Up Close … with June Naiken, outgoing chairperson of Anse Royale senior citizens’ club-‘My greatest dream is to see the Maison du 3ème Âge become a reality’


Mrs NaikenHer long involvement in the district’s cultural activities and the senior citizen’s club as chairperson of the association at district level, makes Mrs Naiken a popular figure. Not forgetting the many friends she surely has made in other parts of Mahé over the years in view of the many years she worked at the psychiatric hospital and the numerous activities she took part in at national and regional level, more particularly Mauritius which she has visited countless times.

Like many of her fellow senior citizens always say, if ‘Man June’ -- as she is affectionately known to her friends and close family -- is not present in an activity, things are never the same.

Catching up with her sometime back relaxing at the Lesplanade with some of her friends during one of her numerous outings, Mrs Naiken sadly told me that after 14 years she was stepping down as the chairperson of the Anse Royale senior citizens’ club on account of ill health.

Now 76 years, Mrs Naiken will in two months’ time be celebrating her 77th birthday.

“The association needs someone stronger with more energy and stamina. I can no longer deliver as I used to,” she told me. The mother of nine children – six daughters and four sons, one of whom has passed away -- Mrs Naiken has 24 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Younger days – education and work prospects
Mrs Naiken, originally hailing from Anse Gaulette, Baie Lazare, went to school at Anse Royale from the age of five years and this was during the 1940s.

Recalling her younger days, she said she attended classes until primary six but because the passing away of her father affected her studies, the nuns allowed her an extension of one more year.

“School was very different in those days and we were taught in French and English and it was a good thing because we retained everything we were taught,” she said laughing.

“The nuns who taught us were strict but they did us good as we became exemplary pupils and later in life responsible citizens. We were taught everything from the history and geography of Seychelles to those of the world and also current events as well as religion,” she recalled.

Mrs Naiken was a bright pupil but unfortunately she was not able to pursue her studies at the Regina Mundi Convent in 1953 as her mother, raising six children alone, could not afford to give her everything she required to continue her studies in town.

Albeit disappointed, she did not lose hope. At 15 years old, she was the eldest child in the family. With the help and encouragement of two nuns, Sister Hugh and Sister Julianna, she was encouraged to start a small daycare at her parents’ home at Anse Royale.

“The house had a large verandah which I transformed to accommodate the children,” she said reminiscing.
She took on young children aged 3 to 5 and taught them how to hold their pencils properly, how to draw, and later on the letters of the alphabet among other small activities children love.

“I earned my living that way as parents who brought their young children to my daycare paid R1 for their enrollment and at the end of the month I had R30 if I managed to get 30 kids in my care,” she recalled.

In fact she was among the first persons to set up a small daycare at Anse Royale.
For four years she carried on with her home activity before moving on to take other jobs. She also stood in as teacher on numerous occasions.

She worked with the George family at Enfoncement, Anse Royale for several years, taking care of the family’s young children before moving on to other jobs.

In 1977, she took a position as attendant at the psychiatric hospital at Les Cannelles. Her job was more like what is today a nursing assistant.
“It was really a tough job then, handling patients who were mentally disturbed and who were violent at times,” she said.

Over the years the position changed to nursing aid and Mrs Naiken did not miss any opportunity to broaden her knowledge.

She followed different courses related to her job and also trained in occupational therapy which some years later, with her certificate in hand, landed her a promotion as occupational therapy assistant.

When she retired from her job at the psychiatric hospital in 1999, she was aged 63.
“I was really tired after so many years and I needed a long deserved rest,” she pointed out.
But being someone who has always been active, it was therefore not at all surprising that not long after, in that same year, she found herself heading the district’s senior citizens’ club.

The senior citizens club
Mrs Naiken, who has been part of the association since its creation, said it is a great platform where the older generation meet, share ideas and their many experiences gained over the years, organise and take part in different activities including cooking and craft making.
“It is a great opportunity for senior citizens like myself to relax, share jokes and organise our own activities,” said Mrs Naiken.

 Taking part in an activity

During the many years as chairperson of the club, Mrs Naiken has organised different outings for club members and these include visits to Praslin and La Digue as well as to many interesting places and establishments like hotels and not to forget the many trips to Mauritius where they have many friends.

Since the Anse Royale district signed a twinning agreement with the Mauritian town of Moka Flacq in November 2011, this has strengthened the bond of friendship between the seniors of the two Indian Ocean countries.

“It is really fun meeting new people all the time and I really look forward to our different activities,” said Mrs Naiken.
A group of Mauritian senior citizens made an exchange visit here in 2011 as part of the twinning agreement and Mrs Naiken said a group of seniors from the Anse Royale club is planning a similar exchange to Mauritius in November this year.
Since earlier this month, Mrs Naiken is officially no longer the chairperson of the club. She has been replaced by recently retired teacher May Chetty.

Maison du 3ème Âge
Looking back at the many years she devoted to the club, Mrs Naiken said there has been a lot of great moments and as an auxiliary member she hopes to continue taking part in club activities until her health allows.

But her greatest disappointment is the lack of interest by some senior citizens in the community to join the association.

“Seniors should not sit at home, worrying about everything. At this age they should make the most of what remains of their lives,” she said.
Mrs Naiken noted that the Anse Royale club has been one of the most active in the region and it has organised many activities.

Every Tuesday club members meet at the Anse Royale community centre for craft activities. Mrs Naiken does not miss one of the rendez-vous.

But one of Mrs Naiken’s greatest regrets is the possibility that she will not live to see the project to build a centre for the senior citizens – Maison du 3ème Âge.
“I am getting older and I may not live to see the completion of this project,” she said.

“We were hoping to see and enjoy meeting our friends and counterparts in the Maison du 3ème Âge sometime soon,” she mused sadly.

Mrs Naiken still recalled attending the ceremony in 2006 to lay the foundation stone for the house at Providence. But to date the project is yet to start. Another project discussed around the same time was the need to have a small 30-seater bus for the comfort of the senior citizens when they go on their outings. This also has not been materialised yet.

Seeking clarification as to what has happened to the project, the director general for programme and special events in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports Sylvianne Lemiel said the project has gone through several delays beyond control.

She said a new site at Ile Perseverance has been identified for the project of which the concept design has already been drawn and while additional funding is being sought, the ministry expects the project to kick off as soon as funding is available.

“The project is still on and we can assure the senior citizens that their wish will be realised,” Mrs Lemiel said.

With regard to the bus project, Mrs Lemiel said it is also pending and the ministry is looking for funding to top up the sum which had already been collected for the purpose.
“The seniors should rest assured that all their projects are being considered,” said Mrs Lemiel.

Everyday life
Mrs Naiken now takes her life easy, waking up as usual and moving about her house doing her daily chores. Her youngest daughter lives with her.
“I still enjoy planting and tending my flowers, spices and chilies,” she said.
But she grows everything in cans and other utensils near her house. All the same she still enjoys doing everything she does and that is the greatest thing about it all.

by Marie-Anne Lepathy

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