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Malenn Oodiah : Compass of the soul

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His sense of observation and critical thinking and his steadfast combat against the pauperisation of both man and nature, have made him a voice – and a pen! – to be heard in Mauritius.

“My greatest joy is to see a seed germinate and watch the tiny seedling grow.” In the garden of his house in Rose-Hill and in his professional life, Malenn Oodiah, sociologist and chairman of the Fondation Espoir Développement Beachcomber (FED), born in Rose-Hill, Mauritius in 1957, watches over both people and nature.

Civic responsibility

Sociologist by trade, historian and philosopher, Malenn studied in Strasbourg before returning to the island to manage the Beachcomber Group communication department. In 1999, after the riots that shook the population, Malenn responded convincingly:

“The decade from ‘82 to ‘92 saw an economic miracle. The first signs of weakness appeared in 1993. Nothing much was done… until the riots in 1999 that voiced the revolt of the victims of social exclusion. I shared my analysis with the group’s managers who reacted to the need to reinforce their social and civic responsibility,” explains Malenn Oodiah. This led to the Fondation Espoir Développement, whose creed is “It’s better to teach people to fish rather than just giving them a fish.” “The aim is independence, and to achieve it, we need to restore the confidence and self-esteem of those most in need through education, training and vocational guidance.”

A helping hand 

Our main targets are young dropouts or underprivileged children. “These are the ones who will decide the future of the island. They will establish a feeling of security in the island.” Thus, in 2001, the FED initiated the “Projet Employabilité Jeunes” (youth employability project). Since then, nearly 3,000 young people have attended training courses and internships in the group’s hotels, supervised by an employee tutor, and most have managed to obtain stable employment. The project helps the young people, and also takes care of their families to break out of the isolation and build up a loving family relationship.

In addition to the PEJ, in 2006 the FED initiated the association Beautiful LocalHands to develop local craftsmanship, and support and develop production, bring the craft workers together and introduce a distribution system. Other missions followed with NGOs, schools and associations. All these initiatives led by the FED and financed by Beachcomber share one goal: to help the most destitute to reintegrate working life by giving them the means to support themselves.

Living together 

“The strength of our people lies in their ability to live and build together. This above all else is what we must preserve in these hostile populist times,” observes Malenn Oodiah.

Living together also means preserving the environment and supporting sustainable development through responsible practice. The group’s resorts have obtained EarthCheck Benchmark certification for their continuous commitment to the preservation of resources.

Mauritius is three hundred years old and has a history as painful as it is rich. It is a land of mixed race, nourished by the histories of different peoples and cultures. Respect for nature, resilience and hospitality are the pillars that underpin the peace and harmony. “It is a long, patient journey,” says Malenn Oodiah, with a confident, radiant smile.

By Virginie Luc
Photograph Pierre Perrin