It’s only been a week since I arrived on the island and time is already passing by so fast! I’m sitting here, writing this blog post from my yoga mat on our house’s wonderfully expansive second floor wrap-around porch. There is a lovely breeze, birds chirping (surround sound) and rays of sunshine peaking through the blue sky.
My adjustment period in Mauritius has been the smoothest of all my international travels, besides the jet leg, and sleeping heavily the first couple days, Mauritius is already my home away from home. Like the fellows, our house is in the northern part of the island in lovely Trou aux biches. We are living on the second floor of a three-story house near the end of a cul-de-sac. My room faces the front of the house and I awake every morning to rays of sunshine peeking through my yellow curtains and the sweet sounds of Adele’s entire “21” album playing from our neighbor Doris’ stereo. We have already had our fair share of hilarious nights and excellent food, largely due to our downstairs neighbors – a retired French-Mauritian couple, Jean-Pierre and Doris. Notable moments include listening to how much Jean-Pierre loves Canada and his ice-fishing adventures, which included having his beautiful car submerged under the ice (crazy and hilarious), having our water completely shut off (“accidently” by Jean-Pierre) and celebrating Doris’ birthday at the same time playing the longest game of hide and go seek with two of the cutest kids at the party (Note: kids love Vedant). Another positive: my French comprehension is improving!
This past week I’ve gotten to know the amazing ELI Africa family: all the awesome fellows (and their signature dance moves), the Mauritian ELI team and some of ELI’s committed interns and volunteers. Everyone’s contagious enthusiasm, the ELI Africa culture of excellence, and the great programs that the fellows have planned for the kids over the next two months are all testaments of the organization’s strong leadership. Most of the week was spent at the ELI Africa office, which is a great fusion of modern and zen space about a 15 minute drive from where we are staying. I also had the opportunity to visit two of the centres I will be working with: Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Centre, a government affiliated organization, that works to teach transferable skills to people with special needs, and Anou Ghandi, an NGO, that runs a school for children with special needs. My experiences at both centres were positive and different. We arrived at Anou Grandi on Friday for our first meeting with the principal around lunchtime and instantly felt the vibrant and joyful energy at the school! Immediately you hear the sounds of children laughing and see them running around the school’s great open space. One of my favourite moments was when the cutest little boy gave me invaluable style advice on my mismatched sock colors (one was blue and one was pink! He was not supportive), it made all of us laugh. The school is home to 94 children with different special needs and a great aspect I noticed was that the classroom numbers are kept low (from 4-12 children per class), allowing the teacher(s) to spend more time with each child. I can’t wait to start work next week.
The great innovation that the ELI Scholar program brings is an unique opportunity to conduct goal oriented research at both the policy level and local level to work towards the implementation of sustainable initiatives. My research this summer is focused on inclusion education and inclusive educational practices/techniques as well as disability advocacy. The notion of inclusion assumes that children with special needs are an integal part of the general education stream, rather than a separate fraction. I am also working to foster a partnership between ELI Africa and my home organization Making Waves Canada to set up a pilot Making Waves Mauritius program that provides one-on-one swimming lessons to children with special needs. I am extremely grateful to both ELI Africa and Making Waves Canada for facillitating this opportunity.
Between working with our team of professional inspiring people, plenty of early morning sun salutations, and the countless number of great memories and strong friendships… these next two months are going to be spectacular! I’m looking forward to the arrival of Vedant’s lovely German Sheppard Babaloose and her son Baboo (sp?). As I finish this first blog post, I can’t help but feel so excited to start my field research and begin expanding ELI Africa’s educational programs to children with special needs.
Until next time!