Their names are Genaro, Laura, Natasha, Rachel and Stephania. What do they have in common? Living on the South-East coast and facing a double calamity: the Wakashio oil spill and the obscure year for the tourism industry. Undeterred by the events, these pathfinders mustered up their energy, courage and ingenuity to set things in motion… Which in turn, makes us want to act too.
Laura, the Instagrammer with a big heart
“The media are gone, but solidarity remains”. Laura Morosoli nurtures solidarity through the daily distribution of food packs and hygiene products.
“Supporting each other… I cannot think of a better antidote to our vulnerabilities,” she underlines.
Laura is a painter, photographer and travel influencer. Since mid-March, months of adversity were relentless: “Everything stopped with the closing of borders. The oil spill was the second wave…” making everybody’s heart sink, along with the hopes of getting things back to normal.
So, at the end of August, Laura puts her Instagram account at the service of food aid. The objective: collect food for the most affected families of the region. “We managed to mobilise supermarkets and businesses. As the donations poured in, we had to find a storage room.”
And thankfully, a friend’s studio was transformed into a makeshift food bank! “Sorting the donations, identifying the beneficiaries, delivering them… it’s work!”, explains Laura. “A whole logistic has been put in place.” Result: over the past three months, no less than “fifteen tons of food have been distributed to 120 families.”
With a positive outlook on the future, Laura states: “Even if the future is more than uncertain, sharing remains a strong value among Mauritians.”
Genaro, the boss who became a “mangrove cleaner”
A little while ago, the speedboats of Genaro Bhuttoo were running at full speed. Since the lockdown, the reservation list of Angel Cruises is empty… Then the shipwreck happened. He put his knowledge of the lagoon at the service of the clean-up operations. And after that… emptiness:
“I couldn’t take it any longer, doing nothing. The expenses, the debts… I was defeated.”
In mid-September, Genaro knocks at the door of Polyeco, the Greek company in charge of the clean up of the southeast coast. “They told me: ‘You start tomorrow at 7a.m’.” Since then, armed with his Kärcher, Genaro scours the stained rocks and mangroves of Rivière des Créoles—a “difficult, but necessary” job, according to him.
“Compared to what I was earning before, it’s four to five times less. Plus it’s precarious: they can let go of me overnight,” he says.“But it is an important work. I lead a team of four people who, nine hours a day, repair a battered nature.”
Natasha opts for collective efforts
“The entire world has witnessed the polluted lagoon, but the social tragedy is just as devastating”, analyses Natasha Magraja, 44. Owner of the craft shop I Love Mahebourg, she “worked only for a month” this year. Far too little.
Giving up? Never. To keep her village alive, Natasha gives a new lease of life to Mahebourg Otantik, a small informal collective she created in 2018.
“After the shipwreck, the collective felt the need to grow. We decided to develop into a structured association, with a more consistent project, to be able to help with resources and solutions”, she explains.
This new project can be summed up in a few words: getting back on track. This by focusing on training, culture and sustainable development. Today, Mahebourg Otantik is driven by forty people or so, “all united by the love of their village.” Natasha is convinced: “This love can move mountains.”
Rachel plants an edible forest
It all started ten years ago in Riche-en-Eau. Rachel Ng is “drawn in by a call from the earth”. She transforms a sugarcane field into an orchard. Patiently, she makes sure to diversify the species. Today, coconut, lychee, mango, olive and citrus trees have fully grown. The story could have ended there if the double crisis of Covid and Wakashio had not happened.
“It is difficult for everyone,” Rachel muses. “Reconnecting with Mother Nature has become essential”.
Her ambition today is to “create an edible forest” open to locals. A project which evokes the “exchange and sharing of experiences” and “short circuit permaculture”, from farm to fork.
Good news, a first seed has just germinated. It was during an “open forest” day in November, where everyone was invited to discover the site of five acres and plant the first seeds. “Developing regenerative agriculture, while being mindful of the land and people; that’s the idea,” says Rachel. An already budding idea. “When a tree falls we hear it; when the forest grows, not a noise”, says an African proverb…
Stephania, or how to overcome poverty
She has an easy and compelling smile. Stephania, housekeeper by day, babysitter by night, lives below the poverty threshold. This young mother of two children struggles: during a crisis, the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged are the most exposed.
Accompanied by Lovebridge, an NGO promoting empowerment, Stephania has been trying home sales for several months now. Her business model is efficient: “I buy household products at the factory, I resell them on Facebook or door-to-door. It gives me a little extra in the cookie jar”… Especially for the kids. But she sees further.
“My dream would be to set up a small sewing workshop”.
Her instincts echoes that now is the time to start: “Li vinn enn obsesyon, tou lezour li rest dan mo latet!”Which is why Stephania decides to act upon it: “Help yourself and heaven will help you, I believe in it”. Perhaps the repairman of her sewing machine believes otherwise. After many months, he still has not identified the problem.
Support the initiatives
The most popular products: rice, pasta, flour, salt, sugar, oil, tea, powdered milk, cheese, pulses, canned food, cookies, soap.
. 5746 3248
Natasha is looking for skills in education, training and sustainability, as well as funds and sponsors.
T. 59 02 36 53
Rachel is looking for plants, cuttings, seedlings, shrubs, aromatics… She would also like to equip the site with a storage shed for her equipment.
T. 5761 4501
Stephania is looking for an industrial sewing machine.
T. 5859 3187