Hammer time

I’m back! Yes I have been trusted to write another blog post. On Monday we had our last team swap and I went to AAF. As you may have heard from Doggo, the previous team were taking down the water tower stand (and it was putting up a fight!). We continued from where they had left off, widening the concrete channels already made, so that we could fit an angle grinder in to cut the rebar. We also dug one more channel, and after a morning’s hard work, we cut the last few bits of rebar and started levering the first bit of lid off the edge and soon enough the first bit of the concrete hit the ground (only 3 left to go).

I was really enjoying using the cold chisels, hammers and my favourite thing the SDS medium duty breaker with point or chisel fitted [Leaders’ note: Matthew works in the tool hire industry, it took us two days to realise this was the proper name for the hammer/demo drill we were using].

Lunch came as an unpleasant break as it stopped me from breaking things. By the end of the day we were three quarters of the way through the job & made the work area safe (both for us, and for the girls, as it was our route to the long drop toilet in the night). This meant I had to use the angle grinder to cut off bits of pointy rebar (oh dear another power tool) [Leaders’ note: Matthew, and all of the other participants were only allowed to use these tools under close supervision of Doggo].

As Tuesday morning broke we formulated a plan to get the final piece of this structure down. The first task was to clear our feet, as there was a big pile on the side of the tower of 3 bits of concrete lid, block and dirt. We created a human chain of Scottish and Malagasy scouts, working together passing the blocks to make a big pile out of the way. Then came the heavy bit, trying to move these bits of lid. This time it consisted of lots of lifting one side, flipping, rolling, and grunts to get the first one to the edge of the hill, and then let it roll down a wee bit, then a rinse and repeat for the second and third bit. Then it was time to tackle the final final bit. After some more grunting and power tools we had broken the back of this 3 day epic of a job & rapidly reduced the height of the tower to something that could be used by the refuge as place to wash clothes etc.

To reward ourselves for the work we had done we went souvenir shopping and had pizza which was nice (and rice free). We then returned back and had dinner (which was not rice free).

When we came back from dinner I noticed some of the girls trying to break up a bit of a bed for firewood – I wandered over just to see what they were up to and then recognising that I was CEO of Matthew Wilson Constructive Dismantling I was asked to help. which, under their direction, I did.

The next day was the wrap up of the project phase. When the bus arrived, we got our bags waved goodbye and started the walk up the steep drive. As I reach the top I looked back and gave a final wave. AAF had been a great project as we had spent our days helping to improve the girls’ environment. All these girls who were always happy and full of life and also learning and improving our own skills which we may need later in life.
Project stage had its high and lows but all in all its was an amazing experience and has provided me with skills for life.

Matthew Wilson (Milson)
CEO of Matthew Wilson Constructive Demolition


Dear mum, please order a Chinese for 4:45 on the 26th for Shredded Chilli beef. Thanks x

Team one has spent the last few days at AAF continuing the work from the previous groups.

One of our tasks was taking back tree branches and shrubbery which were extending over the stairs where the builders were planning new work. While this was happening the rest of our team were working on rendering the stairs which were built by the previous team in their last stint at AAF making them ready for use.

Another task we were given was to demolish an old water holder tower. We made a start on this with hammer and chisels as well as power tools to take down the concrete which the supports structure. The following two teams will be continuing this work by removing a concrete lid and finally removing and, if possible, preserving the brickwork.

On Wednesday afternoon, just after lunch, some of the Malagasy Scouts took us to a touristy shop in Tana where we had a chance to pick up some souvenirs for ourselves and people back home. After this we went to a local Pizza chain called Gastro Pizza. We were all very, very happy to see some familiar foods, with no rice in sight!

Tomorrow we will return to the seminary for our last few days at the Scout centre before leaving for our R&R

By Aiden

Thoughts of John

Another switch over day for the teams on the two projects and my team’s first work load at Akany complete, which flew past faster than ever with many amazing experiences; it definitely wasn’t without a few unique experiences along the way aswell. During most of our time spent at Akany we worked on constructing a new staircase at the back of the building from a stone platform which the previous team had aleady put together. For the materials used we ended up using more of a dirt/water slurry along with some Madagascan clay bricks, rather than a perfectly mixed concrete and high grade bricks that would more likely be used back home.
While at Aknay we always had our lunch with the girls that permanently stay there aswell as the Malagasy scouts which were kindly helping us with our work and taking the roles as our qualified boss and construction engineer of the building site. The food we had for lunch also needed a bit of getting used to as every day it was rice, rice and more rice with some other kind of vegetable and water.
On our second last night at Akany we had quite the football night when Madagascar were playing the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African football cup, this caused the whole of Antananarivo and most definitely including the girls at Akany to get pretty hyper during the game, it was great to see the keen support that the contry has for its international football team. This did make Madagascar scoring a goal extremely obvious when full city burst into cheers and certainly did escalate to the extremes when Madagascar won the game after the game going to extra time and penalties, when the fireworks were set off and the celebrations going well into the early hours of the morning which was certainly successfull at keeping me awake for a good couple of extra hours that night.
During this time the other two teams that were set up at the scout centre were also working away at repairing a brick staircase leading down to a Cub area that they have set up and also continuing construction work for the new dining shelter, while very similar to us getting well baked in the sun.
So far the expedition as a whole has been such a life changing experience and I’m sure it still has a full ton more to offer in the remaining few weeks, which everyone is eager to discover.

