Mary Jolicoeur – Spokesperson Of ‘La maison Coeur-Ecoute
Woman with a golden heart, this is the best way we can describe Mary Jolicoeur. Spokesperson of the association ‘La maison Coeur-Ecoute’, Mary strives heart and soul for the cause of deprived children of Cite Barkly.
Wife and mother of five, Mary does not hesitate to leave her home early every morning to welcome the less fortunate children at the association seat to offer them a proper breakfast and a meal to take to school.
Mary’s goal is also to empower Barkly women through ‘Coeur-Ecoute’ by valuing their talents and capacities. “God does not remain deaf to the helping cry of children. The cause of children is the greatest cause,” said Mary.
She touched our hearts with her boundless generosity and we stood in admiration before her courage and will power. Indeed, Mrs Mary Jolicoeur is an exemplary woman who strives for what she believes in. “The idea to start the association came when I was working as Liaison Officer at Barkly school.
A child told me that he had not eaten in the morning and came to school with an empty stomach. I was deeply touched and I decided to not remain indifferent. A woman who used to occupy a small grotto near the school proposed to grant us the space. And on the 5th May 2009 together with the help people of the area, I started giving food to children.
With time, as the number of children increased we had to find another location and the project of ‘La maison Coeur-Ecoute’, with the motto “Kontan lekol, sa mem simin la limyer”, explained Mary.
More determined than ever to improve the lives of the children and their parents, Mary renovated an abandoned house at Azalées Street, registered the association and her dream project materialised. Many volunteers approached Mary when they saw the fabulous work she was doing for the children of their locality.
“I also approached many women who didn’t even know about the alarming situation in their region. Instead of staying at home, those women decided to come at the association and give a helping hand. There are now eight women who come every morning to help serve give breakfast to the children,” said Mary.
With six children at the beginning, Mary now welcomes one hundred and fifty children at the association every early morning. With so many children, the budget is one of the most important factors which helps in the good-running of the association.
Thanks to the help of private firms and kind-hearted people all around Mauritius, Mary can give some breakfast, which is considered as a luxury to those children who come from a hostile environment.
“Our association is like a community development where every single person of the locality feels concerned. A woman will prepare some pudding; another will prepare some pancakes to give to the children.
Every help is precious and there is a real sense of solidarity in the community here,” proudly said Mary. Her aim is to bring progress and development to Barkly, not only to the children but to the parents especially the mothers. “We help mothers get out of their homes and acquire knowledge.
For example we have literacy courses every Wednesday for mothers. A handicraft centre will also be available as from this month to the mothers and women of the locality to assist them in developing their handicraft talents. Since a year women and mothers also benefit from aerobic classes every Saturday morning,” Mary told us.
Mary feels happy and complete in her association and it is a day to day struggle for her. She has the firm intention to fight juvenile delinquency.
“But the tragedy is family instability that affects many homes here,” she confides. However, Mary strives to stop the children from hanging around the streets where they can easily fall prey to vicious circles related to drugs or alcohol. She points out that children benefit from the service of a psychologist who comes every Thursday.
“We still have a lot to do but it’s a passionate work. We need more support to for example help children who don’t have the means to go to school.”
Advocate of women’s cause
Mary’s penchant for social work was triggered by the women’s cause. “I believe that a woman must be empowered. She has also to fulfill her responsibilities and at the same time find the right balance. A woman has to have her own space to develop herself,” argues Mary. She believes in sex equality but on the decision making point of view.
As she avers “women must have their say when it comes to decision making. I’ve seen many cases where women have to submit themselves and stay quiet. So, I trust that a woman must show her capacity. A liberated woman is someone who has opening on her home, her children, her locality, her country…”
According to her, “women must protect women. Instead of backbiting each other we must see what we can do to help each other. This is the best way we can protect each other.” Mary feels proud when she tells us how she used to encourage her friends to become independent and open their own workshop when she was working in a factory in her younger days.
“Now they live in France and have their own sewing businesses,” she confides. One of her objectives through ‘Coeur-Ecoute’ is to empower women and help them become independent by putting their skills at the disposal of the association.
Since her childhood, Mary is involved in social work and she always had this helping and serving spirit. To her, her greatest satisfaction is “the fact that people appreciate and value my work. The children feel at ease and at home when they come at Coeur-Ecoute.
They feel the warmth and the love we have here.” Mary and her volunteers not only give food to the children but they inculcate life values in them. “We teach children how to be polite. Good morning, Thank you, Good bye, Have a nice day… these are important values,” she highlights.
Mary is deep clown confident in her heart that many children will take the reins of the association when she will not be able to. “Many children have now this spirit for social work and they greatly appreciate the work we do. Some of them have already told that they will take care of ‘Coeur-Ecoute’ when I’ll not be able to and I know they can do it,” she happily said.
Undoubtedly Mary has touched many hearts and has triggered this sense of community and help in Cite Barkly. “If you have the will you can get people out of their obscurity. Now I am very proud and happy to see many of the children, who came to Coeur-Ecoute, growing and treading the right path. They have found their ‘simin la limyer’,” she said with a big smile.
Mary’s message to the youth is, ‘Let’s pick up the taste for social work again. Let’s take care of our community and give it back its value. We have so many talents here and many positive aspects which must be taken into consideration. It’s us who are on the right way to aid people to get out of those harsh situations.’
Mary feels proud to be a Mauritian and cherish the Mauritian diversity. “I witness the generosity of the Mauritian people through ‘Coeur-Ecoute’ and I feel really proud. People regardless of religion, faith or community help us. Let’s keep the precious gift of community diversity that we have.
Together we can do extraordinary things.” Mary encourages people to follow the philosophy of J.F Kennedy “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what can you do for your country.”