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With A Taste of Madagascar Right Here in Rockaway

 To find authentic Malagasy cuisine is near impossible in NYC, but this Saturday, March 13, two locals are opening their doors to host a magical foodie experience that will be just as exotic and untapped as the Indian Ocean island country, Madagascar, itself—and it’s all for a good cause. Proceeds from this event, a gourmand’s delight, go toward Mission Madagascar 2020, a fundraiser aimed to bring water filters to the country, where almost half of the population does not have access to clean water, leading to rampant sickness and disease, especially amongst children and elderly.

According to Rockaway Beach resident, Rebekkah Thompson, she and her husband, Jim’s, passion for food and missionary work inspired them to come up with hosting their  "Taste of Madagascar" event.

Thompson shared, “My husband’s first trip bringing the water filters and Bibles to Madagascar was last September, and he came back gushing about the entire experience. We've always been involved with water projects for Africa, starting with generating funds for well water in Malawi. Then when my husband met Pastor Dinah Ratsimbajaona, president of the Evangelical Alliance in Madagascar, he learned about the country’s water crisis. Madagascar is not a place you can dig because it’s a mining country, so Pastor Dinah told us about how effective the water filters have been in villages, where sometimes the only water resources are rivers, which in most cases, are contaminated.”

While Madagascar is known for being home to some of the most unique and unusual species of creatures in the whole world, with 90% of the wildlife found nowhere else on Earth (some immortalized by cartoon films), and immigration from far away as Indonesia that has given its people a distinct cultural identity—the fourth biggest island in the world, located in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of South Africa, is lesser known for its lack of clean water. According to international nonprofit, WaterAid, almost half of Malagasy people have no clean water, and around 9 in ten still have nowhere decent to go to the toilet.

Thompson said after learning about the country’s water plight, she and her husband pledged to help with not just fundraising for the water filters, but also bringing them to hard-to-reach villages. Each filter costs $50 and can last up to 10 years if used properly and regularly cleaned.

“Pastor Dinah’s ministry is not just about distributing these water filters, but also teaching villagers how to use and clean them. Many of these villages are communal. If one hut has a water filter, that hut will be a base for other families to get fresh water. If they don’t have fresh water, many of them get their water from the river, which for most, is their only water source, and unfortunately is toxic, killing babies, and causing terrible diseases. So since we feel very passionately about water, we just thought that we had to get involved in this project.

“Pastor Dinah said to my husband, ‘Jim, come to Africa.’ The only traveling my husband has done is on cruises going into international waters, so for him to consider traveling to Africa was quite out of his comfort zone, but the idea and cause really stayed with him, and so he went last September and had a fantastic trip. We raised money for the water filters and the trip’s cost, including a helicopter that flew him and others to some of the villages, where there are no roads to get into. For three and a half weeks, Jim helped train pastors on how to use the filters.”

Thompson said a dual mission of the trip was to bring Bibles to villages, that do not have a Bible in their own language, as in Madagascar they are many different tribes with their own dialects. “There are villages, where you can’t walk, much less drive. If you walked, it would take weeks, but these local Malgasy pastors walk and sleep in the jungle for days and weeks to come to these meetings when Pastor Dinah is there, not even to get a whole Bible, but a portion of it, like the Book of John, so they can translate it for people in their village.”

Thompson said when her husband returned to Rockaway from his trip, besides gushing about the people and his missionary work, he also raved about the food. “When Jim returned, he kept talking about the food he ate there, and because I love to cook, I too got excited, and together we got the idea to host a "Taste of Madagascar" event in Rockaway as a fundraiser.

On the menu for the "Taste of Madagascar" are savory dishes: dried beef (hen’omby maina), rice with vegetables (vary amin’anana); and desserts: Malagasy donut (mofogasy), koba (a sweet made by wrapping ground peanuts, mashed bananas, honey and corn flour, all steamed in banana leaves)—and more delish treats.

Besides eating, attendees will also get to view the photo gallery from the trip last year, and enjoy traditional Malagasy music.

“Last year we did a photo gallery of the trip. People loved the photos so much, they bought them. We raised a good amount of money for the water filters, and we’re hoping to exceed what we raised this year, as the group also brings toys and soccer balls for the children, and eye glasses. I love cooking, hosting and seeing people enjoy food. I grew up in a Puerto Rican household, and one way in which we communicated love was through food. Cooking and serving food is an avenue for me to share love, and I am thankful I can do that.

“My husband believes missionary work starts in serving your own community, and we do that by praying and visiting with the youth, elderly in nursing homes, and our NYPD officers. And for him to do this missionary work in Madagascar has been such a blessing, and we just want to involve our Rockaway community in sharing God’s love with Madagascar,” Thompson said.

 "Taste of Madagascar" is this Saturday, March 14, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Thompson’s residence, 88-11 Beach Channel Drive. Feel free to donate with cash, check made payable to James Thompson or PayPal: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more info, call Rebekkah Thompson at 646-831-0484.

By Kami-Leigh Agard

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