Yesterday, TSD was proud to receive word that we have been awarded the 2009 PADI Project Aware Environmental Achievement Award for “exemplary efforts to conserve aquatic environments through education, advocacy and action.”
This is hot on the heels of our recent visit last week to the local school to hold a Project Aware Kids event. As part of our ongoing effort to protect the local environment, we have an outreach program for the local kids. Our island is very small with only one junior school and one high school. Many of the kids that attend are the children of our employees, but many are also the children of local fishermen. No matter what their parents do for the living, most of them depend on the health of the local reefs to survive.
We believe in change through education and also in providing alternatives to fishing. By employing almost exclusively members of the local population we hope to help alleviate the burden of local parents to feed their families by fishing. Through education we hope to change behavior to protect the local environment, both above and underwater and we need to work with the next generation of Malapascuans as well as the current.
Project AWARE were kind enough to send us a huge box full of goodies for our event. Their fab kids materials include stickers, activity books, and teacher’s guides. The books are chock-a-block with fun facts, information and ideas to promote environmental awareness.
Armed with these materials, our intrepid team headed off to the ‘barrio’ (village). Head of the charge was Mike – our soon to be resident Course Director – along with TSD’s Filipino DM JN, interns Sanna and Liz and general helper-outers Jason and Carley.
We chose the age group of 12 and 13 years olds for our first classroom presentation, as the school teachers thought they would be the most receptive.
We handed the books out and talked though each section, told them about Project AWARE. The colorful books were a big hit.
JN led the classroom session as he was born and bred on Malapsacua and of course speaks the local language. Although naturally shy, he soon warmed to the role and the kids obviously loved him – he is a well known face on the island and it is seemingly every Malapascua child’s dream to grow up to be a Divemaster! They discusses many aspects of conservation and underwater life, including various local marine life and of course our thresher sharks – their importance to the local economy and their place as apex predators in the food chain. Sustainable fishing methods were also discussed, as well as the trash problem faced on the island and our regular cleanup events.
Next off we handed out Project Aware stickers and gave each child an activity postcard. They were instructed to take them home, complete the conservation-related word puzzle on the back, and return it to their teachers the next day so we could post them to Project AWARE for their recognition certificates. Amazingly, out of the 57 distributed, all 57 were returned the very next day!!!
As trash is a big problem on the island, and things tend to get thrown away wherever and whenever they are no longer needed, Sanna had devised an inventive game. She distributed wrapped candies to all the children, then they had to throw the wrappers into a trash can from a distance. Whoever, got the wrappers in the trash can got another candy. Pavlov, check out Malapascua 🙂
It was a very successful day. The kids loved it and were all very interested in what we had to say, and they hopefully took some of it in. Of course we do not expect miracles overnight, but we hope with a continued effort we can make a difference.
Thank so much to Project Aware for all the materials, the kids and the teachers loved them!
And for anyone who is thinking about doing any PADI course or wants to replace their cert card with a shiny new Project AWARE version – be sure and give a donation to Project AWARE to receive a special certification card, the money really does go to a cause.