All For Blue’s educational plan is based on the principles of non-formal education and aims to enhance participation, activate participants and develop attitudes towards the environment and individual action. The power of knowledge in this way is evident in its ability to transcend traditional boundaries and enable individuals to carve out their own journey, a journey like the one to the Maldives that Katerina Topouzoglou planned for All For Blue volunteers to close an extremely active and creative year for the Organization.
Ten volunteers followed Katerina on the ten day mission to this distant place on the 4th of December. We were introduced online a week before the trip and the instructions were clear. A mask, fins, a couple of swimsuits, sunscreen, mosquito repellants and positive attitude are all that is needed. In person we met in Male where we each arrived on different flights and introductions were made. The heat was agonizing but everyone’s enthusiasm was evident. The journey continued by boat and our first stop was Dhigurah Island, which is 2.5 hours from the capital city.
My purpose in writing this story is not to endorse on the exotic destinations we traveled, thus I will not describe the flavors (tropical fruits and tuna in all forms of cooking), the odors (soil mixed with salt), the images (bright kind faces, hijabs, and tropical vegetation) and the different sounds (the chirpy Arabic dialect or the fluttering of the huge bat) that I experienced. With this story I want to emphasize what all these made me feel, absolute freedom. Walking barefoot in the streets, talking to people of another culture, another religion, learning about their customs and traditions, diving into the Indian Ocean and listening only to your heartbeat when you see the wonderful sea creatures swimming unperturbed next to you (sea turtles, manta rays, sting rays, eagle rays, nurse sharks, blacktip sharks, whale sharks but also big tuna, mullet, colorful beautiful funny but also serious fish… ). Freedom, respect and love for everyone and everything around me.
Two years ago I didn’t dare to even do any water sports because of the unknown bottom and the panic I felt at the thought of falling off the tube (!!!!) into the sea. During this trip, and through the informal education that subtly evolved, the fear and prejudice, created by ignorance, disappeared. The knowledge I had gained gave me strength and I overcame, thankfully, my fear of deep water and the misunderstood sharks. I was able to live this incredible experience, to share my excitement and feelings with other, previously unknown people, different from me but now so familiar. I got to see some of the creatures of the seabed, which are not so scary after all, and realized their importance in the balance of our marine ecosystem. I believe that the images on the beaches of Dhigurah, Dhangethi and Maafushi, with the endless litter and my new need to protect the marine animals I met, will make me a more conscious consumer, an advocate for the protection of our oceans and a perpetual enemy of single-use plastics. Katerina, I am grateful to you. I will follow you on your travels and will be an ally against pollution of the endless blue you love so much.
Alexandra (Mrs. Stingray)
For those of you who want to get a glance of what we experienced on the Maldives:
For those of you who want to join us on our next educational trip: