MAURITIANS ON THE MOVE, AMERICAN STYLE : U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate to study coastal policy in Mauritius

Jessica Lukasik is coming to Mauritius on a Fulbright scholarship

A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright grant to research and develop a marine economic model in Mauritius that will help the country better manage its coastal and ocean resources, most specially the island’s dwindling fishing industry.
Jessica Lukasik, who graduated from the academy in New London, Connecticut on May 21, will enroll as a master’s degree student at the University of Mauritius, in the Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities by Research program.
The goal of her project is to develop a “sustainable marine economic development model” that will help the fishing industry continue to exist in the face of increasing competition for coastal resources from foreign fishing fleets, local tourism, shipping and aquaculture.
Her project will pay special attention to how the coastal and marine areas of Mauritius are being managed, with an eye toward creating a balanced policy in which the different and often competing marine interests can exist together, while also promoting the island’s economic development.  Her research will be supervised by Dr. R. Bhagooli, Faculty of Science, and Dr. S. Sobhee, Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities, at the UoM.
“Because of its location and the dependence of its primary industries on marine space and resources, Mauritius is strongly affected by political and environmental issues such as climate change, conflicts over fishing rights and economic globalization,” she wrote in her Fulbright proposal. “These issues, and the shift of political attention eastwards, make sustainable marine economic development in Mauritius timely and necessary.”
She wrote that economic expansion of maritime-related industries on the island and the limited availability of resources have strained the businesses that depend on the coast and the ocean. The impact is most severe on local fishermen.
“While growth in the tourist industry currently provides the greatest contribution to national GDP, indigenous fishery catches provide a quarter of the protein consumed by the island, “ she said. “In Mauritius, a marine resource governance model is needed that will establish  the efficient use of marine space and resources by Mauritian businesses.”
Her project will involve reviewing maritime laws and regulations, identifying user groups, analyzing data and interviewing government officials, businesses, fisherman, the Mauritian Coast Guard. and other marine experts on the island. As part of her course work at UoM, she will seek to collaborate with the Albion Fisheries Research Centre and the Mauritius Institute for Oceanography.  She also hopes to spend time with fishermen in their villages.
Jessica said that developing a marine governance program in Mauritius would have implications for other countries in the East Africa region. New strategies developed in Mauritius would be useful to other island nations, and would also be useful to the U.S. Coast Guard, in which she is serving as as ensign.
“Mauritius, as one of the most developed countries in Africa, can take a leading role in innovative maritime policies and enact sustainable goals that may later be used in other African countries,” she said.
In an interview from the Coast Guard Academy, Jessica said the selection of Mauritius for her project was a bit random. She was committed to work in the Africa region, and considered other sub-Saharan African countries, including Ghana, but she saw more potential in Mauritius to complete her graduate studies and to formulate a development model that might actually be implemented.
The selection of fisheries as the focus of her research not only fit in well with Mauritius, but also has a direct link to the work of the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a major role in enforcing fisheries laws off the U.S. coasts. “I hope this experience will make me a better Coast Guard officer,” she said.
During her time in Mauritius, she will work as an intern at the Maurice Ile Durable Commission, and she plans to learn Creole. Her academics and research will likely keep her in Mauritius for up to two years.
Outside of her studies at the University, she’d like to start a triathlon team that would compete across three sports in succession - swimming, cycling and running. She competed on the Coast Guard Academy team as a cadet.
Her final project, with its recommendations and conclusions, will be shared with the Mauritian community, including the  local press, the university, the government, fishermen and any other interested maritime groups. When she returns to the US, she will present her findings at the Coast Guard Academy.
Jessica is among the top graduates in this year’s class at the academy, and her professors say she will be an excellent student at the University of Mauritius.
 “She and the people of Mauritius will do much good working together,” said Christopher LaMonica, associate professor of government, who worked closely with Jessica on developing her Mauritius project.
Mauritius Ambassador to Washington to retire
The Honorable Somduth Soborun, the Mauritius ambassador to the United States and Canada, will be leaving the post he has held since 2011 and retiring as a diplomat after 26 years in the foreign service.
Soborun, a native of Triolet, said in a brief interview that he was honored to serve Mauritius in various diplomatic postings, from Washington to Cairo to Pakistan. Prior to his appointment in Washington, he was the Mauritius representative to the United Nations in New York.
