I drew this while I was working as a dive manager and scuba instructor for an NGO for ocean conservation in Fiji 2 years ago.
This was for the kids, in Motoriki, Uluibau Primary School. It was situated about 40 minutes boat ride from the island where we were based. I loved the kids, and at one time, I remembered the names of all the students in that class we were working with. 9-11 boys and 8-10 girls, I think? Aged between 11-14.
I was trying to tell them about fishing methods. Trawling is bad, bad, bad for the ocean. The volunteers with the NGO will go there once a week. We blokes have to wear the sulus ( its like a skirt, like the kilt Scottish men wear) and flowery shirts ( Fijian style!) and the ladies, traditional Fijian dresses. No bare shoulders! All skirts below knees! I still have my sulu with me. Miss them kids. Miss their eagerness and friendliness.
What was bad was Chinese businessmen were paying the locals to dive to great depths to collect sea cucumbers. And these local scuba divers weren’t even properly trained. It is illegal to harvest sea cucumbers ( which fetch good prices! 80-150 USD per kilo I think for the fishers) in this manner.
And the sea cucumbers have pretty fancy layman names — pink lady, lollyfish, white teat fish. black teat fish, Doom ( also called Spiny pineapple). In our project, we have to learn to identify them and gather data on them to check on their abundance or lack of.
What was also wrong was I wasn’t allowed to say a proper goodbye to the kids as our project folded and we had to leave….. and I was told to keep quiet about it to the kids ( not because, we were afraid it will upset them, but because NO ONE, including the paying volunteers, were supposed to know the project wasn’t continuing due to lack of new volunteers, for the sake of our ‘morale’, and probably, reputation and face. What borsch!) Of course, I disobeyed my director and project manager.
While the project manager and other volunteers were making their way back to the boat at the end of our last session with them, I lingered behind, ran to their houses,,,,,,,gathered the kids and said goodbye…. I didn’t say we were not coming back. I just said goodbye and take good care… but they know we were not coming back. Weren’t they smart? They just all came around and gave me a big hug. Damn, I was heartbroken.
Never betray children, especially those who trust you. It left such a bad taste with me with my NGO/employer, and I would not forgive myself for leaving without bidding farewell ! I still have the photos of the kids. And those were happy times.
The other thing that was wrong was I didn’t keep in touch with any of them. No emails ( they do not have those there). I wrote a letter to be passed to them with my email…. but may be I didn’t try hard enough. You know, it will so make my day if I could just receive something from them one day. Some day. Never mind, I know they will be well.
Bula! Take care you kids. Be good, love the ocean, and don’t live your lives struggling to be impoverished consumers of goods of the developed world which are not going to do you any good.