By John

The fished product and the team who made it.

Tranom Bitsika – a photo update.

We realised last night that any pictures you have seen are of the AAF work. As it’s lunch over here at the Scout Centre we thought we would supply some.The long walk up and down the hill to supply water & bricks to the work sites. A morning ritual by now.Progress on the retaining wall for the car park & games area- ensuring that our work doesn’t get washed away.Working on the same wall.Before we started work.Tools used.We got a bit arty – football and Scout Centre.This is a Malagasy commissioner. We like his Gillet.Mixing concrete for the building work.

A Sunday at AAF

Good evening all, a slightly shorter post tonight as Sunday is very much a day of rest and relaxation in Madagascar (so in the spirit of cultural exchange we joined in). The below is from the AAF team & is being posted with the sound of (very) wild celebration occurring across the city as Madagascar have just topped their group in the African Cup.

After a very busy few days, we visited a local church to celebrate a Scouting and Christianity’s role in our lives. We also welcomed 3 locals, into the worldwide family of Scouting, as new leaders

We then returned to AAF go have some quiet time, which we spent resting and learning more about the Malagasy language (including them learning some Scots) and building bonds with local scouts.

Pictures to follow when there is a better connection (think every Malagasy person is messaging their friends in celebration).

Walls, Bridges & AAF

Today saw the teams under the leadership of Fisher and Graham, alongside Malagasy Scouts, building a retaining wall at Tranom Bitsika – the Scout centre. This will later be fortified with wood so that it will stay standing once the sandbags have decayed.

The day’s work finished early so the Malagasy Scouts took the Scots on a tour of the local area. They took us to a nearby quarry where we took a break next to a stream before looping back to the site. Here Luke, the chief commissioner, showed us how far it extends.

Malagasy and Scottish are now working more closely together, with many friendships growing.


The demolition of the existing kitchen and creation of the new showers, kitchen and access has commenced with vigour at AAF. With our Malagasy partners walls have been demolished and removed, new doorways created from existing windows and the first of the brick work for the shower stalls laid it’ s all go under the direction of Brian, Nikki and our friendly local builder.


The First 24 hrs

This post was written on Wednesday night – data access slowed us down getting it up. Sorry!

Well, we made it to Madagascar and have spent the past 24hrs getting our bearings.

On Tuesday night we were met off the plane by Malagasy Scouts who ensured that we had an incredibly efficient passage through the border and collected our bags (all of which arrived intact). From the airport we were taken to nearby accommodation, issued with Malagasy straw hats and got our heads down for the night.

Wednesday happened to fall on Madagascar’s Independence Day so was a great day to travel around the city (no traffic) and meet people. It’s fair to say that Antananarivo is a big city with small roads. We spent the journey getting to know some of the Malagasy Scouts; as always happens with International Scouting, we compared badges, worked out who had been in Scouts the longest and learnt about each other’s cultures. Upon arrival we were met by the director of the Girls’ Refuge (who just happens to be a Scouting Commissioner) who gave us the tour and outlined the work we are going to carry out. Lunch followed and then we were taken on a tour of part of the city – which gave us a great opportunity to experience the excitement of Independence Day.

From there we headed off to the Scout Centre which is outside the city & formally opened the project – Fisher gave a lovely speech on behalf of Scottish Scouts.

The day was wrapped up with a Campfire with a local Scout Group (3 blind Jellyfish was well received) and food. Fair to say that by the end of the day everyone was mentally & physically tired and ready for their beds (admittedly I’m typing this to the sound of 14 Network members learning to hoot like owls….)

Work begins

Hi all,

We’ve heard the reports that there was an unfortunate stadium crush in Tana yesterday at the main stadium. Just to let you all know that we were well away from the area and were visiting the Scout Centre at the time with our Malagasy colleagues.

A full post of our first day will follow tonight (assuming we can get data).

Today we start work on the projects.

2 weeks to go and getting busier

Over the past week a lot has been going on to prepare for the trip. As we’re spread across the country (and trying to hold down jobs, prep for the trip & ensure our loved ones still talk to us) we’ve not put together a full blog post, but we still want to make sure you know what’s been going on. So in short, since Saturday:

  • 7 members of the expedition took part in an advanced first aid course.
  • The leadership team took part in a mental health first aid course.
  • 4 members of the expedition undertook some media training with Scouts Scotland (we hope to give them more of the blogging responsibility).
  • Aidan spoke at his District AGM.
  • Kit arrived!
  • Kit began to be distributed.
  • Martin received a richly deserved award.
  • Graham & Nikki’s tea arrived.

It’s only Wednesday!!!