The 23rd Hour Blog

Help Mauritius survive Wakashio — a guide for the Mauritian diaspora and visitors. 

Help Mauritius 🇲🇺 survive Wakashio — a guide for the Mauritian diaspora.

Fuel leaking from the cargo ship, spilling into the marine park lagoon. Photo by Eric Villars

It is hard to watch helplessly as the dark fluid oozes onto our favorite shade of blue. Here are four ways to help meaningfully from afar.

Our motherland, Mauritius, went from obscurity to being a prominent fixture of international news in a matter of days. Everyone has heard of the Wakashio oil spill by now. The latter endangers our biodiversity, food supply, and tourism industry. The economy was already in the tank from COVID-19. It’s hard to even fathom the consequences of this crisis.

That said, the sheer magnitude of Mauritian solidarity has restored my faith in humanity — a faith most recently corroded by anti-maskers and white fragility. Folks from all walks of life have come together, creating and installing barriers to contain the oil slick. I have never been the patriotic kind, but seeing these harmonious images and videos all over my feed made me proud. As a Mauritian, I felt compelled to mobilize from afar.

If you’re an (ex-pat or a visitor who loves our island), you are probably feeling helpless, wishing you were there to help clean up our beloved ocean. So did I. Although I donated to the NGOs, I still felt like there had to be more I could do. Then I got an idea that I hope you will deem worth sharing:

“What if ex-pats like us could help local businesses get back on their feet by sponsoring them to support cleanup sites?”

1. Sponsor locals to help — two birds, one stone

I have several family members who are restaurateurs. COVID-19 saw their businesses unable to operate fully for months. Despite the reopening, the mandatory mask policy has put a damper on social dining. It’s a tough time to own a small family business. Yet, in spite of it all, my relatives are still volunteering their time and helping create bagasse-filled barriers to contain the oil spill.

I decided to help by sponsoring one of their restaurants to prepare and deliver lunch for the 200 volunteers at a cleanup site. That way, they get some business while still directly helping the cleanup efforts. Everybody wins. I connected them with an Eco-Sud organizer and it is happening this Wednesday!

I estimate it will cost between 550–600 USD for the 200 lunches I am sponsoring. If you earn a living in a stronger currency than the MUR, a sponsorship is likely more affordable to you to than it is for a local. If you can’t afford that amount, maybe you can get a few friends or relatives to pool money together to support your favorite Mauritian restaurant/snack for one day.

If enough of us do this over the next few weeks, we will have created quite a lot of income for local restaurants and helped volunteers clean up our ocean from afar. Let’s help our paradise get back on its feet and emerge stronger from this tragedy.

How to sponsor a cleanup site lunch.

  • Contact your favorite local restaurant/snack/laboutik in Mauritius.
  • Offer to pay them to prepare and deliver food/drinks to Eco-Sud volunteers. Set a budget (say ~ Rs100 per person). If they cannot deliver, maybe you can find someone to help on the Wakashio Facebook group.
  • If they are on board to help, get in touch with Eco-Sud via Facebook to decide which day/site, and how many volunteers are to be thanked with a meal. If you don’t want to use Facebook, email me and I will give you the phone number for the volunteer I talked to.
  • You can foot the bill yourself or get friends and relatives to pitch in. PayPal is available in Mauritius to facilitate transactions. You’ll be helping both the economy and the ecology.

Not just food & drinks — other sponsorship ideas.

This can also be done for stores and businesses that could offer other materials needed for the cleanup.

  • Businesses selling masks, gloves/boots/diving gear/ other PPE to minimize exposure to the toxic fuel.
  • Businesses selling needles, nylon thread, or material to make the sausages.
  • Businesses selling heavy duty containers to store the fuel.
  • The list is endless. Contact Eco-Sud/MWF and ask them what they need, then sponsor it. It’s quite simple, and there is a lot of work to be done. You can also find out some of the needs on the Facebook group mentioned.

I hope you will join me in rebuilding our community from afar by sponsoring some local businesses to help in the cleanup efforts.

Now on to the easier options for helping — donations and connecting people.

2. Donate to Eco-Sud (NGO)

Eco-Sud is the NGO leading the cleanup efforts in multiple locations. Due to a recent law imposed by the government, locals are required to sign up as volunteers in order to participate. You can donate directly to Eco-Sud here:

Mauritius Oil Spill Cleaning 2020 - MV WAKASHIO

3. Donate to Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (NGO)

Mauritius Wildlife Foundation is the NGO responsible for protecting endemic species and advocating for animal rights in the country.

The oil spill is very close to Ile Aux Aigrettes, an islet that is dedicated to protecting endangered endemic species of birds, skinks, giant tortoises, and more. It is also adjacent to the Blue Bay Marine Park, which is home to our most beautiful coral reefs and their aquatic inhabitants. Donate to MWF:

Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

Here’s who you will be helping:

4. Connect resources to people (crowd-sourced)

There is a Facebook group where people are coming together to organize transportation, material drop-off and other logistics. Even if you are not an official volunteer for one of the sites, you can be useful there.

Wakashio - Oil Spill - Anou Mobilisez

You will see requests for certain materials, or certain skills, or transportation and other logistical help in the group. Here are examples of donation requests I’ve seen in the group:

  • Buckets
  • Needles
  • Nylon thread
  • Hair
  • Diving gear
  • IBC tank
  • Boots & gloves
  • Overalls
  • Workshop space

While you are not able to physically provide these remotely, maybe you can connect them with someone back home who can. Get involved and connect people with the resources they need.

Together when it matters 🇲🇺

The posts linked below are a testament to the community spirit that has come alive on our small island nation. We may not agree on a lot of things, but when push comes to shove, we show up and we do what we have to do. We leave the blame game for later and we put our community’s safety and wellbeing first.

If that is the world’s first impression of the Mauritian people, well… You can color me proud. 🇲🇺

Nice one. I’ve read that this is more prominent in millennials than previous generations. 

Nice one. I’ve read that this is more prominent in millennials than previous generations. Do you think it applies to all? I know I have refused many interviews just on the basis of the company’s cultural reputation, eg if female engineers faced a lot of discrimination or if they seem to be exploiting the contractors who are the fuel they operate on. The problems they work on are interesting for sure, and the roles are intellectually stimulating, but I can’t in good conscience join such an organization unless it is making significant efforts to change for the better.

Hi, thanks for reading and responding. 

Hi, thanks for reading and responding. I did not mean to imply that Canada was involved in each one of those wars, but more that they have both taken federal action to go to war multiple times and thus, are able to organize at the federal level in emergency situations. I will make a rectification per your point on Vietnam to make it more clear.

Hi Eric, 

Hi Eric,

I appreciate your response and I can agree with you on a few points, but there are nuances.

I agree with you that sitting at home for a year is not a viable option. No one is saying that the lockdown will last this long. However, I do not agree that staying home is useless. Here is why: if less people are out circulating at any given time, the rate at which new people get contaminated will be slower. Therefore, it is more likely that those who do get infected, and who do need ventilators and such, will be able to get the care they need. If everyone just goes out, then the healthcare system will quickly be overwhelmed like it is in New York, and there will be more preventable deaths that are simply due to lack of hospital beds/equipment. This “flattening the curve” also gives us time to create/import more PPE to protect those who, as you say, do not have the choice to stay home and have to work. Does that make sense?

If all the states had gone on lockdown at the same time, then we would not have had as many cases as we do now.

I am also looking forward to re-opening, but I still would not go out (even if I can) unless I have to. Even though I’m unlikely to experience severe symptoms, or even have any symptoms at all, I could be a carrier and infect my loved ones. I would never want to risk their life unnecessarily, just because I felt like going to a crowded beach. I don’t think any country is planning to just reopen everything at once, that would be chaos. I think a staggered approach would make sense, when the data suggests that the curve has been flattened, and the risk of re-opening part of it is not going to get us right on a logarithmic growth path.

If you believe that comparing Mauritius to the U.S. and Canada is unfair, then you should also concede that comparing the U.S. (340 million) to Belgium (11 million) is unreasonable.

Right now, the death rate per million in the U.S. is lower. But the U.S. was a few weeks behind Europe and hasn’t peaked yet. It takes a while before people who are contaminated actually die from the disease. The picture might look very different in a few weeks. I’m sadly quite confident that by the end of it, we might be #1…

Also, it is work asking whether “death rate per million” is the right metric to use here. You can slice and dice numbers in different ways based on what insight you are looking for:

If you want to know the difference between universal vs private healthcare, perhaps it would be more useful to compare the ratio of deaths to confirmed positive cases, because people who don’t have coverage are more likely to die if they can’t have access to ventilators when they need one.

If you look at today’s numbers for the U.S., that’s 40,478 deaths and 762,496 positive cases, giving us a death rate of 5.3%, which is higher than the estimate from WHO.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-rate/

But even that is not quite accurate, since the people who die today, are a proportion of the number of people who were positive at the time when they got infected. For every person who dies today, there’s a bunch more people who are getting infected today, that we won’t know about until a week or two later. Here’s more on that: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/why-are-covid-19-death-rates-so-hard-to-calculate-experts-weigh-in#Why-calculating-the-death-rate-is-so-tricky

The reason those countries in Europe are struggling is partly due to the healthcare system being overwhelmed with so many patients reaching critical condition at the same time. It has nothing to do with universal healthcare.

Europe definitely got caught like a deer in the headlights with the surge of cases. Europeans might look like they’re in worse shape right now but there is a nuance that is fundamental to the discussion here:

They might not get care because the hospital is completely full, but they will not be denied care because they don’t have money to pay for it. That is something you do not seem to get, or care about. If your family were to fall on hard times and have no insurance, I would not want you to die because you couldn’t pay for hospitalization! That sounds criminal to me! You deserve treatment, just like the rich people.

We are “lucky” that the U.S. is not at that point yet, except on the East Coast. We should use that to our advantage and improve our healthcare system, and improve access to care before the next epidemic/pandemic. Because it will happen, that’s just life. But we can prepare for it and be more fair to our citizens who are less financially secure.

Summary

We love writing! Not just songs, but also little anecdotes, stories, reflections that hopefully provide a glimpse into our quirky artistic path. Somehow these unlikely bedfellows, two "perfect strangers" from across the globe found each other in California and turned out to be artistic soulmates. 
 

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