I AM WATER Foundation:
It’s 9am and a group of enthusiastic grade 7’s are briskly walking towards the beach. Excitement beaming from their faces, they start running toward the I AM WATER Foundation camp. For some, this is going to be a first, swimming and snorkelling in the ocean, even though the sea is within walking distance from their homes. While this is hard to believe, this is the reality for a large percentage of under privileged children in the Western Cape.
How it all started:
It all started when I attended a talk about Ocean stories. The talk focused on ocean conservation and human interaction. This is where I first learnt of the I AM WATER foundation and what they do. These stories and this programme really resonated with me, as someone who grew up in the Cape Flats, our only visits to the beach as a child, were few and far in between occasions.
I contacted Hanli Prinsloo, former South African freediving record holder and the founder of the I AM WATER foundation, to volunteer and see what the programme was about.
The I AM WATER foundation initiated this outreach programme and are actively working with communities in South Africa. They run workshops which are specifically aimed at low income communities to provide more opportunities for those schools and community members.
Why this programme resonated with me:
I know so many people living close to the ocean who cannot swim and are fearful of deep water. I too only learned to swim properly a few years ago. For me these workshops are not only about awareness of ocean conservation, it gives the children the opportunity to experience the magic of the ocean in a safe environment. It exposes them to different hobbies and career choices they may not have known of.
These two-day workshops combine ocean conservation and human development in under-served coastal communities. I feel the I AM WATER foundation is breaking social barriers and gives everyone the opportunity to experience the ocean and sea life at its best.
The I AM WATER foundation coaches are passionate about the ocean and about giving the kids an experience that impacts them not just for a day but hopefully for a lifetime.
Where the magic happens:
The workshops take place in the False bay area, a marine protected conservation area. This is the largest bay in South Africa, rich in diverse marine life and perfect for exploring.
The Workshop Day 1: When uncertainty and fear turns into braveness and excitement:
The first day combined awareness of the ocean with discovery. The first part of workshops includes relaxation and breathing to prepare the learners before they are taken into the water. There was excitement and apprehension for their first-time snorkelling in a tidal pool. Bravery prevailed as even the most apprehensive explorers mustered the courage to overcome their fear of the water to snorkel. The excitement after the snorkel and what they experienced, made a big impact on me.
There were also other activities such as a beach clean-up and the negative impact of single plastic use. Furthermore, some shark myths were dispelled in the ocean chats before the first day ended. Exploring rock pools and rocky beaches were educational and it allowed the kids to have closer encounters with some sea life. All encounters happened under supervision.
The Workshop Day 2: Apprehensiveness, courage and a lifetime of possibilities:
Day two was about connecting with the ocean, conservation awareness and making changes for life. It also involved putting into practice what they learnt the previous day, by snorkelling in the sea this time. For this, they were taken to a sheltered area in the ocean, no more than a meter deep. Some snorkelers were fortunate to see an octopus and a baby shy shark.
Overall, two beautiful days spent ended with a sharing circle where they shared experiences of the day. The kids bonded, assisted and built one another up. The sense of comradery they had, ensuring that no one was left behind in whatever they did, was commendable.
From my perspective:
These workshop takes the learners on a journey filled with curiosity, discovery and the courage to conquer their fears. I could already see the impact the workshops had on the kids experiencing nature first hand and not just through a text book. Being in nature not only connected learners with the ocean, but also themselves as a community. The seeds of conservation were planted and a few more eco-warriors were born from this experience!
If you would like more information or contribute to this cause:
The last of the workshops for this season took place this week but you can contact the I AM WATER foundation for more information. Schools interested in workshops or getting involved, or if you would like to assist with funding for this cause, can contact the I AM WATER foundation at email@example.com. The foundation currently works with schools from Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. Their funding is directed to these areas. To learn more about the foundation, see their website here.
The I AM WATER foundation also runs pop up workshop on the beaches, in the False Bay area, you may bump into them at the beach or tidal pools. I thoroughly enjoyed these workshops as much as the kids did and learned so much in the few days spent with them.
Until next time. The ocean and adventure await!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I volunteered at these workshops.