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A sentimental affair

The Rogers Group has had a long and special relationship with Rodrigues, another of the Mauritian islands, situated 350 miles east of the main island. As well as the vital transport links bringing provisions, there are nowadays ties in the form of educational and health supports.

Where Rodrigues and Rogers are concerned, it is unclear which is fonder of the other. Admittedly, the initial ties were more commercial than sentimental. It all began in 1932, when Rogers fitted out the MV Wajao, flying the flag of its subsidiary, the Colonial Steamships Co Ltd. With its ability to carry 827 tonnes, it was the largest boat ever to sail into Port Mathurin and used to supply Rodriguans with provisions from Mauritius and to send back some of the local agricultural produce.

Although the Group no longer has its own fleet, it still plays a crucial part in trade between the islands. The main link is through a cargo-handling company called PAPOL & CS Ltd (Port Associated Portage Operations, Lighterage & Cargo Services Limited). Papol is also the nickname of one of Rodrigues’ grand old men, Paul Elysée.

The firm’s importance becomes clear whenever a new consignment arrives, an event of considerable significance for island life. Docking rhymes with an outbreak of intense activity on the part of the twelve-strong permanent workforce responsible for loading and unloading cargoes, as well as on the part of the 72 part-time dockers. Their bustling around resembles nothing so much as Father Christmas’ helpers as Christmas Eve approaches – except that those filling Santa Claus’ sacks are able to work without spectators. It is under the impatient gaze of curious bystanders that the teams of stevedores have to handle the cargo of goods, some of the few things that the 40,000 inhabitants of this small corner of paradise share with the rest of the world. There is always a tremendous atmosphere!

In October 2007, another dimension was added to the ties between Rogers and Rodrigues. This was when the firm became involved with youngsters aged between 15 and 24 in Mauritius and Rodrigues in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Since then, in partnership with NGOs and Government, Rogers has been helping to educate young people on health and sexuality issues. Following an assessment of what has been achieved, this year it has been decided to focus activity on adults, who can have a positive influence on youngsters. The Rogers’ team also provides technical assistance to organisations, some of which have only recently become involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, so as to increase the impact of activity. The Rodrigues Public Services Workers Union (RPSWU) is a case in point. It has been preparing an awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS in the five regions in Rodrigues, aimed at parents. Through its network, the RPSWU hopes to reach 1,500 adults through awareness sessions and drama events on how to educate children so as to strengthen communication within families. To make sure, indeed that affairs of the heart in Rodrigues have a happy – and not a tragic – ending.

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