PROFILE OF THE WEEK
By Dr Dhanpaul Narine
Suzanne Mahadeo is the new Director of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance (ICA) and the first woman to hold this position. The ICA is a community-based organization in Richmond Hill, New York, that advocates for the rights of the Indo-Caribbean population. Suzanne brings a wealth of international experience to the organization and her work and travel background is sure to advance its agenda.
Suzanne has visited more than twenty countries and has worked in most of them. Her experience of the lifestyles in these countries is astonishing. Suzanne was born in Richmond Hill in New York. Her parents Girja and Indra Mahadeo are from Guyana. She also has an older brother Gairy who is in Arizona.
Suzanne went to PS 121, then to JHS 226, and later the Graphic Art Communication High School for a year before finishing off at John Adams High School. She liked English and the Arts. When it came time for college Suzanne chose Hunter College where she studied Journalism and Media Studies. She enjoyed her studies and did well.
Suzanne graduated in 2004 and was lucky to get a position as a business writer for an anti-fraud corporation. The job was in Austin, Texas. She worked on a magazine and found the experience to be most rewarding.
But Suzanne wanted to further her studies. She enrolled at Saint Edward’s University to do graduate studies. This proved to be a good move as Suzanne came under the influence of Professor Edward Shirley who taught comparative religion. She saw the oneness in all things and also the importance of mutual respect and tolerance.
Suzanne graduated with her Master’s degree in 2006 in Writing and Graphic Design. She went into advertising and worked her way up but there was something missing. She says, ‘I felt as if the corporate world was not jiving with my soul. The house and the car did not bring any fulfillment.’ Suzanne decided that a new direction was needed. In 2009, she decided to go to New Zealand and found the country to be charming. Suzanne involved herself in sustainable farming. She was able to travel around in New Zealand; while she was there she got a job to teach English in Thailand. Suzanne spent a year in Thailand. It was an amazing experience teaching the first grade. The community had 60,000 people and no one spoke English.
After Thailand, Suzanne wanted to explore her roots. She went to India for three months. She was fascinated with the culture, language, food and the architecture of the country. She traveled from Calcutta and went to the desert and up north to the mountains. Suzanne meditated under the Bodhi tree, like Buddha did years before and felt a sense of enlightenment as well. It was one of the highlights of her life.
India was a wonderful country and the world could learn a lot from it. Her sense of accomplishment was being able to make the trip as a tribute to her parents. China seemed the natural place to visit after India and Suzanne soon found herself in Guangzhou, and other cities.
She spent nine months in China and this was an unusual and interesting experience. What emerged was the impact of Chinese settlement in the Caribbean, and the bigger question of reparation. After China, Suzanne went to Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Vietnam. She then traveled to Myanmar where she taught English. It was 2012 and the country was just opening itself to the outside world.
Suzanne taught in Mandalay at an international school. She found a green country with Buddhist temples and friendly peoples. After four months there she was on her way to Malaysia for a month. She was impressed with Kuala Lumpur and the early morning prayers. Singapore is next door to Malaysia and Suzanne took a trip there as well. She found a clean and expensive country with a healthy work ethic and one in which people got along with each other.
Suzanne returned to New York at the end of 2012. She spent a month visiting family members and then it was off to Mexico City. After six months there she was off to Honduras to teach in a women’s college. She returned to Mexico for another six-month stay and then it was off to Panama for two years. She found a stratified country with a small middle class. She crossed the border into Belize on her own; the people there spoke in a similar accent to Guyanese.
It was now 2017 and Suzanne realized that it was time to slow down. Her two young daughters, Myra and Bija, were keeping her busy. She needed to spend time with them. But community work remains her passion. She became involved with the Indian Diaspora Council and Bhuvaneshwar Mandir and was recently appointed as the Director of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance.
She has found the ICA to be filled with dynamism where people are engaged and they want to support the community. What is Suzanne’s vision for the ICA? She said that she would like to uplift the community. ‘I would like to attract more funding and resources for the organization and to involve a wider section of the community in the ICA,’ she said. There was a recent Indo-Caribbean 101 workshop that was a success and similar events are planned.
Suzanne was influenced by her parents, Girja and Indra, and she thanks them for their unconditional love and support. She finds the lyrics of Maynard James Keenan of the heavy metal band ‘Tool’ and his Fibonacci configurations, to be most relevant to our current situation.
Suzanne loves to travel and her next trip may be to South America, including Guyana. One could see her with her girls and their backpacks exploring the world! But first, she wants the ICA to grow and to become a household word in the wider community.
Suzanne has done well. She has acquired invaluable international experience that is being put to good use in her community. We are proud of her and we wish her and her family all the best in the future.