wheels interacting with one another. We are all interrelated. We are all the same. We are of equal value and have equal rights, the same claim for a fair and just future.

Behind that wall were the embassies, the offices of The African Union, the official residences and offices.

On this side of the wall poverty and the informal economy of a population struggling to survive. In the middle the grafitty of hope and justice and equality. Put there by a young person with a vision. Madagascar FANTASTICO.

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | February 22, 2017


Today was a great day in Madagascar. It was a great day for recognition of the good work of the National YMCA. I have seldom experienced anything like it. First it was breakfast with the Minister for Employment and Vocational Training in the Government plus all three Director Generals from her ministry. The top leadership from a national government ministry. Impressive.

Then it was two representatives from the ILO office in Madagascar and top leaders from Banking, Universities, Corporate business and private Sector.

Here an atmospheric photo from the evening yesterday where the Board Chair of the National YMCA and I have a very friendly and interesting dinner conversation.

The Minister, Madame Toto Raharimalala Lydia, gave a solid opening speech where she expressed how dedicated her ministry and her President are for the fight against youth unemployment, and how she saw a further intensified development of infrastructure and education as essential for a better development for young people.

Above representatives for large private businesses and staff from the YMCA listening attentively to the speech of the Minister. She expressed how important she saw the collaboration with the YMCA in Madagascar and welcomed us for partnership and cooperation.

If the minister was positive and welcoming to the YMCA, her Director General, Mr Rabearivelo Noallsen A, was even more clear in his statements. In his speech he declared that the YMCA in Madagascar from today will be rated as a full and official partner for the ministry in the implementation of the national government policy on youth employment. He urged the YMCA to participate in an exchange of information of strategies and plans with the government. He also told us that in his younger days he had been a member of the YMCA and had enjoyed the fellowship in the YMCA.

You may remember from last autumn that I wrote about my meeting with Director General Guy Ryder of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). That meeting resulted in an invitation to send two National Secretaries from the YMCA to a high level conference of the ILO in Italy. Nirvana from Madagascar was one of them. There she met the deputy of the ILO Director General, and later on he visited Madagascar and met up with Nirvana at the YMCA. The deputy from ILO, Valter, connected us with the local ILO office, and above you see Clara Ramaromanana, who came to the YMCA breakfast together with another colleague from ILO. Again the warm invitation for partnership and collaboration was expressed from ILO.

Here two top leaders from the Banks. They both participated actively in the debate.

In my speech I promised to bring these experiences to my contacts in the global leadership of ILO back home in Geneva, and see to it that further practical collaboration can take place.

From that rather impressive breakfast we were driven to the offices of the African Union in Antananarivo where we were received by the leader of the office, Madame Hawa Ahmed Youssouf. We all expressed how the YMCAs in Africa participated actively in the Africa Union Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want”, and we all agreed that further collaboration was wished for and would be facilitated. A most constructive and positive meeting with the top diplomat for the African Union in Madagascar. I complimented Nirvana for her success in facilitating two such high level meetings in one day. This is about making the YMCA more visible and recognised!

YMCA Youth Power Space in Carion, an hours drive into the countryside. This became a wonderful encounter with an active Youth Empowerment YMCA – typical for the new profile of the YMCA in Madagascar. Again I became so impressed and so encouraged and inspired.

This building is leased to the YMCA by the government for 10 years, and the house is now so full of young people that additional rooms needs to be negotiated nearby.

The first room was full of the English Club, where people were learning English and speaking it so well.

In addition to the language training they add a separate curriculum for life skills and values and essential issues for young people in their development. Here was an answer to the results from One Million Voices youth research. The lack of knowledge and information about life skills and basic understanding of labour laws and requirements was fully compensated in Carion YMCA.

In the next room was the Art Club where people learnt to develop their talents for drawing and painting. Added the same curriculum on life skills and values.

Thee kids on each computer makes a Computer Club with the same added curriculum on Life skills.

The closest neighbour to this YMCA centre is the FIFA financed training centre for the National Soccer team of Madagascar. Here they are for a full fledged training in a superb sports centre.

In the FIFA centre the Poultry Club was meeting for their weekly mentoring and follow up related to all practical and theoretical questions on growing chicken and keeping them healthy for young farmers. Added the same value curriculum as the other clubs. I observed these motivated young people being empowered in front of my eyes. They were developing their own farms and businesses as true entrepreneurs. Trained and prepared by the YMCA.

Lack of enough land for the farmers is a serious problem. Therefore the innovative idea of growing salad and tomatoes in recycled plastic bottles in several floors and levels was developed by the young participants.

Here vegetables are growing in happy novelty and innovation with water dripping from one bottle to the next and even the water itself is being recycled at the end.

Then we drove half an hour into the wilderness on very poor roads to visit Zo, a young farmer who met the entrepreneurial training of the YMCA five years ago when he had only 5 chicken. With 150 Euro in start capital and continuous mentoring and follow up from the YMCA, he has slowly grown his own farm till he owns 74 chicken, 52 rabbits, a cow and a calf. And he is still expanding!

He had to stop after secondary education five years ago, but now he has saved up and is ready to start his academic education at the university. A miraculous story of success by changing mindset and attitudes – Youth Empowerment par excellence.

Zo’s cow is giving lots of milk for sale and is surrounded by the chicken.

Above the main house on Zo’s farm and some of his family plus our driver!

On our way back to Antananarivo we stopped by this poster put up by the YMCA. It is an overview of risk and danger related to typhoons and floods and other natural disasters, and instructions how local people ought to behave in situations of danger. Impressive again and demonstrating the key role of YMCA in local community development.

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