Youth Leadership Residential Conference

July 26, 2015

I was invited to talk about Civic Engagement through Technology at the Youth Leadership Residential Conference which was organized by the US Embassy and the Ministry of Youth & Sports. The conference took place at Pointe Jérome Youth Centre, Mahebourg for three days. My talk was scheduled on Saturday 25th July at 13h00. I’ve never been to Pointe Jérome before. Thankfully, Zuhayr, a good fellow who liaised with me since the beginning, had sent me a Google map with indications. People at Mahebourg are very helpful too. I came across several junctions from Mahebourg to Pointe Jérome and every time I had a doubt in mind I pulled over and asked people if I am on the right direction.

As I had anticipated, I reached Pointe Jérome at 11h30. That gave me ample time to talk to some folks from the organising team. I was also invited to share a lunch with them. That was nice, the food was good and healthy.

I met Om and Jo (short for Jyotsna), old friends of mine. They were there as participants and shared with me the good experience they acquired. That did sound like some fun time they had since they reached.

Youth Leadership Residential Conference
Photo by Om Gokhool

Desyrani, a young lady from the organising team, introduced me to the audience and invited me on stage. The floor was then mine. I greeted the audience which was very young.

I then continued by saying that civism could be defined as a set of actions by a good citizen. I asked the audience who would they qualify as a good citizen. The answer was someone who obeys the law and rules of the society. That was an expected answer. I added it is more than that; a good citizen does not just obey but also participates in the advancement of the country. Participation comes by engaging in activities that would find & fix problems.

I talked about decisions one needs to make when one is faced with a situation telling whether to report or not to report something. I talked about the ethical side of things and how a peer review of one’s analysis would make the report more credible.

I mentioned that some times one might face a situation where a senior becomes a hurdle; but that does not mean you need to stay quiet and forget your ethics. Even if the person in front has years of experience while you are a mere junior, always keep Rs 5 of guts to voice out your opinion. If you do not do it now, then you never will. I had an interactive session and some great questions were pouring in. I also got a few questions after the presentation.

It was a great time but that was not yet over. The participants had in their schedule a visit to Île aux Aigrettes to discover the flora & fauna of Mauritius. They invited me to join in. I’ve never been to Île aux Aigrettes, thought this could be knowledge-enriching.

Île aux Aigrettes

Once on the coral island, a guide explained us that Île aux Aigrettes is a nature reserve under the care of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF). The MWF attempts to re-create a picture of how Mauritius looked like some 400 years ago. We had a guided tour of the island, with explanation about the plants, birds and lizards.

One fellow stole the show. That was Big Daddy, a 95-year old Aldabra tortoise that weighs around 200 kg. Big Daddy was accompanied by a smaller-sized female tortoise in its 50’s. We were told that Big Daddy was the one male on the island for fourteen female tortoises. Everyone’s reaction was like OMG! That’s a naughty fellow at 95. Then the guide smiled and said, no, Bid Daddy is actually in its youth as it can live upto 150 years. Big Daddy is among the several other tortoises that have been donated to the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation by the Seychelles.

In fact, Aldabra tortoises originate from the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Once upon a time such giant creatures walked the soil of Mauritius. Then human settlers came and these creatures became a source of food. We were told that the tortoise could live up to six months without food. That made it ideal to be carried on ships and killed as and when fresh meat was required. A sad story for what appears to be a beautiful creature.

I learned about several birds that were unique to Mauritius but are now extinct.

Saturday with the folks ended around 17h00. It was a great day and I heartily thank everyone for the moment we shared together.