Monique van der Heijden
I am Monique van der Heijden, of Dutch origin, and I am the founder of Mora Travel. After studying business communication I lived and worked in Switzerland for 6 years. Perhaps the very opposite of Madagascar. During my study, but also in the period I lived in Switzerland I got involved in nature- and development work. As a dedicated supporter of the World Nature Fund and active volunteer for the Swiss NGO Terre des Hommes I realized I wanted to do more.
The urge to work in this environment became so strong, that I resigned my job and on 1st April (no joke) I travelled to Madagascar for the first time. I started to work as a volunteer with a Malagasy orphanage and adjacent school under the auspices of Terre des Hommes. Principally, I intended to stay for 1 year, but in actual fact I lived on Madagascar for 10 years. After the first year on the island I started to work as volunteer with the German NGO ‘Welthungerhilfe’. I was given the opportunity to get to know the finer aspects of the job, because I lacked experience in the world ‘on the field‘ I worked there for 5 years followed by a further 4 years as expat. I dare say I learnt to live there with very little to sustain myself and later in the real world of an expat. All aspects contributed to my experience and appreciation of Madagascar.
In 2000 I started with Mora-Travel, initially working by myself from a small room in Tana. But within not too long I employed a Malagasy to help me, on a fulltime basis. Slowly but surely it developed into a team with an office in Antananarivo. We survived the crisis in 2002 as well as 2009.
I stopped working for Welthunderhilfe in 2008 and the crisis of 2009 forced me to return to the Netherlands and look for a job. I wanted to continue with the project Mora-Travel and Madagascar and be of value to the country. It was not easy, but I prevailed under adverse circumstances. At present I dedicate my time traveling between the Netherlands and my Madagascar office and Mora Travel continues to organize more and more tours, in doing so – albeit small – contributing to a better standard of living for the local population
Some people asked me how it is possible to change from development work to the private sector, such as tourism. I firmly believe that by promoting economic activities it is possible to develop a country and increase the educational standard of the local population. I am convinced that Mora-Travel offers a small contribution to that effect. It is intercultural cooperation, to build a better future for anybody working with us, directly and indirectly, in this sector of the economy, it is not easy for me and many challenges await me, but I love this country and its population. I am convinced we offer a sustainable experience for a very modest consideration. The tourist enjoys a unique, unforgettable experience and in the process the population of Madagascar benefits with thanks to you the traveler and the Mora Travel team.