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Origins

Background to GPL Centre

The Gonzague Pierre Louis Special Learning Centre was opened after a survey carried out by Mr. Paul Draper revealed that there were a number of deaf children on the island of Rodrigues who had no access to education or even hearing aids.

WHO IS PAUL DRAPER?

Paul Draper, MBE, is an Englishman who met many Mauritians in London when he was studying there. He went to Mauritius in 1994 and obtained Mauritian citizenship. He started a small project for unemployed youth in the town of Rose Belle. In 1982, he and 3 colleagues started Craft-Aid in Rose Hill, the land being leased from the Anglican diocese of Mauritius, with the help of the then Bishop of Mauritius, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Huddleston CR.

In 1987, Paul visited Rodrigues and decided to settle and open a branch of Craft-Aid there. The Rodrigues branch of Craft-Aid grew and a purpose-built Centre was constructed on land leased from the government. The Gonzague Pierre Louis Special Learning Centre, named after a very independent blind Rodriguan, was  built in the same complex and opened in 1994 with Mrs. Susan Auguste as Head Teacher.

In 1993, Paul Draper was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire)

In 2001, he was named the first British Honorary Consul in Rodrigues.

In 2003, he retired as Honorary Consul and Manager of Craft-Aid but still lives on the island and helps as Advisor, Consultant and Fund-Raiser.

N.B. Craft-Aid is now called CareCo (Rodrigues) Ltd (Website:

 

WHO IS GONZAGUE PIERRE LOUIS?

Gonzague Pierre Louis, who has been totally blind since the age of 9, is probably the most well-known person with a disability on the island of Rodrigues. He was one of the first employees of Craft-Aid Rodrigues in 1987, and is still involved, as receptionist and guide to take visitors round the workshop. He learned Braille, plays the guitar and writes songs, walks independently with his white stick, but considers that the most important is the self-respect he feels when he works. He also advises the GPL Centre on mobility for our blind pupils.

 

WHO IS SUSAN AUGUSTE?

Mrs. Susan Auguste was born in Scotland where she trained as a primary school teacher. After her studies, she joined the Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) and was sent to Rodrigues in January 1974 to teach English and Geography in Rodrigues College. She and her husband moved back to Scotland but returned with their children to settle in Rodrigues in 1983. Susan taught English Language for another 10 years in Rodrigues College until she heard about the project to open a small private school for children with hearing impairments. Her mother put her in touch with Dr. Morag Clark  MBE. (Coincidentally also Scottish).

Susan has been in charge of the GPL Centre, which celebrates 20 years of existence in 2014, and seen it grow from 3 pupils in 1994 to almost 50 in 2014. In fact, over the past 20 years, more than 200 children have attended the GPL Centre.

Susan has been British Honorary Consul to Rodrigues since 2003.

WHO IS Dr. MORAG CLARK?

Dr. Morag Clark, MBE, is an International Consultant in Oral Education of the Deaf, a method which encourages the deaf child to make use of his residual hearing with the help of appropriate hearing aids and learn to talk naturally. Dr Clark, who travels to many countries to advise on Oral Deaf Education,  came for the first of her annual visits to Rodrigues  in 1993 and has been coming almost annually ever since. She has been of enormous assistance to us in the development of spoken language among the deaf children of Rodrigues. She helped to identify and assess the first group of pupils, all of whom were profoundly deaf and aided for the first time at 8 years of age. These first pupils are now adults and in full-time employment in the adjoining CareCo workshop making jewellery and other articles from coconut shell. They also bottle local honey which has won several awards at the International Honey Show in London. These young deaf adults are all able to talk, so are able to fully integrate the general population and become contributing members of their family and community.

WHO WAS ARCHBISHOP TREVOR HUDDLESTON?

Trevor Huddleston was a British Anglican priest who worked in Soweto in South Africa during the apartheid era. As he was a very outspoken critic of apartheid, he was expelled from South Africa, but continued to campaign for an end to apartheid. He eventually became bishop of Mauritius and Archbishop of the Indian Ocean. He helped to found the Craft-Aid organisation in Mauritius and was a friend of Paul Draper. He died in 1998.