Did you know that more than a third of South Africans live within walking distance of the ocean, but less than 38% can actually swim? Which means they’ve never experienced the ethereal world below the waves and without this ocean connection, marine conservation is pointless. Humans have to want to save something and if they’ve never put on a mask, snorkel and flippers and discovered the wonders in a tidal rockpool, conservation is not going to be a priority for them. That’s where I AM WATER has focused their attention: on creating transformative ocean experiences that have gained recent global recognition in the form of Beyond Sport’s “Sport for Climate Action Collective Impact Award”.
Backed by the Swedish Postcode Foundation, I AM WATER was recognised for their unwavering dedication to ocean stewardship for sharing conservation through snorkeling experiences with thousands of students from underserved communities in the Western Cape. The inaugural Beyond Sport Collective Impact Awards is designed to encourage collaboration between organisations using sport as a means to achieve the UN Global Goals. The Sport for Climate Action Collective Impact Award is open to any non-profit organisation that uses sport in a way that addresses the global issues of climate change, emission reduction and sustainability advocacy the world over.
Ocean conservation through life-changing oceanic experiences
The I AM WATER Foundation believes in nurturing a conservation mindset through transformative ocean experience. Only by fostering the physical and emotional connections to our invaluable aquatic environment, will it be possible to build understanding of the link between healthy humans and healthy oceans in order to change their behaviour and save our seas.
Hanli Prinsloo, founder and CEO of the I AM WATER Foundation, believes deeply in the power of working with underserved coastal communities, because these communities live within walking distance and yet have never been below the waves. As a result, the organisation works with schools located less than 10km from the sea, targeting Grade 7 learners in groups of 24.
Inspiring a new generation of ocean guardians
“We take learners on our two-day Ocean Guardians snorkelling workshops to spark a connection and love for the sea and its creatures, inspiring participants to be more conservation-minded and to want to take care of the oceans,” Prinsloo says.
Scholars spend two full days at the beach and activities include practicing yoga-inspired stretching, breath control work and mindfulness, while learning about the marine ecosystems and ocean challenges; experiencing the human body’s unique adaptation to being underwater for themselves while exploring intertidal zones and rock pools under the barreleyes of marine experts.
For these learners, the highlight of the workshops is the time spent snorkelling, including developing swimming safety and working up to the confidence for deeper water. This leads them to a better understanding of our oceans through seeing the abundance of water life with their own eyes. From majestic kelp forests and colour-changing octopus, small-but-fast cat sharks, and brightly coloured urchins, anemones and crabs, along with a mind-boggling array of fish species, the students get to experience it all up close.
What does the Sport for Climate Action Collective Impact Award mean?
This accolade acknowledges that the entrant has satisfied the Beyond’s Sports Five Basic Principles:
- Model: Sport must be structured to drive positive social transformation.
- Impact: Lives must be significantly improved through a tangible long-term benefit to those engaged in the programme.
- Sustainability: Must have a solid plan for financial and structural sustainability.
- Sharing: Practical insights must be shareable with other organisations addressing similar social issues through active collaboration.
- Inclusion: Everyone is allowed equal access regardless of gender, disability, religion or sexuality, whilst also recognising some projects may have a clear rationale for being exclusive to a particular target group.
In addition to these Five Basic Principles, the entry must show that it is working toward achieving one or more of the targeted outcomes for Global Goal 13 – Climate Action:
- To improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
- Integrate climate change measures into policies, strategies and planning.
Underwater global activists
Since 2010, The I AM WATER Foundation has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities that engage and educate the youth on their personal responsibility and role in protecting our planet’s oceanic resources. In the last 12 months alone, more than 1,700 children have been exposed to their local ocean ecosystems from a viewpoint many may never have had the opportunity to see. More than 15,000 listeners have taken the message of water conservation and evoked conversations about the urgency of our global situation. I AM WATER is in full swing with their Spring season which started in September and anticipates a busy year by taking the schools of children to the world of schools of fish. More than 3,000 kids will benefit from the initiative over this period.
To learn more about this feel-good project that’s been making global headlines, take a look at their website: www.iamwaterfoundation.org.
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