My time as a Green Fins assessor is coming to an end and it’s been an incredibly gratifying yet challenging experience. I have been given the chance to work in the conservation industry and really feel that my time and effort made a difference. I met so many dive shop owners and managers and was moved by just how passionate so many of them are about conservation. Many felt disenfranchised by the government’s lack of concern for the marine environment and worry about the future of the reefs. They did not however let this stop them from doing everything in their power to protect the environment. On the 20th of July, over a dozen dive shops (and a few other local organizations) volunteered their time and manpower to participate in a massive clean-up event at a local beach.
All Zoox volunteers are assigned a personal project and mine was to organize a beach-clean up where multiple stake holders and community groups are involved. This was a bit intimidating for me because even back home, my friends are usually the ones who plan out activities. I saw this as a personal challenge to improve my sense of authority and organizational skills.
The first step was to figure out where to host the event since I didn’t not know anything about the local beaches. I started asking dive centers about potential sites and they all agreed that Doljo beach would be an ideal place because of how much trash there is. This also gave me an idea of which dive centres were most likely to show up, so I would plan around their schedules.
I swear one of the most difficult steps was actually choosing a date. I knew it had to be mid-to-late July given our schedule of Green Fins work but I was reluctant to choose a definite date. I had to give them something to work around but what if the date I gave them didn’t work for everybody? What if the first date I chose only worked for one shop and I had to exclude everybody else? What if I had to change the date, would I not look indecisive and unsure of myself? Eventually I had to just buckle down and pick a date, so I chose the 20th of July (why? I don’t know). Luckily almost every dive center was able to donate volunteers for the event, so being firm with a date turned out to be a good strategy.
Next I had to do something that I had no prior experience with: Marketing. I created a Facebook event to keep all the dive staff posted but I needed something more professional. During my Green Fins work I met a graphic designer named Andronik who offered to design a poster to advertise the clean up. I have no experience with this sort of work so I gratefully accepted and sent him a draft with the basic information that needed to be included. He produced several beautiful posters for the event, which I passed out to participants.
I wonder which one of the following posters was designed by a professional?
When the day of the event finally came I was understandably under a lot of stress. Did I buy enough trash bags? Are there enough snacks for everybody? What if nobody shows up? What if lots of people show up but they arrive at the wrong place? All of these things plagued my mind until the arrival of the first truckload of volunteers showed up, then more people arrived until eventually the volunteers responsible for registering people became overwhelmed with the amount of people. It was a booming success with nearly 80 registered participants from at least 15 independent organizations. Looking around and seeing such a huge crowd of people all dedicated to cleaning the beach, and knowing that I was the one that made it all possible was quite possibly one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
We began to weigh all the trash that was collected bag by bag. The grand total came out to be 972 kg. Knowing how close we were to 1000 kg, I and the few remaining Green Fins assessors went out to collect just enough trash. We collected an additional 21 kg which brought us to 993 kg. We were so close and then suddenly one remaining participant showed up out of nowhere with a bag that had a miraculous 7 kg, putting the final total to 1 full metric tonne!
I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish and I can definitely say that I feel like a more capable person after this experience. I will be leaving Panglao shortly, but I will carry with me the skills and self-confidence I have acquired here for the rest of my life. Here’s to a lifetime of conservation and adventure.