By Isma Seetal, Rotary Global Grant Scholar
“Education is the best way to change one’s standard of living.”
My mother would repeat this phrase over and over. I was lucky to have been brought up by a hard-working, single, mother, who empowered my brother and me to climb the socio-economic ladder by giving us the best education she possibly could. Other children from broken families like mine did not have the same fortune. My unwavering drive to give back and improve my community led me to join the Rotaract club of Port-Louis, Mauritius in July 2012.
“Driiiing! Driiing!” My alarm rang out on a Saturday morning. My mind and body knew it was the weekend, and ganged up on me so that I had to crawl sluggishly out of bed. But the reason for my early wake-up soon dawned on me. It was the day of Lolo’s follow-up doctor’s appointment.
Lolo is an eight-year-old boy, living in a poverty-stricken area of the island, whom I had met during a health-related Rotaract project. His mother was convinced that he was suffering from cognitive disabilities, which she blamed for his poor grades, and for the fact that he was constantly bullied at school. However, the diagnosis the doctor gave us that day was different from what the mother had thought: hearing impairment. Lolo was not mentally challenged. He just couldn’t hear properly!
Many doctor appointments later, I visited Lolo. My heart filled up as he ran up to my friend and me, sporting the widest smile. Thanks to a hearing device, Lolo could now hear his teachers in class. He had changed from a sullen, withdrawn little boy, to a cheerful child with glowing and hopeful eyes. I discovered a passion: community service. I went on to become a Rotaract board member and then the president of the club in 2013-14.
Through this project and many others, it became increasingly clear to me that the reason there were so many children roaming the streets was much more complex than I had thought. Some are the dropouts of an archaic education system, others are the victims of poverty and abuse, yet others are caught in their parents’ web of drugs and alcoholism.
Back then, during one of the long discussions I had with my husband-to-be about the societal ills which continue to pervade our country, we came to one conclusion: we needed to build our skills and knowledge further to make a difference on an even larger scale. Though I am from a small island of 1.3 million, thanks to a Rotary global grant, I am now studying in California for a doctorate in Educational Leadership, gorging on new knowledge and making the best of the international exposure. I am delving more into educational reforms and the principles of leadership, and I am eager to return to my country to bring about positive changes in education.
I continue to volunteer here for the Newport-Irvine Rotary Club, my hosts. The ties with Rotary are life-long! Long live Rotary!