As scuba divers, we all have an extraordinary opportunity to see parts of the world that many aren’t able to experience. Certainly the opportunity to visit diverse countries around the globe is a major part of what drives divers and professionals alike. A growing number of industry members are choosing to combine their dive trips with service projects and opportunities to give something back to local communities.
Last year, Mark Fischer of HyrdoSports Dive and Travel in Keizer, Oregon led a group of seven to Kadavu, Matava in Fiji. While there, the group did some great diving but the main thrust of the trip was to visit Koro Village. The community has limited access to medical, dental or standard eye care services. Fischer’s group, that included two dentists, a school librarian, an accountant and a heavy equipment operator, did what they could to serve local residents and put a smile on their face. Many of the smiles weren’t just the locals, but also the “visitors”.
“Everyone knew that they would be doing some type of service on the trip. It was extremely rewarding and I know that we made a difference,” Fischer points out. He’s already making plans for a second trip later this Spring.
Fischer correctly observes that it’s important for dive travelers to give back to the local communities and places they visit – and he’s not the only one.
Steve Weaver of Weaver’s Dive and Travel regularly encourages his clients to plan on bringing small things with them on trips. “School supplies including crayons, pens, paper, pencils and picture books are always welcome,” he points out. But he made another interesting observation - “Sometimes TIME can be even more valuable than money – just sitting down and talking with kids and locals makes a big difference.
It’s not just dive centers involved in making a difference. Last year, Deep Blue Adventures launched its “Good Will Diving” initiative. During the DEMA Show, officials from Deep Blue Adventures promoted “Eyes for Fiji”. The team collected nearly 200 pairs of reading glasses to send to Fiji to help meet a need for the local populations.
“The response has been overwhelming. People in the dive industry and divers in general are very generous,” says Cheryl Patterson of Deep Blue Adventures. “Everyone wants to take part – it’s incredible.”
Both Patterson and Fischer were quick to praise Air Pacific for providing assistance with baggage fees – at no charge.
Members of the industry have been “giving back” for years but the efforts are now gaining more momentum - and attention! Susan Shaw of Divegear has been raising funds to purchase wheelchairs for the people of Fiji. To date, she’s purchased and shipped more than 3,250 units to a population in need.
There’s certainly more to talk about (last month, the Ralph Erickson Educational Foundation sponsored the training of 10 new instructors in the Bahamas for example) and every effort is a worthy one.
In the end, it doesn’t matter WHAT you do as long as you DO something. There’s a world of opportunity out there and we encourage everyone to find a way to give back. Remember, it’s NOT about us!
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