Pemuteran is a fairly remote village in the North West part of Bali and I have been going there regularly for the past 4 years. Pemuteran is particularly special because 10 years ago the Biorock project started and it enabled its coral reef to gradually regenerate.
The corals are 'planted' on structures made of welded construction steel bars, these structures are then charged by power supplies located on the adjacent land. The low electricity (ion area) and alkaline conditions around the structures mimic the conditions required for the corals to produce Calcium Carbonate, thereby accelerating coral growth. This process is not fully scientifically proven, but the reef is alive and has quite a varied biodiversity on it. It suffered greatly from the 2016 El Niño event, but is definitely improving.
The Biorock project is run by a local team, led by Komang Astika, supported by volunteers and a sponsorship program. During my regular visits, I have been participating in various activities to maintain what they call the "Coral Reef Nursery": cleaning the structures, installing new baby corals sponsored by donors, collecting plastic and removing predators (drupella and crown of thorns).
I was invited to give a talk at a local high school. Not having done anything like this before, it was quite a challenge, so I started thinking about what I could give to these students. I dug through the material I had collected from my various experiences volunteering with Maker Corps, Biorock and in particular with The Hydrous and I put some slides together. But what more could I give them? Being a scuba diver instructor I realized it would be great if I could also bring them to the sea. So I met with the teacher (Yudi Mahardika) to discuss logistics, he agreed on everything, and so we were all set!
I entitled the presentation: Discovering our Oceans and Coral Reefs
The goal was to get the students thinking about the Ocean and learn about Corals and Coral Reefs, because despite the fact they live right there, they don't frequent the beach and very few of them swim or snorkel; the beach is really for tourists. As an ambassador to our oceans, I know that to make a difference we need to engage with the local youth. After introducing some basic concepts, the talk focused on issues and solutions, putting an emphasis on what they could do themselves.
I was also able to include a couple of activities using materials produced by The Hydrous. We did a hands-on 'experiment' where the students got to work with Hydrous 3d printed corals to introduce a discussion about coral bleaching. And we closed the session with a viewing of The Hydrous Palau 2018 VR/360 movie teaser taking turns using my Oculus Go.
Tuesday October 23, 2018 - Morning: The Presentation
SMKN 1 GEROKGAK’ High School, in BANYUPOH, Singaraja, Bali, Indonesia
The teacher had selected 19 of his best students, between the ages of 15 and 17, boys and girls. The classroom must have been at least 35 degrees Celsius, with no fans, and the kids were all in uniform! I was accompanied by Sue Dufall, a regular in Pemuteran since 2007, Brandon Goh, Hydrous Ambassador and Santiago Sánchez y Lucero, volunteer at Biorock Center.
As soon as we walked into the premises we were welcomed like 'celebrities'!
The excitement filled the air and the students were brimming with anticipation. I managed to engage with them and have a very interactive discussion, despite the language challenge: they were all actively participating in a mix of Balinese and English.
One of the key moments was when we talked about what they could do to have a positive impact on the environment, by trying to use less plastic, acknowledging that bicycles are better than motorbikes, collecting and recycling waste.
We concluded the session by inviting them all to the beach at 3pm.
Afternoon: Snorkeling and Scuba at Pemuteran Beach, Singaraja, Bali, Indonesia
With the invaluable help of Bali Diving Academy (aka BDA), everything was ready at the dive center at 3pm. Curious to see how many would turn up, I was delighted when I saw 13 students nervously approaching the beach.
After showing how to spit in their mask, which caused great hilarity, and putting life jackets on the less confident, we set off with a couple of BDA guides and started snorkeling. Wow how they loved it!
We quickly realized which ones would be apt to try scuba diving, so myself, Brandon and Karin Van Beeck (BDA Dive Center Manager) geared up and managed to take 8 students for 10-15-minute diving initiations - what a success for both the boys and the girls!
Well, in conclusion, I have to say that this has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It's such an honor to be able to interact with youngsters and educate them just by sharing my passion.
Hopefully, with this one day spent with these Balinese high school students, not only have I given them some tangible reasons and motivations around environmental-friendly best practices, but I also introduced them to the underwater world which could mean more career opportunities in the scuba diving business.
I will continue working with this school, collaborating with Yudi to organize more programs around this 'workshop'. I will continue working with The Hydrous to help complete the Education Kits and will make sure to bring them to Pemuteran and try and visit more schools in Bali. I will also work with BDA and Biorock to try and create a sponsorship program to help certify local youngsters as PADI Open Water Divers - and maybe help them start working towards a scuba diving career.
There's so much we can do, and once again I learned that it really doesn't take that much.