Two young professionals, François and Oliver received a grant of $ 3,000 from the US embassy for their projects. François Mark’s project is about introducing virtual reality in school while Oliver Fanfan focuses on providing sustainable solutions to illiterate and former detainees.
François Mark: “Making education more interactive”
39-year old François has more than 20 years of experience in web and digital technology. He has his own company. He has been working on the virtual reality education project since one year but with the grant, he can now implement it soon. His project is to provide schools with virtual reality equipments for free and change the way teachers work with students through different subjects. “Technology is very much advanced today. The way of learning also should be more dynamic. Subjects like history and geography can be learnt differently with virtual reality. Children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn will automatically increase. Classes will be more interactive,” he explains.
When he was young, he did not have access to technology, as he comes from a modest family. “Access to technology was difficult. Now that I am acquainted with the latest technology, I want to share it and make technology even more accessible,” he adds. For him, the grant is of great help and he can now finance the project. “With the grant, more schools and children can benefit from the projects. It can now be an integral part of the Nine-Year Continuous Basic Education. I also hope to influence other people to come forward and help to bring innovative projects to assist our children,” he avers. When asked how he decided to opt for being a social entrepreneur, he says: “My past has made me what I am today. People helped me a lot when I was in difficulty. So now I feel it is my duty to help others. I am a self-made man and learnt a lot on my own.”
Before launching his own venture, François worked for international companies and this enabled him to enhance his knowledge. “It is in 2011 that I launched Interactive Graphic Studios Ltd. It offers various services: digital marketing, mobile application, creation of website, among others. Being an entrepreneur is very much interesting. If you are not disciplined, then you can fail as entrepreneur,” he says. He has different other interesting projects that will be implemented in the years to come.
Oliver Fanfan: “Encouraging sustainable solution”
Oliver Fanfan, 25, a social entrepreneur, has set up Island Bio which caters for illiterate persons, ex-detainees, women and the youth from the poor backgrounds by providing them with a sustainable solution through community gardening, granting them free access to a certifying label and technical training and engaging them in a three year self-development program. “We are promoting the rising of unconventional entrepreneurs in the agro-business by redefining the market with the promotion of direct distribution to avoid any artificial hike of our organic vegetable price which tallies with “vegetables” coming from traditional fields. The project aims to bring a paradigm shift in the neighbourhood where our community gardens are found by making permaculture a trendy job for the youth, enhancing community building among the inhabitants through community living, work and trade, providing a sane and safe place for our growers’ children and the other children after school hours (they use to spend time in the garden helping the parents, this develops a positive parent-child bonding in a natural and inspiring environment),” he reveals.
The grant will help Oliver and his association to reduce dependency on CSR. “We are actually walking the talk, because everywhere we go, we encourage people to not only rely on grants but to be self-empowered through hard work and training that we freely offer. In some way, we have decided to taste our own medicine with the aim to reduce our CSR subvention needs in some years while continuing in our mission to empower families in their agripreneurship journey all over the Island.”
Over the past years, the young man has been involved in various projects like Carpe Diem NGO, which ensure about 50% of unique training combination program in Island Bio. “We will soon organise a march as a fund raising support for art therapy session that the NGO provide in prisons and on to the beneficiaries of the Island Bio program among which many are ex-detainees,” he says.
When asked what pushed him into social entrepreneurship, he replies: “I started to actively get involved in social work since I was 16, together with some friends, we set up the Anges de la Rue club that still exists today at Pamplemousses, then I started to get involved and to volunteer in the Group A de Cassis activities which aim to give back dignity to homeless, drug addicts and sex workers. Then I started to help at the Fraternité Nord Sud, where I was mentored by Julien Lourdes, the founder of several iconic social associations like “Terre de Paix” and the “Fraternité Nord Sud”. From this engagement, I was able to be in contact and to better understand the culture of poverty that passes through generations over there and the resilience of those who succeeded as well, might they be completely literate or not. Then after my university studies, I was appointed as the coordinator of the “l’Homme au Centre du Développement Durable” for the Inspired Generation program which was introduced on the Island by the FJDD from Quebec in partnership with the Indian Ocean Commission and the European Union.”
During his mission, he had the opportunity to meet dozens of civil stakeholders and he realised that sustainability was inexistent in the solutions proposed to poverty alleviation, and at the same time, as a vegetarian. “I was much concerned about the level of chemicals we use in the growing of our vegetables on the island and how these are correlated to the alarming cancer rate among our citizens. This encouraged me build up this project which I submitted to a project call from the Indian Ocean Commission and then upon winning the best score, I decided to take a break from my professional career and invest myself in the realisation of this evolution as a 100% volunteer. I was later joined by Angel Angoh, an Art therapist and Cloe Chavry, a sensitised youngster who gave another dimension to this marvelous and challenging adventure. Without their help and those of the Institute of Bon Pasteur and the Fondation Joseph Lagesse, Island Bio wouldn’t have accomplished all these today.”
He wishes to see many bio gardens across the island, and the implementation of the label and the first Island Bio garden in Reunion Island with his partner Terra Habillis, respected professionals in agro-ecology.