Twenty-one year old Cleo Joseph of Castries was given the chance of a lifetime when she was selected to visit Martinique as part of a cultural workshop facilitated by the Organisation Martiniquaise pour le Développement des Arts et de la Culture (OMDAC). French has been a passion of Joseph’s ever since she got a taste of the language in Form One as a student at St Joseph’s Convent Secondary School. Fully smitten, she continued advanced studies at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College Division of Arts and Sciences. This past year, she undertook classes at Alliance Française de Ste Lucie. So why the love affair with the romance language?
“Well I enjoy listening to French, I enjoy speaking it, it’s just interesting. And it’s also good to be able to express yourself in another language,” Joseph explained. That theory was put to the test when she encountered the other participants in the exchange.
“When I went there, I was one of the few people that could speak English, French, and Creole. So I was able to communicate with everybody. But there were some people there that couldn’t so they were not able to make friendships. So it opens doors. It allows you to make new friends.”
The program in Martinique was a smorgasbord of events designed to encourage dialogue among the youth and introduce them to various cultures.
“We basically went around the island. We went to ten towns earmarked for the different events every day. I learnt two new sports, table tennis and aqua basketball. We had a few workshops, in particular Bellair. That’s the traditional dance with certain types of African music. They have it in Martinique and Haiti. There was also a Capoeira showcase.”
Joseph continued, “Another feature of the conference was debates. We had debates on different themes, everyday including youth violence, culture, artistic development, Caribbean integration, climate change, and even slave abolitionists so it was intellectually stimulating.”
It was also the first time that Joseph had visited our neighbour to the north and she could not help comparing and contrasting.
“Physically the landscape is the same, traditions, some of the food, but it was very different in that it is more developed in terms of infrastructure and their road network.”
Pedagogical Officer at Alliance Française de Ste Lucie, Marion Faresin, is thrilled that Joseph was able to appreciate the experience and gave a little more insight into the host organization.
“OMDAC is a Martinique based nonprofit organization who works in developing art and culture. It’s the fourteenth year they organized this event. Every year they organize two weeks in Martinique for all the youth from the Caribbean so that they can exchange information on their culture. In St Lucia, Alliance Française is in charge of finding someone who deserves to go. OMDAC pays for the accommodation and meals and the French Embassy pays for the transportation for one person from St Lucia. We selected Cleo because she was our best student,” said Faresin.
This past July, Joseph completed her exams in Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française (DELF), which is the official qualification awarded by the French Ministry of Education to certify the competency of candidates from outside France in the French language. She attained C1 status which is one of the highest distinctions.