“Investing in sustainability drives innovation, encouraging actions to uplift and meet the social needs of our community…” A statement fully supported by the British Council in Mauritius! The organisation is involved in several sustainability programmes at the global and regional level, and in Mauritius, British Council works closely with partners and stakeholders on furthering their sustainable development projects and collaborations.
The British Council has rolled out specific programmes to connect with and support the sustainability work being done in Mauritius, relying on key partnerships with local experts to co-deliver these activities. “The British Council aims to build a community and network, reuniting past and present British Council programme alumni across projects, for instance, UK Alumni Awards, Future News Worldwide Journalism Competition, FameLab Science Communication, our Arts activities, and more… In Mauritius, we are a small team but our alumni share in our vision and goals. In the past few years, we’ve awarded grants to different partners to co-create sustainability activities or support their existing projects”, says Hafiza Jepaul, Projects Manager, British Council Mauritius.
Blend of expertise to move forward…
One of those lasting partnerships is with Dr. Mahendra Gooroochurn, Senior Lecturer & Head of Mechanical & Production Engineering Department, University of Mauritius. Sustainability Award winner for the UK alumni awards 2021-22, British Council Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) Arts Circular Design Delegate, Grant recipient for Circular Design dissemination workshops, and Ellen McArthur Foundation Circular Economy Pioneer for Mauritius, he is one of the go-to sustainability experts for the British Council Mauritius. One of their most recent projects was the Natural Fibres and Sugarcane Sculpture Exhibition at L’Aventure du Sucre in October 2021. This collaborative British Council activity brought together partners across sectors, including the University of Mauritius, MGI School of Fine Arts, and Terra. The exhibition highlighted the use of sugarcane byproducts in an artistic way whilst showcasing the possibilities around reusing materials that one would typically consider as waste. Mahendra also supported British Council Mauritius with their local COP26 activity and participated in the ‘Green Week’ delivered by the British High Commission and hosted at Middlesex University (Mauritius).
Another project launched was the British Council SSA Arts Design Futures Programme and Mauritius was represented by Mehryne Annooar, one of the winners of Future News Worldwide (FNW) Journalism Competition 2018. FNW is a global journalism programme aimed at reuniting young aspiring journalists around the globe and Design Futures was designed specifically to complement the Circular Design programme, placing the storyteller at the forefront of sustainability. Hafiza Jepaul explains that the aim of this programme was for “the storyteller to accompany the Circular Design delegate, Mahendra, on his journey as he set out to disseminate his learnings from the Circular Economy & Design training lab in the UK. Mehryne documented, in writing and through photographs, videos, and interviews, everything he was doing as part of his Circular Economy and Design workshops after his return from the training programme with Ellen McArthur Foundation in the UK. There is a human story behind the work that we do alongside our partners, so having a storyteller on board is crucial to the process of sharing more about our different sustainable projects in the hope of bringing more people together to have a more powerful impact”.
As for the social aspect of their sustainability work, the British Council delivers programmes to empower the community and individuals in different ways. From empowering women through entrepreneurial training with WE Empower, collaborating with Imiloa Collective who work closely with women entrepreneurs in handcrafting, recycling, and upcycling products, to painting a mural at the Centre of Learning in Barkly, supported by ZeeArts Ltd, to support the Centre’s projects and uplift the people of the community… the organisation tries to be part of the positive change as best they can.
Betting on the younger generation…
Niamh Allen, Country Director, British Council Mauritius, states that the institution also works on education programmes for the younger ones… Children are the future, after all! And what is a better way to include the younger generation than through technology? “We are official partners of the Micro:bit Education Foundation. The BBC Micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer and coding device that children can use to code on the micro:bit website, either using blocks or for more advanced users, Python. The coding platform and resources are available free of charge via the website. This project with our Teaching Centre had a double focus, which was to encourage coding and raise awareness on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It helps the children to identify a problem and to propose a solution through coding. For example, one of the students, a 12-year-old girl, came up with a solution to set alarms and warn firefighters when the risk of fire is high when the temperature changes in the forest. It’s amazing what they can do! We need this younger generation to think about these issues right now as for them everything is possible; their imagination has no limits”, shares Niamh Allen.
What’s next for the British Council? A collaborative design project, funded by the British Council and led by Dr. Gooroochurn, will take place as part of Nou Le Morne Festival 2022. The partnership includes Agathe Desvaux de Marigny, founder of Nou Le Morne Festival, local designers from the MGI School of Fine Arts, Mauritius Institute of Education, University of Mauritius, and a UK designer, Zoe Powell Best, to present a project on Circular Homes. Through workshops and a curated exhibition, this project will sensitise people on the separation of waste and showcase what can be created from the waste collected from people’s homes. Another project in the pipeline is a series of short episodes around the UN SDGs thematic areas aimed at the youth.