We’ve now completed 2 weeks of our voluntary work with our temporary employer, the Lagon Bleu project here at Blue Bay on Mauritius and the old “roller coaster” cliché has certainly applied. First impressions were very much “oh my God, what have we walked into here?” Coming from the corporate wealth of Vodafone, it was like the absolute opposite end of the scale, it even made Woking Hospice look like a very wealthy organisation. And then there was the age gap – between us, mum and dad Wright and the other interns/volunteers – even the full-time staff are young enough to be our children!
So for much of the last two weeks we’ve been singing along to Joe Strummer – “will we stay or will we go now?” Maybe I can go and volunteer as a Divemaster up on the west coast, maybe we can move onto south-east Asia for a month before Oz, etc, etc.
But it’s funny how you settle down after a while. Once you get past the “what’s going on here?” and “what can I possibly do to help in such a short time?” things begin to fall into place. Because, even without much money and a variable supply of man-power (international volunteers) the team have made a difference over the 5 years of their existence. I could find over a hundred ways that they could do things better, more efficiently, etc, and maybe I’ll help them do some of it, but there are definitely some encouraging signs based on what they’ve already done. Most notable is the growing engagement of the local community; there are more and more local kids turning up at the offices asking how they can help and that’s got to be a good thing.
Also they’ve done a pretty good job of taking their message to the local primary schools and bringing the kids down to the lagoon and involving them in field-trip type activities – turning the heads of the next generation whilst trying to have an impact on the behaviours of the current one.
But, in our humble opinion, their volunteer programme is a shambles and is badly in need of an overhaul – but unfortunately their president doesn’t see it that way so, with 8 weeks left, it’s probably not worthwhile taking that one on. Which leaves us in the position of, having understood that we’re not going to change their world, knuckling down to do things that we CAN help them with.
In Jan’s case that means looking after the welfare of the volunteers who, after a gap of a few weeks, are beginning to arrive again. From what we can see, the experience of previous volunteers has been variable so Jan’s offering guidance on what they can do to make their stay a bit more consistently enjoyable. As well as playing mother hen to those in need of a bit of tlc!
For me, it’s fund-raising because they’re desperately short of money and, without it they’ve been standing still on many of their plans for most of this year. Fortunately the president is savvy enough to know his limitations in this area, and well connected enough to have drafted in a couple of local businessmen with their connections. So we’ve got a little team going, focusing on the Mauritian business community with a fund raising target. We’ve already secured 2 second-hand laptops and the services of one company’s IT manager to sort out their office LAN. OK, OK I SHOULD be able to do that for them but after a morning messing about with it, during which I thought I’d lost the office server, I’ve decided to put pride to one side; good intentions count for nothing if all of the project files get screwed!
So we’ve formed a bit of a bond with them and their cause and, although a life of diving every day is very attractive, there’s something satisfying about this too. Now if only the lagoon were 10 metres deeper so that the surveys needed full scuba gear instead of just mask and snorkel.
Anyway, got to go now, I’m up at 04:30 tomorrow to go turtle patrolling!