About the presenter: Jim Caroopen is an accountant from Mauritius, Africa. He writes, "I am now a recovering stutterer. Speaking had always been a very problematic activity for me. Then in September 2005, I received a letter from Mr. Joseph Lukong of Cameroon that set me into contact with lots of people all around the world and helped me achieve tremendous breakthroughs in all areas of my life."
About the presenter: Yasvin Somoo, 20 years, lives in Phoenix, Mauritius. He is studying electrical installation and maintenance at the IVTB School in Beau Bassin. He is very engaged in a prayer group in his village called Kirtan and also participates in various activities organized by the group. He joined Parole d'Espoir in March 2006 and in January 2007 became a focus group motivator in the 2007 self help group. His passion is all about surfing on the internet, chatting, and he loves having the latest models of cell phones. He also repairs computers and cell phones.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

"Parole d'Espoir" - making gains in fluency through self-help and friendship in Maruitius

by Jim Caroopen and Yasvin Somoo
from Maritius, Africa

My name is Jim Caroopen. I live in Mauritius, a island country in the Indian Ocean, about 560 miles east of Madagascar. I am 33 years old and can now say that I have covered a considerable distance on the road towards fluent speech. Nonetheless, I must admit that I still encounter slight stuttering in my daily interaction with others, and that most of the time this happens when I have to say my name.

In 2005, I was challenged by Mark Irwin, then chairperson of the International Stuttering Association, to launch a self-help group in Maruitius. What follows are three short reports of personal progress made by three of us whose lives are changing because of that challenge

After some initial reluctance, I launched the self-help group Parole d'Espoir. This adventure has added a whole new dimension to my life. It has brought me to realize that on accepting that I am a person who stutters, I become capable of talking fluently! Within the group we openly talk about our stuttering, and are challenged to talk about our stuttering with others.

For as long as I remember, saying my name to others has been very difficult. During my adolescence and early adulthood, it was absolutely impossible for me to say my name straight away when I was asked. I struggled before being able to utter my name in an outburst. During that uncomfortable silence, I had to face many inquisitive gazes and comments such as "Have you forgotten your name?"

When I had to introduce myself to a group, the situation was even worse. The stress of knowing that I would have difficulties saying my name was multiplied by the number of eyes that would be staring at me and by the time that it would take for my turn to speak. Once, a close friend confessed to me after a group presentation that when it was my turn to introduce myself she thought that I was ill and was going to faint.

If I was having such difficulties saying my name, it goes without saying that I was having tremendous difficulties speaking to others. I knew that I was a person who stuttered but I could not accept it. I did not want to say it to myself and even less to others.

After Irwin's challenge to start a self-help organization on our small island, a group of parents of children who stutter and I met to explore avenues of working together to establish an association. During our meetings we decided to create awareness about stuttering at a national level by organizing a press conference and inviting the entire Mauritian press.

From the start of this project, I had decided that I would not give my name to the press -- that I would take part in any press conference only in an "anonymous" way. I was not sure how I was going to do this but what was clear was that I was not ready to announce my stuttering in public.

We began to contact the media companies and I went to distribute invitations myself but was very careful to mention only the names of other members of the association as contact persons. Eventually, I accepted to give press interviews, but "under the cover of anonymity"! The journalists would either use my initials or a fictitious name.

Then one day I met with Mrs. Martine Hennequin, a journalist at Le Mauricien, the most important daily newspaper on the island. She listened to my story about anonymity and asked, "How can you inspire others to have confidence in themselves when your don't have enough self-confidence to use your own name!" That night, after much thought, I knew she was right, and decided I was ready to publicly assume my stuttering and that the up-coming press conference was the right moment to begin. At the conference I introduced myself and announced to all the journalists, photographers and TV cameras that I encounter stuttering in my speech. This was an "act of liberation" for me. After the press conference, Sandra Potié, another journalist from La Vie Catholique, proposed to write a full page article. Without any hesitation I accepted the invitation and the fact that I am a person who stutters is now documented in print.

Yasvin Somoo is an active member of Parole d'Espoir, and he has made tremendous progress since he joined us in March 2006. Here Yasvin relates to us his transformation.

