Hey Akua Girls!
Who here is inspired by the ocean?
I know I am! This month I would like to share a bit of my story with you all, about how I began volunteering in marine conservation, and what it’s been like working in the field at New Heaven Reef Conservation Program. This world can seem kind of scary and intimidating at times. However, as daunting as it can be it’s totally possible to break the surface of the field we love, achieve amazing things, and build the road it takes to create a life and career in protecting what we love.
Akua and I want women to feel motivated by their passions, and confident in chasing their dreams.
Only a couple of years ago, I never thought I’d get the opportunity, or be confident enough to work at a program like the one I’m fortunate enough to be a part of now. I am hoping that sharing my story and the steps I took to get here can encourage others to get out there and chase their goals too.
In university I studied Environmental Science. From a young age, I had a passion for animals and the environment, so I figured that studying the environment in uni would help me work out exactly what I wanted to do within the environmental field. Throughout the most of my degree, this didn’t really happen. I worked hospitality and cleaning jobs throughout the degree, traveled through all the uni holidays and although I loved all of it- I still really had no clue as to EXACTLY what it was I wanted to do with my life. At least, this was the case until my last semester of my education. Six months before I was due to finish, a new unit was introduced by the university where students had the chance to travel overseas to get some work experience in their respective fields. I thought ‘why not? This sounds like a pretty sweet deal.’ Six months later I was on my way to Thailand to learn how to SCUBA dive and volunteer at the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program I am currently working at.
Group of Deakin University volunteers at New Heaven Conservation Koh Tao
Front row, fifth from the left Elle Haskin.
Front row, third from the left Zoe Strapp, Akua Oceanwear founder
This trip is where I became great friends with Akua founder, Zoe Strapp who was studying the same degree as I was, but in a different year level. We hit it off immediately and bonded over our passions for environmental conservation and ocean adventures. We dove together nearly every day and had snorkel trips looking for sharks and turtles on the weekend. It was such a fun month full of laughs and learning.
I hadn’t even finished first week of the conservation program before I had the ‘light bulb’ realisation that diving was by far the most amazing thing I had ever attempted, and that I had to come back to do a long-term internship. Whilst I was still a student, I had organised to return for my internship the next year.
So, I returned home- went back to two of my hospitality jobs and worked as much as possible until I went back to the island life. Hospitality isn’t my favourite thing (is it anyones!?), but goodness, being back in Thailand for 6 months was the best thing for me. I worked hard and learnt as much as I possibly could while I was there. Leaving the conservation program was incredibly sad, although i had organised to travel to the Philippines to attend another conservation program; the Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP). I tied their conservation program in with my Dive Master training and again, absorbed as much as I could while there.
After being away for nearly 10 months, returning home was incredible, but also a bit of a bubble burst. Leaving groups of people who were so like-minded and returning to Melbourne’s atmosphere was strange. Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is incredibly liberal and generally environmentally conscious, but overall certainly has a lesser understanding of our blue planet, and more specifically, how ocean ecosystems are so important to us; compared to the people I had just spent nearly a year with.
Anyway, naturally after 9 months of travel, I was very nearly broke. So back to hospitality I went! Fast forward 8 months and my savings account was looking ok(ish). I realised 8 months in chilly Melbourne was enough for me, so I drove to Western Australia in search of a job, internship, volunteering position, or- anything really! Very soon after I arrived I was lucky enough to be offered the job here in Thailand.
Moving here and beginning work was amazing, I struggle to describe what it feels like being involved in a daily basis in something you truly care about. I couldn’t recommend chasing your passion more than right now. It can be time consuming, tiring, and cost you many hours behind a bar; but the end result of contributing to something so real is indescribable.
All I can really say is that when you find the thing you love. Just work at it, to whatever ability you can. People will notice your passion and choose to help and inspire you. If an opportunity makes itself apparent to you, take it.
I know we all have it in us to make a positive difference to this world.
I’ll speak to you next month!