Since settling in Canada with his family in April 2023, Nazeem Junggee has been writing a new chapter in his life. He confides that he could no longer stay in Mauritius, given the lack of meritocracy. This decision, he adds, is the best he could make for his family.

“I feel like I’m alive again in Canada.” Suddenly, a year and a half ago, Nazeem Junggee decided to drop everything and move with his family to Vancouver. “The choice was clear,” he says. “I realized that if I was going to make sacrifices and struggle, I might as well do it in a country where meritocracy prevails, instead of doing it in a country where, no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to succeed,” he says.

Yet, in Mauritius, he had plans. After meeting Anousha in 2009, who would become his wife, the couple founded their own printing company in 2010. Over the years, they achieved many milestones: they bought a house, started a family, managed major national projects, represented Mauritius internationally, won awards for entrepreneurship… Nazeem Junggee even had the opportunity to participate in the Obama Leadership Program at Dartmouth College in the United States.

But suddenly, he started losing contracts, especially with the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage. A situation that Nazeem Junggee attributes to his political commitment. He had, in fact, joined En avant Moris, to try to bring about a change in the way politics was done in Mauritius, and made his voice heard in different forums, including radio shows. “We used to get contracts based on our skills, the quality of our work and the price offered. But suddenly, that was removed without any justification,” he says.

With no more orders, Nazeem Junggee inquired about the situation. He then understood that his name had been removed from the list of service providers. A blow that reinforced his disillusionment with the Mauritian political system. “Getting involved in politics, participating in radio debates and organizing events in Rose Hill made me realize how opportunism and short-termism were omnipresent. Political corruption and the lack of meritocracy were discouraging.”

Tired of this situation, he decided, after consulting with his wife Anousha, to settle in Vancouver, Canada, where the migration formalities are easier. For Nazeem Junggee, it was probably the best decision he could make for his family. “I don’t want to sound cynical or discourage others, but I believe that hard work should be rewarded on the basis of merit, not on connections. I chose to live in a country where I am not judged by my name, my origins or my religious beliefs,” he emphasizes.

Nazeem Junggee says he has received “rebukes” for his decision to step down in the face of this ordeal. But, he argues, he is not like Mahatma Gandhi, nor is he willing to sacrifice his life for his country. As a husband and wife working in the same company, he could not bear the fact that their livelihood had taken a serious hit. “My life and that of my family revolved around the company we had founded. I thought it was not worth taking so much risk for a situation that we do not know whether it will change.”

The preparations to cross the oceans to go to the other side of the world took them only six months. That was in April 2023. “We sold our house, our business and all our belongings. And luckily, everything went as we had planned. It was a big risk, but we took it anyway.”

The adaptation was not difficult for the family. In fact, Nazeem Junggee even wonders why they did not make the decision to emigrate to Canada earlier. “Life is difficult, of course, but like everywhere you have to work to move forward.” Today, he feels more recognized.

And why Vancouver specifically? This city, although one of the most expensive in Canada, offers more opportunities, he answers. The climate is also more pleasant, with little snow in winter. “We made the move to Canada with two children, a two-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old daughter. I didn’t want the extreme temperature to be an obstacle to our settling in. It would ruin our plans,” he maintains.

His youngest, he adds, is still discovering the world and already speaks English well. She feels good in the daycare where she was admitted. As for his 11-year-old daughter, she had the advantage of having attended Clavis International Primary School, where English is the language of instruction. This helped her integrate into school in Canada.

Nazeem Junggee also points out that Mauritians are generally quite open and manage to make friends quite easily. “There is also our history which makes people connect quickly. The fact that we come from a small island in the Indian Ocean and that we know a big country like Canada arouses admiration.”

He and his wife Anousha settled in a country with their skills and experience. This allowed them to quickly find work. “Work experience is extremely important in Canada and it opens the door to various opportunities,” he says. And now that the family is settled, Nazeem Junggee has no desire to return to Mauritius. At least, not anytime soon.

The neighborhood does not make the man

It is not a location that changes a person, it is the location that has the potential to transform him, says Nazeem Junggee.

