Port of Spain, Chaguaramos, Coral Cove Marina, Trinidad---It's been 9 months of absorbing the world around me from sunrises to sunsets, from restaurants to museums and from talking to sailors to shopkeepers and villagers that I’ve met along the way. I feel blessed for the things I've seen in Italy, Greece, Sicily, Sardinia, Vulcano and Stomboli, Menorca, Mellorca, Ibiza, Fermentara, Ispalmador, Spain, South Africa, Morocco, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands. But one thing haunts me…
Brava, Cape Verde.
The way the children gathered around the sailboat in small fishing boats starring at us and our every move. (see post 11/27/10 “Impressions of Brava…”) The way they begged for water and tried to sell us MORE fish. I wanted to give them some things.
I understood why I should not. There was a small village up the hill and we were the one and only boat, all alone in that anchorage. I didn't feel 100% safe. We couldn't start giving out things and be flocked with needs or even worse, takers in the night. The Captain didn't say why. He just demanded that nothing be given away. Regardles, I couldn’t give to the less fortunate, or could I?
By chance, I stumbled on a boat with a mission that not only helps but also helps other yachts have ways to help.
There is so much to OceansWatch's mission, partnering and achievements that it's hard to get it all out. I was very excited about finding a boat with a bigger purpose, and having them except me to be a volunteer crew member. But one of my skeptical friends has taught me to dig deeper when someone uses those two words: non-profit. So I started to study the organization and look deeper.
I try to look at a few specific things when looking at a non-profit. Here were my questions and the things I got first hand; from the website, videos, interviews and news clips.
Where does the money go?: Almost all to the mission, barely enough goes to reimburses the CEO. No high overhead. Their statement: “ Our members include volunteers: sailors, divers, marine biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, medics, agriculture advisors and many other qualified people.” My comment: no fat CEO dipping heavy into the proceeds…this New Zealand CEO and founder is rather slim!
Who runs the organization?: At the top there is a CEO/Founder named Chris Bone in New Zealand and a Director of North America named Donna Lange who ironically lives in Florida! I read their bios and those stories are entire posts all by themselves. They have lead amazing lives and have a strong focus on what they want to accomplish. My comment: I have to compose myself if I ever get to meet Donna in person. She is a sailing Rock Star as she has circa-navigated the world and held the record as the fastest woman to do so!
What was in their annual statement? (Ah-ha! ...thought I was going to say Mission statement...nope I want to see what they've DONE not what they want to do!)
This org was only established in 2007 and most has happened in the developing islands in the South Pacific. North America OceansWatch is a new extension!
What they have done is many “Reef Checks” (a particular survey from Reef Check International to gather scientific data that goes in local and international data banks.) …but here’s the cool thing: they don’t sweep in with scientists and do a check and then sail away. They TEACH THE LOCALS how to do it, make several of the locals “official reef checkers” and even train someone to train others. They also train locals to be PADI Open Water certified divers if that is needed.
They give talks to locals and to school children on protecting THEIR reef ecosystems, they even hand out books and writing materials to the schools to really engage the children.
They also distributed around a hundred pairs of reading glasses to villagers who had lost the ability to see the print. (I can relate to that!)
They had a documentary made. This will make presentations more interesting and modern.
Like I said, the branch in North America is new. Like the pacific, it is working with yacht owners, sailors, divers, students, teachers, doctors, nurses, ecologists, scientists and volunteers to help with projects in the Caribbean, Central and South American coastal areas. A lot of yachts wanted to help with Haiti and OceansWatch has organized and assisted with that. Sailors and yachts cruising get into the nooks and crannies of islands. I know this first hand! So they can do things as simple as a Village Survey and submit it to OceansWatch or they can get much more involved and take on a project. Goals are installing yacht moorings to protect coral reefs, marine mammal surveying, setting up sister schools and delivering school supplies, installing drinking water, sanitation and sustainable clean energy systems. Belize has already been identified with the following needs: Planting Mangroves, taking school children on field trips out to the Cays and Marine Reserves, teaching young people to swim, snorkel and scuba dive, making and installing demarcation buoys for the boundaries of the Marine Reserves, Installing and maintaining yacht moorings, cultivation coral polyps, monitoring fish and reef health and conditions.
My Comment: Okay, you insist on the mission statement? Here it is: OceansWatch is an international not-for-profit organization that works with sailors, divers and scientists worldwide to help coastal communities conserve their marine environments, develop sustainable livelihoods and ensure access to primary schools.
And lastly, do they force their views on everyone in their path? (please don’t make me knock on doors!): No, the boat I’ll be on is on a fact finding mission. Indentifying needs from the people who live there. The other cool thing about OceansWatch is that if there is already an organization that is doing something, they partner, they are not trying to re-invent, takeover or get credit…only help. Their goal is to work for the people only at their request.
I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of their videos while I wait for the boat to get to Trinidad. One thing that keeps ringing in my ears is what the CEO said in a talk:
“We think that everyone deserves clean water. They deserve a primary education. They deserve enough food to eat...”
Oh, I just got chills.