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Friday, 30 December 2011 10:00

Mrs Sheela Baguant – The indefatigable social worker

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She has dedicated more than fifty years of her life to social work and still has this fearless determination to fight for the well-being of others. With her lively and pleasant personality, Mrs Sheela Baguant has brought her positive contribution to the numerous associations she has been attached to. Currently President of the Shelter for Women and Children in Distress, Mrs Baguant has “a strong hope in the young generation who will take the lead to keep the torch burning.”
She is well known in the social field but is perhaps most recognised for her kind heartedness which has earned her the respect of many. Mrs Sheela Baguant gave us a warm welcome as we went to meet her at the shelter at Forest Side to find out what makes of her such a strong and kind woman. She puts us at ease at the very beginning and the conversation flows naturally. Mrs Baguant’s career is truly one we can all admire and is a source of strength and an example for others to emulate and follow. Mrs Baguant still remembers childhood encounters which helped build her personality and marked her life. “At the age of seven, I was in a Pre-Guide group named Brownies that taught many values such as respect, hygiene, politeness…

When I was at the Loreto College, the Sisters there gave me lots of opportunity to do volunteer work and help the needy.” However, Mrs Baguant reminisces that her first and foremost source of inspiration to get involved in social and volunteer work was her father. “My father was a very active social worker. He is the one who initiated and encouraged me to do social work. It’s in my genes,” she says. Indeed she takes much pride in telling that it’s due to her parents’ motivation and open-mindedness which enabled her to do what she loves most.

This fervent believer of ‘Mauricianism’ took her first steps in social work in 1960 after cyclone Carol as she volunteered to help in the anti-typhoid campaign and with her good star accompanying her; she came across her future husband at the same time. He acted as her angel spirit throughout the years and supported her in her cause and it’s definitely thanks to his constant advice that she is still carrying on.

Even after the birth of her two sons, she dedicated her free time to social work. With a group of friends Mrs Baguant worked in one of the first ONG of the island which was greatly committed to fight for women’s emancipation. “We were initiating needy women to different courses which helped them develop their potentials whether in handicrafts or embroidery which at the same time helped them to get a source of revenue as we helped them to sell their products.”

But what Mrs Baguant came up with during those first days was the brilliant idea of creating a “nursery and kindergarten to help mothers who were busy working.” She helped in parallel, for more than twenty years, disabled people through the Physically Handicapped Welfare Association. “I like being on site and meeting those people to know what are their needs and help them in the best way I could,” she says. Mrs Sheela is also involved actively in other organisations and helps young girls on a regular basis.

Mrs Baguant is indeed an energetic woman who lavishes her time and effort to the welfare for others. She started working for the shelter which is a non-profitable, charitable organisation at Forest Side which opened in 1991 “to fill unmet needs for services for battered women, abandoned, needy and abuse children”, on a purely voluntary basis. “The shelter had only an apartment as location but with time it changed. The shelter opened its doors at Forest Side in 1995 and with the grateful help of well-wishers we were able to extend the building,” she tells us. As she takes her role of President of the Shelter seriously, Mrs Baguant is not afraid to take the bulls by the horns at any time in order to give the best to those women and children. “We try our best every day to improve the lives of these children… I have memorable moments with all them. They are my second family and home as well as my staff members. To tell you, we have even celebrated weddings in the shelter,” she says all smile.

Warm-hearted humanity
Her objective is to provide the best tools to those children and empower them through education but the secret according to her lies “in the approach and the way you speak to the child.” Many of us are surely surprised to see a woman of her age being still actively involved in social work but she pleasantly surprises us by saying that as she gets in touch with the youngsters her spirit remains young.

Social work has always played an integral part in her life and she believes it’s inborn in her but nevertheless all this requires lots of patience and courage. Mrs Sheela believes that “it’s a mission God gave me.” Mrs Sheela highlights that her priority is “to share with them whatever I’ve learned and known, including values,” she says. As an ending note Mrs Baguant says that she feels “people are becoming materialistic and egoistic. Each of us can do much more for the country and that we do not necessarily need to have money to help but that the physical presence is sufficient. Besides family and professional life people have to always give time to social work. I want them to understand the true and real meaning of social work.”

She moreover takes this opportunity to appeal to the youngsters to engage in social work. Her track record has not been a a bed of roses but Mrs Sheela Baguant has demonstrated her warm-hearted humanity and deep concern for the welfare of her fellows sisters and children by unceasing service and devotion to social work.



Jameela Jaddoo

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