CARE-CO (Rodrigues) Rehabilitation & Production Centre.
Long time..... No News from us.
Apologies for the long silence due to pressure of events, so lets start again and include a reminder of who we are and where we are.
First...... where we are
Rodrigues Island is precisely at Longitude 63.20-63.30 East & 19.40-19.46 South. It is part of the Mascareignes Islands in the Indian Ocean 350 nautical miles to the East of Mauritius. The Island is 18 kms long and 8 kms wide (at its widest point) with a population currently of approximately 35,000 people of whom the majority are of African descent.
Rodrigues is quite isolated and the only practical connections with the outside world are via Mauritius. Daily flights operate by Turboprop aircraft connect Rodrigues with Mauritius, one and a half hours flying time, and a mixed passenger cargo ship operates about once every 12 days or so.(24 hours at sea to Mauritius 36 hours from Mauritius)
Rodrigues is an autonomous region of the Republic of Mauritius (rather like Tobago is to Trinidad). Rodrigues depends more or less totally on Mauritius for its Budget to operate the running of the Island.
Whereas Mauritius has a lively economy based on Tourism, Cane Sugar, Industry and Finance & Banking. Rodrigues has a very small economy based on Agriculture and Tourism. Unemployment and underemployment are rife leading to a high degree of poverty.
Yet life is more expensive on Rodrigues due to the fact that supplies including most foodstuffs are imported and there is no subsidy on the transportation of the goods either by Air or by Sea.
Who are we in the midst of all this?
The Trevor Huddleston Association for the disabled runs the Gonzague Pierre Louis Special Learning Centre. Opened in 1994 in temporary premises in 1994. In 1996 we moved to purpose built premises at Camp Du Roi, an area close to Port Mathurin, the Chief town and Port on Rodrigues. These premises were built with donations and grants from Enfance & Partage (Toulouse) and the European Union
The Centre is run by Mrs. Susan Auguste and offers special learning for 35 children, some of whom have identifiable disabilities, like hearing impairment or visual impairment. Some have severe learning difficulties and do not fit into the normal school system. Susan has a staff of 5 teachers and two to three local volunteers. There is a pre-primary department which caters fro 10 or so under 5\'s.
The Centre is financed by donations and grants from individuals and groups around the world and also from the Ministry of Social Security.The NGO Trust Fund and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.
There is no fixed income and it is a constant challenge to raise the amount needed to pay wages and keep the Centre going to provide the valuable service to the children, their parents and the Community. No charges are made to the children who attend and the fact they they have a disability means that this is an additional financing challenge to their families.
This year a grant from the Decentralised Cooperation Fund of the European Union and the Mauritian Ministry of Finance helped the Centre to expand with improvements and also to build a canteen, so that a freshly cooked hot meal can be served to all the children.The members of Ashford Congregational Church (Middx UK) has most helpfully \'adopted\' the canteen this year (2009) and provides the means to purchase the foodstuffs required.
Thanks also go to Netzwerk Wunschtraeme in Southern Germany for their support to the running costs of the Pre-primary department. Other donations come in from time to time from schools and individuals to help with expenses.
A grant from the Pime Minister Solidarity Fund for Women and Children enabled us to purchase an audiometer, a tympanometer and 40 new Phonak Hearing aids.
The Centre provides an essential educational and rehabilitative service to the disabled and disadvantaged children of Rodrigues.
This brings us, in this brief overview, and refresher to:-
CARE-CO (Rodrigues) .
This organisation was set up in 1989 as a branch of Craft-Aid in Mauritius.
In 2004 we decided in a mutual agreement to go our separate ways and \'Rodriguanize\' the Craft-Aid (Mauritius) - Rodrigues Branch into CARE-CO (Rodrigues).
The organisation occupies purpose built premises adjacent to the Trevor Huddleston Association and the Special Learning Centre at Camp Du Roi which were financed by TEARFUND UK and German \'Bread for the world\'.Some running costs for the Learning Centre and the workshop were provided by CBM Germany.
However, since 2004, some of those original support organisations ceased their long standing support and advised us to seek help elsewhere.That is TEARFUND, CBM, Bread for the World and Enfance & Partage.
However the production activities of the workshop have mostly sustained the expenses of the Centre making some sorts of outside financial support unecessary.
The sales of handicrafts and the award winning honey \'Miel la Caz\' through our two local sales points in Rodrigues and some sales to hotels in Mauritius and some individual clients overseas have brought in enough revenue to pay monthly wages and administrative and materials costs Embassies and \'Self-Help\'Funds from the USA, Australia and the UK have helped us to buy equipment and tools for the workshop activities and recently the Decentralized Co-operation Fund has granted funds to expand and improve the beekeeping and honey processing department.
The main aim of the work however is not just to produce goods for sale but to employ the disabled in creative and remunerative activities. Until recently we were able to employ 35 people with disabilities, making us one of the biggest employers of local labour. Many of these disabled persons are the graduates from the Special Learning Centre to whom we have a special responsibility.
However, we do not need to remind you that we are living in tough times, and with the failure of some of our fundraising and marketing hopes, we were recently heartbroken to have to make redundant 9 of our workforce. Two thirds of our workers shown to the door.
On the positive side, they will receive full wages for a year under the Government\'s excellent \'work-fare-programme\' (to which we contribute). But this did not make the decision any easier.
Tourism has taken a blow in Mauritius but especially in Rodrigues and a big increase in the Air Fares between Rodrigues and Mauritius has resulted in a lot fewer visitors coming to Rodrigues, and thus sales in our shops have slumped.
Some of the marketing we had high hopes for in the UK has been slow coming to any sort of fruition, but recently there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel in this respect, and in the next newsletter we will be able to give you a contact in the UK where you may be able to buy a selection of our products.
As for me, the one who started all this off, I am 70 this year, and although I tried to retire in 2003, the person employed to take over did not manage to cope with the job and I had to come back to keep a watching eye on things, and am happy to do so.
Things are pretty tough as I write this. Income is perilously low and expenses although trimmed back, at a cost (like many other businesses), we are still only just making it at the end of each month.
We feel very grieved that our disabled workers had to be made redundant, but we could no longer afford the wages bill, and sales have slipped to an all time low. The only small and slightly disagreeable comfort that we can get from all this is to know that we share this very many other businesses and groups round he world.
On the other hand the honey and beekeeping department goes on well and we still win awards at the National Honey Show.
The DCP funds allowed us to have a visit from Gladstone Solomon, a beekeeper from Tobago and he has helped us to update our standards and help us to solve some problems we were facing without expert advice. He will be coming back to help again this year. To make ends meet we need about 700UKL a month to keep afloat as we are now.
Hopefully the world economic crisis will end sometime soon, and hopefully our economy will improve with it.
We trust that we can keep going until things improve.
We wish to you a happy Easter and apologise for the fact that we could not manage our usual Calendar production this you. You will understand that finances were critical at the end of the year and did not permit such an expense.
Address. CARE-CO (Rodrigues)
Camp du Roi, Rodrigues Island, Republic of Mauritius, Indian Ocean.