Approaching the last few days of my stay in Mauritius, I’ve started reflecting more consciously on the little ingredients that have made this summer such a success and ultimately, a joy. Mauritius is a beautiful island, with beautiful energy and inspiring individuals that are making a difference everyday. As I think about the little things, I can’t help but attribute the joy of this summer to something bigger than my own experiences here – our ELI Family. I still remember our first day in Mauritius, sitting around the fellows’ dinner table in Triolet, as Vedant explained to us the ELI ecosystem and the ELI family and thinking to myself how amazing it is to be apart of an organization that cares so much; an organization with a culture of excellence built on some of the fundamental components that make a family – cooperation, collaboration, respect, acceptance, diversity, love and support. We have truly become a family. From seeing the fellows collaborate and go to each others classes, to solving problems with the ELI Mauritius team and spending weekends on the beach together, it’s been the ELI family that has made the summer so special.
Family means a lot to me. These are the people you can share your experiences, stories, laughter, sadness, happiness and everything in between with. Over the two months, I’ve seen how important family is for all the children that we are working with, in particular those children with special needs. Whenever we asked students at the centre what they did in the evening or on the weekend, they always said similar things: spend time at home with my family. In Mauritius, for children with special needs, their families are they key individuals that are not only responsible for their care and well being but also for advocating for their educational rights and determining their education avenues. For example, my friend Yasseen who has spina bifida that has confined him to a wheelchair, with his family have had to advocate for his rights for equal employment opportunities. Fortunately, with much dedication and persistence they are beginning to receive answers. But I can’t help but wonder about those children without a great support system at home, without inspired people to advocate for their rights and needs,who grow up without the love from their family and communities. What I love about ELI is that ELI works on creating a family and being the voice for vulnerable populations. It’s important to not only support the children but also their families and by expanding our programs to meet the needs of children with special needs, we are committed to not only providing excellent multidisciplinary educational programs for the children but also to educating communities and connecting families to great resources and the support that they need. Whether it be through respite care programs or a buddy system for children with special needs, I’m overjoyed to see our programs begin to reach out and support those with special needs.
As I’ve said before, the success and great experience these past two months have afforded me is entirely due to the people that surround me everyday, at work, in the office and at home – our ELI family. In life it’s always been the little things that count… I’m going to miss the crazy adventures with the fellows, their conversations about the 1001 ways you can prepare beans, Lincoln’s dance moves and breaking it out in the van to Shakira’s Waka Waka, Bryan’s sarcasm ;), Brittany’s “Welcome to the Hunger Games”, Lauren’s hilarious imitations of cartoon characters, Lindsay’s over-preparation for any situation (Swiss army utility knife, iphone and adventure/emergency whistle within arms reach at.all.times), Vikay’s slapstick humor, waiting FOREVER for youtube to load and watching BBC’s “Talking Animals” at home with Vedant, talking fashion with Kelvin and karaoke-ing with Cedric. But I always remind myself that family is constant. Whether you’re living in the same house or a different country, the special bond filled with love, support and respect will always be there, irrespective of distance and time. It’s never goodbye, it’s until next time, as Bryan said at our last class at the Training and Employment Centre for Disabled Persons on Friday. I look forward to seeing the ELI family grow and evolve and feel genuinely privileged to be a small part of something so much bigger than myself. So as cliché as it may be… thank you for the memories… and until next time.