It’s week 4 of our placement already, and things are now in full swing here in Panagsama!
We’re all signed off as official Green fins assessors and ready to begin working with the dive centres more independently. We’ve all started the ball rolling on our personal projects and with only three weeks left to complete them, will find a lot more of our time consumed with creating a lasting impact on the community.
This week will be my first presentation & feedback with a dive centre, and although I’m feeling a bit nervous, I’m excited at the prospect of putting my new skills to the test and being pushed to the edge of my comfort zone, something I’ve enjoyed a few times already as part of the Zoox programme!
I came to the Philippines looking for a new challenge and ready to take on lots of knowledge about marine conservation and diving but I’ve already learnt so much more than I thought was possible. Being on the ground in Moalboal and immersing ourselves into the community has taught us so much more than sitting in a classroom ever could. Not only are we able to practise important professional skills, we also have an inside view on a whole new culture.
I’ve been amazed by the importance of community to the local people. It seems that almost everyone we speak to is part of a foundation or association that volunteers it’s time to helping others or the environment. A local councillor we’ve met, who goes above and beyond her role described it to us in a way I’ve never thought of before. She said that each and every one of them lives and works in the community and therefore it is their responsibility to do something good.
It made me think of how we live back home, and how few people feel that responsibility. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that our taxes cover basic rights such as education and cleanliness, but living here shows how peoples live can be so different when those systems fail.
We’ve been lucky enough to spend time with a group of teachers who volunteer so readily for what they call a ‘better future generation’. They teach classes outside of school time about conservation, spend their personal time cleaning up the local market, paint school buildings and they even trekked to a village 45 minutes up a mountain to teach the children about nutrition and then cooked for them.
We met the coastal resource manager at the Municipal hall last week and he gave us over an hour of his time to discuss what has been happening in the local area and to tell us about some of the plans for improving the environment. Whilst we were there he asked each of us about our personal projects and even offered advice to us. Although he seemed to have his hands completely full with so many different projects already, he willingly offered to help where we needed and even promised to set up meetings for us.
As part of my clean-up event, I’ve enlisted the help of a local women’s association. They exist to enable local women to volunteer their time in the community. They also get involved in caring for their environment and teaching each other how to live more sustainably. The Moalboal area has more than 1000 members and they wear their t-shirts proudly! If you visit the town centre in the afternoon you can see the pink t-shirts weaving in and out of the market stalls and gathering for a gossip!
We also met the Green Fins ambassadors last week. They are local men who work in the diving industry and take on the responsibility of being environmental role models to others. One of the guys was very vocal about his passion and gave such a simple explanation about why people are so active in the community here. He said that they were lucky to have so many natural resources where they live that sustainability is so important to them because their livelihoods depend on it. If the local eco-system is damaged, the tourists can stop coming, and foreign investors can move their businesses elsewhere but their children will grow up to live and work here. Many children will most likely become fishermen, or divers or work in hospitality and they want to preserve their environment so that these businesses can continue to exist.
Many of the people we meet have little and work hard, yet still find time to help others. They inspire me to want to be less selfish with my time, and to take more responsibility for the community that I live in. A lesson I think everyone can benefit from, wherever they live.
I’m looking forward to getting to know the locals better as we complete our projects and learning even more lessons from them!