Tuesday, October 9, 2012
West Side Representing: A Sharky School Visit
The West End of Grand Bahama Island is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the island’s major city-Freeport. Stacks of empty conch shells line the streets and potcakes dart around looking for a meal. The golden hour light drips over tiny fishing boats that have put in thousands of hours at sea; remodeled with the ingenuity of survival. Visitors to the island often overlook this community because it is not a cruise ship port of call, nor does it have a casino or square lined with shops and restaurants. West End, however, is the gateway to one of my favorite places on the planet-Tiger Beach.
Like many exotic dive destinations, the regular visitors are not from the local communities, but like myself, they travel thousands of miles to witness the natural wonders that lay in wait below the surface. There is no other place like Tiger Beach on the planet and everyone should put it on their, ”bucket list,” whether you are a certified diver or not. In all of my visits to the island, which number in the dozens no doubt, I had yet to visit one of the local schools. Inspired by the recent visits I did at schools in Maine, I decided that this had to change. I set about organizing a day and a time for Duncan and I to talk to the kids at the West End Primary about sharks.
The Bahamas has established a Shark Sanctuary thanks to the tireless efforts of many people and organizations, but it is the children of the Bahamas that will help ensure that sharks are a part of the future of the islands. Tiger Beach is in their back yard and I wanted the opportunity to share with them this amazing place and let them know that each and everyone of them could and should pay it a visit.
As Duncan and I walked through the door we were greeted with a dozen smiling faces. A young man took my bags for me and everyone was bouncing in their chairs. As we got the computer set with fingers crossed that it would project, more kids filed into the room with their chairs. Here I am, standing in front of 45 kids that will make a difference. They are the voice for our oceans. My shark talks are very interactive because I want the kids to know they have a voice and begin using it. I encourage questions and do my best to get to everyone. We talked about sharks, what they are and what they do and then I spent some time talking about Tiger Beach. I finished the hour talking about what they can do to help sharks and why sharks are so important to the Bahamas.
A lot of these kids have probably watched as tourists head out on boats to explore the pristine waters that surround their island, but I emphasized that they can do that too.
This presentation was emotional for me because I saw so much strength in these kids despite a lot of hard ships they have no doubt faced. The school is small and the desks are not lined with ipads or iphones. Technology or not these kids have heart and that will make a difference. They have the capacity to love and fight for the survival of their oceans. Our oceans.
Thanks West End Primary! I look forward to our next visit!