Even as conservationists, whilst out there, at the beginning of the project we seemed to produce more rubbish as a group of 6 than the whole village. But we soon learnt that we did not need package food, as we had freshly caught fish ready for us every day! And back at home, the amount of electricity we use even when being careful blows me away after seeing how the villagers have such a simple life, but a beautiful life at that. They live by sunlight, so early mornings and evenings and no electricity, and rather than sit in front of the TV the children ran around the sand dunes and beach loving life as it should be done, out there experiencing it, and not watching it.
The fishermen’s knowledge of the corals and the fish they fish was incredible, and they understood that they do need to leave the ocean alone for a few months to allow the coral reef to recuperate ensuring there is no over fishing. However things are not always that simple. They have no alternative form of living, apart from fishing, and therefore can’t leave the ocean alone as it would end with them not eating or earning money. So as a group we tried to help by giving classes in gardening after speaking to the local nuns who have a garden, hoping this will not only give an alternative food source and income, but also help give a more balanced diet. We also helped build the first bungalow, which is to be finished by the local community, in hope that when people visit the villagers will have an alternative income when the visitors stay in the bungalow, pay to eat and there and maybe even take pirog trips.
Whenever the villagers have a problem the committee have a meeting to all discuss it and come up with solutions, which came in very useful when we wanted to talk about ideas and conservationist efforts. It gave us the opportunity to share our ideas and get the elders and committee members on side and in turn get the rest of the village on side too. The community atmosphere was so strong it really felt like making a difference was possible as they all would be happy to help out and we all so interested in learning what we had to offer. The women were particularly amazing in a sense whenever we had a class or project they would be there, so enthusiastic.
Just a few tips...
Ok so it’s clear that the experience is going to be incredible, an unforgettable experience, but of course a little bit of prep is always useful. Try to learn the basics of the language before you go, it makes such a difference and the locals love it when they see you are trying, and they will always help you out if you struggle. Also, it might be an idea to take a small solar lamp, I took one and it was loved between the group. Be prepared to share your home with all the creepy crawlies from giant centipedes, cockroaches as well as bed bugs and fleas. And be prepared to fall in love with the people, you will be welcomed in with open arms and feel like you are part of one big family which makes saying goodbye so hard, so enjoy each moment.