Why volunteer in marine conservation?
It’s very easy not to consider that which you cannot see. For many years that has been the case with the world’s oceans – the world at large has been turnings its blind eye to the tremendous strain we’ve put on the seas. Predatorial industrial fishing, pollution, global warming and deliberate calculated harvesting of endangered species has left us all a point where it’s important to fight back. Although the seas are the battleground, and policies desperately need changing, the real fight is in the hearts and minds of us all. We can only accomplish goals if we affect public opinion, if we make people realize we can make change come about as consumers, and that we can change policies by being outspoken about environmental issues.
As a volunteer in marine conservation you’ll experience the splendor of the seas as well as witness shortsighted wanton destruction of coral reefs. You’ll learn through scientific diving why protection of the seas is of paramount importance to myriads of ecosystems, and by your very real contribution to our efforts you’ll help affect change. Most importantly, when you eventually leave you too will become an ambassador of change.
What will I do?
While you stay with Marine Conservation Philippines, there’s a great number of projects you can participate in. In fact, most times, there’s so much to do, that you can’t do it all. Some of our projects are one offs – the creation of artificial reefs for example, while others are continually ongoing – for example the surveying of coral reefs along the southern end of Negros Island. While surveying we document the spread of habitats, species abundance as well as damage to coral reefs. We also work in collaboration with marine biologists on various projects, for example studies of particular fishes, reef restoration or rehabilitation of species that’s been harvested to topical extinction. If you are a non-diver you’ll spend quite a while becoming a safe proficient scuba diver through the PADI program of education. Depending on the length of your stay you can choose to do multiple diving courses (our rule of thumb is one course for each four week segment of volunteering) Courses you can do while with Marine Conservation Philippines is PADI Open Water, Advanced Open Water or the PADI rescue diver course) if you’re are really ambitious you can even become a PADI Divemaster.
Besides volunteer activities in the water, a great deal goes on on land as well. Part of what we do is visit local schools and tell about our work and what goes on in the sea. By affecting future generations we believe we may help change the future. We try to create artificial divesites (such as deliberately scuttled wrecks or underwater sculpture parks) to create breeding grounds for fish in marine protected areas, as well as promote local and regional dive tourism, as local revenue and job generation from dive tourism can easily outweigh that brought about by destructive fishing practices. At MCP we also do various community outreach programs – we teach first aid and try to lend a hand with various community work when invited or needed.
The daily rhythm
Life starts around 7:00 with breakfast. After breakfast the plan for the day is discussed and reviewed. Some volunteers will be doing scuba courses, others will be out doing marine research, underwater cleanups or community work. What you’ll be doing will largely be based on where you are in the volunteer program and on project needs. We’ll usually have lunch around one or one thirty – but if you’re doing work far from our base, you’ll likely eat your lunch there at a local market. After lunch we continue with our various activities till some time in the afternoon.
The evenings are different – At times you will be at work entering data collected on the dives or studying for your next scuba course, but often you’ll just want to relax and unwind with fellow volunteers. What you do after dinner in the evenings is very much up to yourself. You may want to organize a game or movie night, share a drink and a laugh, get people around a camp fire or play a game of volleyball. Other options would be to go on a night dive, go for a run, catch up with friends and family at home using our free wifi, work out in our gym or just quietly read a book. It really is all up to you.
When you wish to have days off, you can let us know. This may be to experience other islands elsewhere in the Philippines, to go for a visa-and-shopping run to Dumaguete, to explore the area on a motorbike or just to have a day to yourself and laze in a hammock with a book. While we feel the work we do is important, we don’t expect you to take part in everything all the time -especially if you stay for months. (But if you want to, you’re most welcome!)
Sunday is always a day off. No volunteers are allowed to do any diving, except during unusual circumstances. The reason for this is twofold – firstly it’s important to off-gas from time to time so you don’t get the “friday bends” (a colloquial term in scuba diving, where divemasters and instructors can load their bodies with gas day after day, until they eventually experience symptoms of decompression illness) Secondly we wish to give our hard working staff a day off as well. Obviously food needs to be cooked, but other than that nothing happens on sundays unless you organize it yourself. (When’s the last time you visited a faith-healer, went for a run or sung karaoke anyway?)