The ambassador said that in retirement he hopes to continue to bring attention to the needs of small island nations, possibly by creating a National Democratic Institute -  “think tank” policy organization that would a hub for dialogue about Mauritius politics and national and international policies. Working in the private sector is also an option.
“I think I have a lot to offer,” he said, given the knowledge he has gained after decades of diplomacy and after working closely to promote the economies of Mauritius and sub-Saharan Africa.
Soborun cited as a highlight of his career in Washington his efforts to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and more specifically several provisions that are important to the Mauritius textile industry.
He worked closely with congressmen, senators and the African diplomatic corps to win congressional passage of a three-year extension in 2012 of AGOA’s “third country fabric rule.” This provisions allows manufacturers in Mauritius and in sub-Saharan Africa that use fabric and yarn from other countries to qualify for preferential trade status. He was given a congressional award that year for his advocacy of AGOA.
 Soborun is married to Omila Devi Soborun, who until recently worked at the United Nations, and they have two children, Yashvir, a candidate for law school, and Keshini, an undergraduate student at American University, Washington, D.C.
There is no word yet on appointment of a new ambassador to Washington.
Revisting Mauritius from A to Z
Jean-Jacques Dupont de R. de St. Antoine set many new goals for himself when he retired from the World Bank more than a year ago, but the most important was to realize the dream of writing a book about Mauritius.
It would be part history, part geography, part memoir, and  a bit social anthropology, all guided by his love for Mauritius, his pride in its development and his fascination with the island’s rich history. More than a year in the making, including numerous revisions, editing and deletions, the part-time resident of Tamarin is ready to launch his book. In July, he will return to Mauritius to seek a publisher.
Written in French and entitled “Sous le Soleil de la Mer des Indes - Dictionnaire Passionné de l’Ile Maurice”, it was inspired by a successful formula used in a series of books published in France. Using a dictionary format, it is written in short alphabetical chapters on subjects, people, historic events and personal reflections that fascinate this first time author and former World Bank executive.
For example, the letter A includes Archards, the letter P discusses the beauty of the Paille-en-queue and the importance of Paul et Virginie to French literature and Mauritian history, and under the letter Q, the author discusses his childhood in Quatre Bornes. The book runs some 300 pages and includes deep research and poignant prose, laced with doses of personal stories and observations that many in Mauritius will find familiar, while other readers will make new discoveries about the island.
“I wrote this book for my wife and children so that they better know the island where I was born and spent my first 29 years,” said the author, whose wife, Pamela, is Weekend’s correspondent in Washington. “I also wrote this book for my expatriate friends, for all those who have heard about Mauritius and dream to go there, and finally for those who already know this enchanted place and love it as much as I do.”
The author can be contacted at jdestantoine@gmail.com


USA-trained Mauritian therapist to offer family, couples counseling
Sometimes complications and disappointments in life can lead to exciting new opportunities that help turn defeat into one of life’s victories.
This is exactly the case of Sradha Gobin Manna, one of the 11 children of a sugarcane planter from Baie de Tombeau, who just graduated with a Master’s degree  from the College of New Jersey in the USA.
Sradha says that her background - coming from a large Hindu family, dropping out of school at Queen Elizabeth College, marrying and raising three kids, and ending her marriage after many years of a rough relationship  and then remarrying at the age or 48 - has made her strong and given her the drive to become a counselor to help others get their lives and rocky marriages back on track.
Her life with her new husband, Vasant Manna, a pharmaceutical physcian, specializing in skin diseases, brought her to France for three years where Manna worked for a drug firm, and then to the United States. Once settled in New Jersey, Sradha had the unexpected opportunity to complete a Master’s program in Marriage and Family counseling.
This relocation gave her the courage to launch a new lifestyle. “I discovered that change is possible, and I developed my burning passion to help others on the path of self-development.”
But she realized that in order to help others, she needed the education and professional training do so. “I felt inadequate. This course (at the the College of New Jersey) provided me with extremely valuable knowledge and tools to work with individuals, couples and families,” she said in an interview.
Her courses focused on marriage, multi-cultural and career counseling, with a distinct emphasis on techniques to help people experiencing life-changing difficulties in their lives. As part of her course, she developed a personal development advocacy program to work with the perpetrators of domestic violence in Mauritius, and she hopes to offer the program in Mauritius later this year.
Sradha said that she was exposed to some of the thinking that changed her life’s attitude while living in Mauritius.