Originally from Camp-Levieux, Nazeem Junggee grew up in a modest family. His mother was a housewife and his father, a bread seller. Despite their limited education, his parents greatly supported him in his studies. After completing his secondary studies at St Mary's College in 2003, he immediately started working as a graphic designer for the newspaper Le Matinal.

In 2007, he received a partial scholarship to attend a private art school in San Francisco thanks to the support of an uncle living in California. “Although I had to return to Mauritius in 2009 due to the economic crisis, those two years in the United States fueled my passion for art and design,” he says. Back in Mauritius, before founding his own company in 2010, he worked with major media companies as a designer, photographer and in print production.

While some of his friends who live in the same neighbourhood as him have gone bad, Nazeem Junggee points out that it is not a region that determines the fate of its inhabitants. “I have often heard myself say that it is the region or neighbourhood where you live that 'gat zanfan'.” He speaks of an unfounded stereotype. He is proof of it. Similarly, several friends who grew up with him lead decent lives and are not caught up in plagues or other problems. “It is too easy to say that. If that were the case, all the children would have taken a bad path,” he insists.

A region can also produce brilliant children, he insists. “You can't put all the blame on a child's friends, assuming that by hanging around people who smoke, for example, or who consume alcohol or drugs, he will necessarily do the same thing,” he says. This is also what prompted him to get involved in politics to try to bring about a change in mentality in the district, says Nazeem Junggee.

He is convinced that it is not a locality that changes a person, it is the locality that has the possibility of transforming him. However, he deplores that too often the emphasis is placed on bad examples and attention is focused on tragedies, instead of the success of some who, despite the region where they live, manage to break through.

Salazar Award Winner

It’s only been a year and a half since he moved to Canada and already Nazeem Junggee has showcased his talent through the Salazar Awards. This is a prestigious event presented annually by DesCan Vancouver to honour talented and inspiring design students from British Columbia, Canada. Established in 1985 by The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), the Salazar Awards have become a significant platform for emerging designers.

Like most students, Nazeem Junggee submitted his creative work and was thrilled to be recognized among so many talented peers. “It’s a revenge on life, because at one point, I had the ability and passion to do what I do, but due to lack of financial means, among other things, I couldn’t do it in the United States,” he says. This chapter of his life was thus left unfinished.

Now, as he has returned to his studies, he cannot be satisfied with 97 points out of 100 for a project. “I can start from scratch and compete again. It may seem excessive, but it turns out that I have great determination and I will not be satisfied with average marks. I aim for excellence.”

Nazeem Junggee adds that the work he has done for 10 years in Mauritius, and all the savings accumulated, gives them the opportunity today to live in Canada and face life. “I have struggled too much to have this money, so I cannot afford to get a ‘B’ in exams. So I put a lot of effort into everything I do.”

Winning this award is also a personal satisfaction for him. “It’s a moment of immense pride, especially coming from a small country that many people in Canada haven’t even heard of. As a creative, having your work recognized is always a special feeling. I am extremely focused and determined to finish my bachelor’s degree, and this recognition motivates me even more.”

The 39-year-old says he will graduate at 40. His message is: “Don’t limit your vision; look beyond the horizon. The world is full of opportunities waiting to be seized.”

For him, it is never too late to pursue your dreams. “Life can be tough, and there were times when it seemed unfair. However, I fought my way back and never gave up,” he says.

He also emphasizes that choosing your life partner is crucial. “Choose your partner wisely. Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in your dreams because they play a big role in your journey to success.” According to him, perseverance and a good support system can help you overcome any obstacle.

Mauritius in constant electoral campaign

After settling in Canada, Nazeem Junggee admits that he disconnected from Mauritian news for a while because “it was becoming toxic for me.” “Life here in Canada is beautiful, and focusing on things I can’t change seems pointless,” he adds.

After an experience in politics, Nazeem Junggee explains that he would not have liked to be a candidate. “At this point in my life, I have turned the page on Mauritian politics. Although I am happy to have tried to bring change, the country has, in fact, changed me. I am happy with my decision to focus on my family and my career here in Canada. I feel peaceful and I am enjoying life much more,” he says.

He is, however, of the opinion that the Mauritian diaspora should be given the opportunity to vote. But he doubts that many would participate. “Setting up a transparent and efficient system for such a small population might not be worth the effort and cost,” he said.

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