Devastation in Madagascar

It seems like it’s been quite a journey already, but our work is just getting started. In the past few months Madagascar has been hit by 5 major storms – Cyclone Ana, Cyclone Batsirai, Cyclone Enmati, Tropical storm Dumako, and Cyclone Gombe. This unprecedented series of storms have brought widespread destruction to the island. Thousands of families have lost their homes, fields, cattle, and food stock. Lack of clean water is causing the spread of diseases, including covid. 

You may be surprised to hear this, given the lack of coverage in the media. While we have witnessed over the past few years just how closely we are all connected around the world, there are still corners of the globe that are being forgotten. This lack of awareness and understanding is a threat to us all.  Our director, Gaelle Borgia, has already been reporting on the situation.

We will continue to share Gaelle’s news reports. Meanwhile it is critical to get our team out to the field to document the experiences of the vanilla farmers. You can help us by making a tax deductible donation, thanks to our fiscal sponsor, From the Heart Productions.

Make checks payable to From the Heart Productions and indicate “Voice of Vanilla” on the memo line. Mail to: 

​​From The Heart Productions
1455 Mandalay Beach Road
Oxnard, California 93035-2845

Director, Gaelle Borgia, under attack

For the past 3 months Gaelle Borgia, director of Voice of Vanilla, has been reporting on the devastating famine in the south of Madagascar. Reporting on such terrible conditions is difficult enough, but now she is dealing with a smear campaign and cyber-harassment from the government of Madagascar.

Gaelle showed video of people forced to eat cow leather meant for making shoes. The governor of the region, along with a national television reporter made attempts to discredit her by claiming that the people in her video said she paid them to eat the leather. Gaelle posted another video in which those same people said they were paid and threatened to make the statements against her.

Thankfully Gaelle is being supported by Reporters Without Borders, which has issued a statement condemning the smear campaign. No doubt, Gaelle’s credibility as a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter makes her especially threatening to the status quo.

Read more: Smear campaign targets prize-winning reporter in Madagascar

I have a fever…

and the only prescription is MORE EMPATHY!

Actually, the whole world has a fever right now. I’m not talking about coronavirus. During a time when we should be connecting more and caring for each other, the pattern I’m seeing on social media is disconnection, shame, and anger. The good news is that there is a cure. Yeah, you know the prescription.

There’s a famous quote that is constantly misinterpreted, and I talk about this a lot.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Now, a lot of people think this is a call to action, but it doesn’t say ‘Make the change’ or ‘Go do the change’ or ‘Shame people on facebook until the change happens.’ The statement is telling us to change the way we think, see, and react. The best way I have to describe this process is to develop empathy. And for me, because I’m a storyteller, the best way to develop empathy is to listen to the stories of other people, especially those very different from you.

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. How will this save the world? Well, a few examples include:

  • Empathy promotes helping behaviors; gives a sense of connection and community–> People with empathy can work together.
  • Empathy fosters pleasurable and positive feelings; helps heal psychological problems such as anxiety–> Empathy makes people happier.
  • Promotes creativity and innovation –> Empathy helps people solve problems.

Streaming platforms like Kanopy, Netflix, and Prime are curating films about black and indigenous people of color. So if you find yourself feeling angry or confused right now, take a few hours to listen to someone’s story. It is a simple and fun way to make the world a better place.