Jo (R) and Moi from Living Leyte (L).
Joanna Ah Yow, 24
Originally from: Mauritius and has been living in Coventry, England, a graduate of Coventry University.
LL: So Jo, Can you describe the place and vibe where you come from?
JAW: I originally came from Mauritius but I went to university in Coventry England, I have lived there for the past 4 years but when I finished I went back to Mauritius before coming here. Mauritius is multi-cultural, multi-racial, it’s a mixture of Chinese and Indians. It was colonized by the French then the British, the trade there was sugar cane, local rum made from sugar cane; tourism is big there because we have nice beaches, like the the one in Kalanggaman. It’s relaxing, it’s not a big city but traffic can become intense. Cuisine is mixed there, Chinese, street food, Indian food, one can find french bread in the shops for example. A majority of the population is of Indian origin. Hindu is the majority religion, the official language is English, Creole and French. My great granddad went to Mauritius when he was 17 years old and we are the 4th generation.
LL: What was your life like before you came?
JAW: As I said I went to school in Coventry University for 4 years. My major was in Disaster Management. When I finished I went back to Mauritius to catch up because it had been 2 years since I’d been back. I caught up with old friends, everything changes when I go back home.
LL: True, nothing stays the same.
LL: What's your impression of our place?
JAW: I love it here, I have been to the nice beaches, it’s not really the physical aspects of things, it’s the people, the people are respectful. Whereas back, home people swear.
LL: What pivotal moment made you choose to become a volunteer/aid worker?
JAW: A lot of it came from my parents’ influence, they are traditional Christians and I grew up with that. I volunteered with a Christian organization in England and I discovered that's what I like. Volunteering came along and it’s the obvious thing for me. This gave me a perspective that’s why I majored in Disaster Management and not engineering which is what I was planning on.
LL: How long can one volunteer?
JAW: It depends on the funds, I am lucky because my parents support me. I volunteered with All Hands and I am now an Engagement Coordinator.
LL: What does an Engagement Coordinator do?
JAW: It has anything to do with fund-raising, engaging the community with our organization.
LL: Has your experiences here affected or changed you as a person? And do you think that your experience here will be useful for you in the future?
JAW: Definitely. Example, I am so used to things like air-conditioning, shoes, nice clothes. Now I think twice about what’s important in life. I am less materialistic now.
LL: Given all that has happened in the world, the news we see, the political and religious upheavals between countries an ideologies, there’s terrorism and the natural disasters which we cannot control. Do you feel there is hope for the future of our planet?
JAW: Yes. I feel like if there’s no hope then we won’t bother but we can see that people volunteer for example and it restores faith in humanity.
LL: Given an opportunity to resolve one global issue or conflict happening in the world right now, which one would you take a gander at?
JAW: The war in Syria, the refugee crises. I feel that if the main issue will be resolved then the surrounding issues will be resolved around it.
LL: Apart from volunteer work or being an aid worker, what’s the next best thing that makes you eloquent or effusive with words?
JAW: Music, acoustic guitar, My favorite song is “Superstition" by Stevie Wonder.
LL: What’s next for you?
JAW: We are going thru the end of February with the project. We’ve had collaborations with Street Light, CRS (Catholic Relief Services). I’m looking to go to Nepal and I heard of new people from another outfit dealing with refugees in Europe, I may join that.
LL: Wanna play one-word-answer questions and Bonus Q?
Moon or Sun? Moon
Monochrome or Colored? Colored
Iceland or Australia? Australia
Fútbol or Football? Soccer
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Eagle or Dolphin? Eagle
Bonus Q: If you were given the power to spend 2 hours with someone who has passed on, who would it be and why?
JAW: Nelson Mandela. I would talk to him about his life. He is just was an inspiration to so many people. I’ve been to South Africa and I knew about him growing up.
LL: There's just one thing left, I need to take a photo of you.
Jo is reluctant but concedes and agrees to this but only if I am in the photo with her too. I guess this is not a bad bargain, after all she's done for the community. ;-) .
Jo obviously has this kind heart that extends towards us and I believe even further beyond. Jo, from all of us, Thanks very very much!