Soa’s story: From Trauma to Training

All photos: CARE Madagascar



In Madagascar, CARE worked with Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson, a professional photographer who teaches at Akany Avoko Faravohitra, a residential rehabilitation center that provides young girls with second chances, life skills, a safe space, and support to deal with past traumas.

Nofy asked three of her students* to document life in the Center while telling their own stories.

Content warning: these pieces contain references to violence, loss, child abuse, and rape.

(*All names have been changed.)

Group of children holding up a trophy

“I was living with my parents and two siblings in extreme poverty in Antananarivo. Both of my parents dropped out of school at a young age, so they relied on farming to be able to feed the family. When this wasn’t enough my father would also go to the forest to collect wood to make charcoal and my mother would do laundry for other families. After school my brother and I would help carry the wood for charcoal and my little sister was left to sleep under a tree while we all worked.”

When I was 10, we moved to Tamatave where my father was offered a farming job and our life started to improve; we got a TV, I got my first certificate from elementary school and my father bought me a bicycle.

I don’t really like to talk about this next part of my life as it brings back the past…but when I was 14 my mother’s younger brother came to live with us. We got on well and eventually he started hitting on me. At first, I resisted, but then he coaxed me into a relationship. After about a month my younger brother started noticing and then both my mother and father found out. They were all very angry and eventually my uncle was sent away.

After that I became sick and delirious and couldn’t face staying at home. I stayed this way for three months and people began to say that I was bewitched. Finally, they convinced me to go to the Avoko Center, which I accepted as I was no longer comfortable staying at home.

I was not comfortable when I first arrived at the Center — I was not used to living with lots of children. For the first month there I acted out (throwing shoes, not sleeping) and people said I was possessed.

Aunty Hanta told me, ‘Girl, you have to get comfortable because it is good for you here, you can study, you can have a brighter future, we are here to advise you.’ These words had a real impact on me. The people at the Center took care of me and guided me.

Since then my behaviour has changed and Aunty Hanta says that now I am wise. I am focused on my studies and I always pass my exams. I have been living in the Center for two years now and I have benefitted from training such as English, handicrafts, computer training, and now this photography training — these days I am one of the best students here!

When I think back, I know my life would never have turned out like this if I had stayed in the countryside. I wouldn’t have such hope that I could achieve my dreams, and I probably would have stopped my studies.

Now my dream is to become an agricultural engineer, to build a home in Tamatave and make my parents happy. Many agronomic engineers have visited the Center and I want to be like them because I love animals and growing plants.“