“A marriage of 18 years ending in a divorce led me to seek other ways of being happy and I turned to the path of personal development,” she said. “I took positive thinking and living values from the Brahma Jumaris. I am ever grateful to Jean-Noel Adolphe of the Bureau d’Education Catholique for accepting me in courses such as La Mediation Educative Parentale, Gestion des Conflits, et Valeurs Humaines. These helped create great awareness in me.” Sradha said. “Over the years I shifted from faulty thinking and irrational beliefs and assumptions to healthier thinking patterns.”
In July, Sradha and her husband will return to Mauritius, where she plans to put her experience to work. She plans to offer couples counseling, psycho-education for teens and adults and instruction in Mindfulness Meditation to both the general public and in prisons. Mindful Meditation,  a popular approach in the US,  teaches people to handle their emotions and stress and develop self-awareness through relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques.
“I believe that having problems, talking about them or not being able to solve them by oneself may be viewed as a sign of weakness or failure,” she said. “ I would like people to become aware that growth happens mainly through suffering and that, in Albert Einstein’s works, ”doing the same things over and over and expecting different results” was nothing but insanity. So, what can we do differently and how?”
Sradha has experienced many of the doubts and negative emotions that she will try to dispel in her clients.  When she was having problems in her marriage, she lacked guidance on how to deal with it. “I did not know who to turn to. My community did not offer this type of expertise and I did not have access to counseling,” she said, adding the divorce and separation has become common in the Mauritian Hindu community.
Currently in Mauritius, pre-marital counseling is mostly available through lectures or retreats, moslty run by the Catholic Church. Sradha found these interventions helpful and she would like to make such help available more widely to different communities in Mauritius.
 “Now that I have lived in different countries, I see people as people = alike but different. So I plan to work with all communities especially those who cannot afford private counseling. I will offer most of my programs in the local languages so that it is accessible to the less educated.”
She is completing her training as an Imago Therapist, a technique that seeks to get couples to reestablish a connection and understand each other in amore meaningful ways. “It is no doubt hard work but the outcome is amazing. “
She added, “I believe the root cause of most problems is a lack of self-awareness and personal responsibility, and the absence of healthy communication and connection with others.”
Sradha can be contacted at:
sradha.manna@gmail.com


Mauritians in U.S. help needy students back home
Mauritians living in Washington, DC and elsewhere in the United States are uniting again this year to raise funds to meet the educational needs of needy children in Mauritius.
Trait d’Union USA Mauritius has planned a June 7 fundraising evening of Mauritian food and fellowship to help renovate the St. Enfant Jesus RCA Primary School in Rose Hill.  The school, which educates 630 students, needs a new roof, toilets and paint.
Trait d’Union USA-Mauritius, founded in 2002,  is run by volunteers in the US who are dedicated to help improve the learning conditions of poor children in Mauritius. They work closely with the Archdiocese of Port Louis in selecting the needy schools.
The Mauritius government provides two-thirds of the budget for school renovations, while Trait d’Union USA-Mauritius contributes the remaining one-third to complete the project. The organization has also helped schools in other ways, funding new desks, library books and school supplies, and paying the exam fees for needy children.
In addition to providing funds for renovation at St. Enfant Jesus RCA, donations from Trait d’Union this year will also help Senior Cambridge/High School Certificate students pay their exam fees. Without this assistance, many students would be unable to graduate from high school.
Last year, the organization raised $10,000 in donations for improvements at the Camp de Masque RCA Primary School in Goodlands. That project is now complete. A large contribution for that effort was received by the MoValley Group, an association of Mauritians living in San Francisco, California. In addition, Pierre Ng Man Sun, a successful California businessman, has matched the funds collected by Trait d’Union for the past three years. Ng continues to contribute this year.
“We want to give back to our country for all the blessings we have received, thanks to the excellent education we received from the schools run by the Catholic nuns,” said Suzanne Kon Kam King, Trait d’Union USA-Mauritius president. “Our strength and philanthropic spirit was instilled in us by the nuns who never stop to amaze us with their passion and selflessness. Today we can’t stay impervious and indifferent to our less privileged children of Mauritius.”
As in the past, this year’s fundraiser will be held at Kon Kam King’s home in McLean, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. It will bring together Mauritians and their friends for a festive evening of food, sega music and bingo games.