As we come to the end of our pilot OPG 31 week course, I can’t help but feel proud of how far our Oceans Ambassadors have come, and what they are doing with their free time and as part of their International Award for Young People (http://www.intaward.org/). They have taken so much initiative and jumped at every challenge we set them, and they have so many more opportunities than even I had at their age, which is great being as I grew up in a seemingly ‘more developed’ country. I’m also so indebted to our 8 volunteer Project Leaders who have been key to the young people being presented with such experiences, and it is somewhat hard to get my head around the fact that we have only been running the International Award for a relatively short length of time. As part of the Award, (which has more than 7 million participants in over 130 countries), the young people aged 14-25 should spend 1 hour a week on physical fitness, learning or improving a skill, giving service, and then going on an adventurous journey, and for their Gold Award, must also complete a week long residential with people they have not met before. The amount of variety in our participants’ activities is vast, some are artistic, some are scientific, some are filmmakers, some are theatrical, and some are more academic, but all have set themselves a personal goal and all are doing a lot more than they need to do, simply because they enjoy it.
For example, our zoo volunteers are making a huge difference and on average, visit the zoo at least three times a week, for at least an hour. They are researching ways in which to enrich the lives of the animals there, and then implementing them, without funds or training, under the supervision of the Two Enrichment Co-Ordinators who work on OPG and at the zoo, as well as with other zoo staff, learning a whole set of life skills such as team work, time keeping, communication, and professionalism. Those who are interested, will then have the opportunity to follow this up with our Earthwatch expeditions, where they will do hands on science with real scientists out in the field.
I’ll explain this more. One of the boys loves reptiles, so he will be going to Australia to work with a specialist studying the extinction of frogs and reptiles in the forest. Another is a plant lover and will study plants in the Amazon Jungle from a boat in Peru, another loves rhinos and will work in Kenya helping to conserve a rhino species on the verge of extinction, and we also have two archaeology trips to England and Italy for our budding historians and archaeologists, and a project taking samples and tagging sharks in Belize and working with the local community to help save the shark species. That brings me so much hope for the future of our planet and also that there are still amazing, creative, and hard working young people out there, even though teenagers often get a poor press. These expeditions are open to young people aged 12 upwards, and we are keen for other young people to join us, so that we can become more global as citizens and learn more about others cultures and traditions, and also to practice english as our second language. More about our expeditions here: http://www.oceansproject.com/international-award-camp.html This will be the first time that many of our Oceans Ambassadors have travelled, been in a plane, or worked with other communities, and they are incredibly lucky, for example, the scientist running the expedition with sharks in Belize, also happens to be one of the world’s leading experts on sharks! And he’ll be teaching them how to catch and handle the sharks, how to take sperm samples from them, how to measure them, how to take dna sample, and how to attach a special tag so that we can track them. They will also learn how to snorkel, will work educating children about conservation, at a local school, and will visit a series of Mayan ruins, try new foods, learn a little Spanish, and use the experience to make their own short film about sharks, which they can then use to encourage their peers to take more interest in the planet. Seriously, how many 12 year olds have an opportunity like that! Let alone to start their CV or list of conservation experience so early on, or to gain qualifications or a reference!
Anyway, the purpose of the blog today, was to share some photos with you of the children’s enrichment work at the zoo, with the elephants and lions, and also their outreach work doing enrichment with local children and zoo visitors. They are also very excited at the moment, as one of the lions (Cleopatra) is still due to have her baby soon, and that’ll be another amazing opportunity for them to be a part of. So, without further ado, here are some of their photos of their volunteer work at the zoo: