My Malagasy Diaspora Tantara: Diaspora Stories Told Around the World
Today, an estimated 300,000 Malagasy people live outside of Madagascar and live all around the globe. No diaspora story is alike but what we share is that love and connection to Madagascar that we carry in our hearts, new hometowns, and life. Here are our stories.
Today: Kanto shares her striking story of persistence and resilience in the face of adversity and new changes when she faced moving to the US from Madagascar at a young age. It's not spoken a lot about the after effects of the coup d'état, unrest, and violence in 2008 that have left a lasting impression on the youth of this generation, but we hope our community may find peace and strength so that we may continue to share our love for Madagascar.
Hello! My name is Kantomalala Tiana Rasedoara. I was born and raised in Madagascar and I’ve now lived in New York City for about 12 years.
Well it all started in 1992, 4 years before I was born. Shortly after my parents got married in Antananarivo, they started applying for the Green Card lottery or also known as the Diversity Visa Program. From the very beginning they were well aware that due to the large amount of applicants every year, the prospect of getting selected was relatively small. Nevertheless, that year they took their chances and sent in their first application. Sadly, they didn’t get picked but it made them even more determined. So every year since then, they continued to apply hoping that one day they would luck out.
The year is now 2007. We became a family of 5. During those 15 years, my parents still held on to the idea of one day living in the US because they wanted their children to have better educational opportunities than what they had. However they were getting older and my dad in particular was no longer as optimistic as he used to be. He started to think that if it didn’t happen by then, it was probably never meant to be. In addition, the paperwork was never the easiest thing to get through. Yet somehow that year, my mom managed to convince him to still submit our application but he was very determined to make this our last attempt. So the year went by and we continued on with our lives as if nothing was going to change. Then one afternoon in April of 2008, after more than a decade of trying, we finally received the news that we were selected to receive the green card lottery. I was 12 at the time and I personally didn’t know how to process everything that was happening. This was the opportunity that we’ve been waiting for and we were beyond thankful and excited. At the same time, we came to the realization that we would have to leave behind everyone and everything that we have ever known and start a new life in an environment completely different from what we were used to. My parents were particularly worried about how our grandparents would react to the news. But to our surprise, they instantly embraced the idea. They understood that the separation was not going to be easy for anyone but they knew that this was the opportunity for their grandkids to have a better future.
I wish I could say that everything was smooth sailing from there. During the period when we were preparing our documents ahead of our departure, Madagascar started experiencing a political and economic crisis. This was truly a dark time for the country. There were a lot protests that sadly turned into violent situations. Until this day, what happened during that time still lives vividly in my memories.
After all the ups and downs, we safely landed in New York City in early June of 2009. I was 13 and only knew basic conversational English. Luckily, my cousin who we would be staying with, was around the same age and she took me under her wings. And so, after watching many Disney channel programs and constantly practicing with the people around me, my English skills improved dramatically and it gave it me the confidence I needed to start high school.
I was pretty thankful that my aunt found an international high school for my brother and I. Even though we were basically the second and third Malagasy students in the school’s entire history, we didn’t really feel alone or detached from our roots. This was mainly because the school always encouraged its students to embrace our cultures as we were learning and adapting to our new environment. As a matter of fact, this school played a huge role into making me who I am today. During those 4 years, I met so many amazing and inspiring individuals who came from all corners of the world. We all experienced different challenges but learned to be persistent and resilient in the pursuit of a better future not only for ourselves but also to our families who have made all kinds of sacrifices for us.
After graduating high school, I wasn’t really sure on what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to go college and this what the time for me to grow and expand my horizon. That road was definitely not easy but as the African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I was lucky to have met so many incredible individuals who have impacted all aspects of my life. Whether it was when I was a student or as an athlete, they always reminded me to be myself, be open to learning, take on challenges whether it leads to success or failure and lastly, never forget your roots. I truly value these lessons and I take them with me wherever I go.
So much has happened in my life during these past ten years but I know this is only the beginning and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for me.