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This is a picture of the ariary note. This is a nice clean beautiful one. Most of the bills are quite used, covered with the dirt and dust of the earth from Tulear. They’re torn and tattered, moist and oily from exchange among the Malagasy. I had to stop and think about the fact that that our dollar bills are retired after a certain time, new ones made. The Malagasy are so poor they don’t even have the money to reprint their currency.

10,000 ariary is roughly $5.00 (actually a little less). It is the largest bill. $25.00 is the equivalent of $50,000 ariary. Imagine that if something costs $25.00 (such as a night in a hotel), one must give five 10,000 ariary bills. If it’s several nights in a hotel.....100,000 ariary- ten ariary bills. Imagine paying for everything in cash with only $5.00 as your largest bill!

This is not a lesson in economics, but I’m trying to convey just how poor the people here are. Many people inquired about attending the camp but not all could afford it. Believe me, I wanted to scholarship all the students, but Todd and Patsy have advised us not to. We have been charging for the camp to give those who attend a certain feeling of pride and ownership; and proud they are!

It tears at my heart, when three little girls who have walked an hour to get here (and who walk an hour to get back home) hand me their crumpled up $3,000 ariary to pay for a week’s lessons. 3,000 ariary is the equivalent of $2.50. Most Malagasy earn about $2.00 a day, so $3,000 ariary is more than a day’s wages.

This is an older bill (1,000 ariary)-what we usually see

At times I’m just overwhelmed by the need and the desire to learn by these beautiful people. At times I go back to my room with a heavy heart. It’s both physically and mentally exhausting, but in a good way.

Deb and I are putting all of our energy, effort and love into every minute of every class. We understand the value of what these students are getting and want them to get only our very best.

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