Hi everyone, I am Yasvin, 20 years old, from Phoenix, Mauritius. Since joining Parole d'Espoir I have learned a lot and have experienced many changes in my life.

"Phoenix." Saying that word nearly made me cry. I was in the bus travelling back home from Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius, where I go for meetings of the self-help group, and a strange fear steadily grew in me as the bus conductor approached my seat. I took a breath, and said "Phoenix." The bus conductor gave me a ticket and walked away without noticing that something extraordinary had just happened to me! As he walked away, tears came to my eyes. Indeed, this was the very first time that I had been able to announce my destination to a bus conductor.

I will tell you a true story about myself which I never revealed to anyone before. I live at Highlands, which is situated around 2 kilometres from the centre of Phoenix (the town where my school is located). The bus stop is not more than 50 metres from my house but I walked to school everyday. I am not complaining about the long distance as I followed this routine since childhood and am used to it. But I was obliged to walk to school in winter, on rainy days, sometimes I was late but still I had to walk. I went to school for more than five years but could never say the name of the town to which I was going. So I never rode the bus.

These memories made me cry on that bus. There are no words to express this weird and wonderful feeling of happiness mixed with sadness that I sensed while thinking of the moment I announced, "Phoenix". Finding words to express myself is not a difficult task for me but not being able to say the words is what I have endured since childhood. I suffer from stuttering, but now stutter much less compared to my state before joining Parole d'Espoir.

Our self help group is divided into four focus groups, known as focus A, B, C and D. Focus A consists of youngsters (11-13yrs), Focus B of students (14-20yrs), Focus C and D of adults. At the end of the 2006 programme, there was a call for volunteers to join the team of focus group facilitators for new members. Reluctantly, since I still stutter, I volunteered and discovered this helped me a lot in improving my speech. I was assigned the responsibility to motivate students in the new Focus B group.

Following a press conference and information campaign in February 2007 some 30 new members joined our self-help group. The group is continuously improving its activities aimed at inculcating self-confidence in persons who stutter. Some activities that we do during our meetings are relaxation exercises, duo therapy, slow flow reading, self help in action and role playing. My role as facilitator is to ensure that everyone is following instructions and practicing the different activities. I also see to it that every member of the focus group is present every week and help them acquire the right techniques.

As a focus group facilitator, I feel more responsible, confident and important. I now understand that being a person who stutters does not make any difference. I now try and do things that I never dared before. In the past, I used to lie to my parents and friends. I did not like to go out and meet others, and always asked people to do things for me, like making phone calls. At present I can travel alone, go shopping and so on. I still can improve as there are situations that suddenly stimulate an inner fear resulting in blocks, stuttering and timidity, but currently I stutter less, have more confidence and can meet and interact with people.

The radio broadcast reached Stephane who became a member of Yasvin's group, and who shares the important benefits he has gained from participating in "Parole d'espoir"

My name is Stephane. I am 14 years old and a student in Form 3. I am a Mauritian and I stutter. I started stuttering at a very young age and believe the origin of my stuttering is congenital. I did not believe there was any solution to my stuttering because a French speech therapist clearly told us there was no remedy, but that speaking can be made easier.

I learned about "Parole d'espoir" from a broadcast on Radio Plus. Initially I was not interested, but later after giving it serious thought I decided to give it a try. I decided to go to "Parole d'espoir" and do my best to attend every meeting.

Being part of a self-help group has transformed me in many ways. During our meetings I learned how to improve my speech throught exercises and how to have trust in myself. I now have more control over my speech and I have a new image of myself. I am more open to express myself and am more confident.

It was very beneficial for me to interact with others who stutter. I could also speak safely, not worrying that I will be laughed at or that group members will make a joke out of my speech. That made my speaking much easier. My personal message for other people who stutter all around the world is, "If you are a person who stutters, do not believe that is the end for you. Always remember that you are not alone. You must believe in God and in yourself. There is a self-help group somewhere that can help you on to face this problem, like they helped me."

Finally, we would like to add that even if a self-help group does not exist in your country, this is not the end of the world. Just meet a few friends having the same problem and start your own self-help group. If you require any help, please do drop a mail to me or to Jim Caroopen (parole.espoir@yahoo.com or Yasvin Somoo (yasvin.s@gmail.com)

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

September 9, 2007
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