Before Fish ‘N Fins, they were afraid of the sea now they are more confident in the water.
LITTLE BAY – What a difference a year makes! In the summer of 2014, Veta Wade had a dream to teach the island’s children how to swim and fall in love with the sea.
Wade had recently launched Aqua Montserrat, a water sports company which specialises in creating unique experiences near and on the water. She was on a mission to inspire awareness and respect for the oceans and create knowledgeable, culturally aware and passionate ocean stewards on Montserrat. However she was disappointed at the limited response last year and felt frustrated with what she knew was not just a good idea but a necessity.
“Growing up my parents were always very cautious about me being near the sea but once I learned how to swim it opened up a whole new world for me and I wanted to give that to all our children,” Wade shared during the closing ceremony of the Fish ‘N Fins camp on Sunday.
As she focused on the commercial side of the business, which gives clients unique off the grid excursions, she restrategised ways to build a programme that children would want to be involved in and parents would encourage. It was proving to be a costly venture, one she could not do on her own despite the helping hands she had from her family and other supporters.
Despite the challenges, she persevered with her dream and eventually attracted the partnership of the Waitt Institute which was about to launch its Blue Halo project on island. This partnership allowed her to acquire much needed equipment to allow the children to enjoy the sea safely while learning about the ocean.
“They came in right on time and made this idea much easier to achieve. They also provided valuable advice and hands on support. We are always in need of volunteers and the Waitt Institute stepped in a gave us that push.”
In June of this year, residents were stunned at the news that a father drowned while attempting to save his daughter in a pool.
The tragedy propelled Veta to pursue her passion to encourage everyone to learn to swim. She began to push the free swimming offer for children that had been part of her programme since its inception. “This is part of the reason why I do what I do with Aqua, to encourage our community to learn to swim competently and understand how to be safe while swimming or save a life if necessary.”
This past July, in association with the Department of Youth Affairs, a three-week summer camp was held. Children were able to come to the Little Bay Beach daily and learn how to swim, snorkel, kayak, and for the stronger ones, free dive.
Veta called the programme Fish ‘N Fins separating the children into groups named after sea creatures, based on their skill level. By the end of summer more than 70 children had gotten over their fear of water, learned to swim or become stronger swimmers and got a better appreciation for the importance the ocean.
Mrs. Rosetta Gerald, mother of 10-year-old Jaida Gerald said: “Fish ‘N Fins was an ideal summer camp for my high energy daughter. It not only helped her to lose her fear of the ocean but provided her with hours of fun each day. She simply did not want it to end.”
Cherise Aymer, mother of 9 and 10 year old, Elissia and Alisha Aymer added that “Fish ‘N Fins was a very educational experience for my girls. They thoroughly enjoyed the time spent swimming, learning of the underwater world and the instructors. Before Fish ‘N Fins, they were afraid of the sea now they are more confident in the water. Thank you very much for the valuable services provided and hope there will be a repeat next summer.”
Renee Brade, 11 years old said “This camp is great, I really want to become a marine biologist!”
Hadassah Williams, 8 years old called the camp “great and fun.”
During the Sunday, September 20th closing ceremony, Robin Ramdeen, the Site Manager for the Blue Halo project commended the entrepreneur for organising a well-run camp which she was happy to be a volunteer at. She also pledged continued support for future endeavours which line up with their vision of teaching people how to “use the ocean without using it up.”
Another key player in the success of the children’s camp was the Honourable Minister of Agriculture Claude Hogan. Wade said he has become one of their biggest champions and actively participated with “our Fish N Fins Kids in the sea. He’s been present and involved. He deserves special mention as his interest and support in our programme was decisive and quick and demonstrated a willingness to see the long term development of Fish N Fins.”
The water lover said Minister Hogan’s actions allowed her to put on an additional two-week camp to allow other children who hadn’t been able to attend the first one to do so. The support of his ministry, which includes the fisheries division, Wade said provided the means to “ensuring as many of our youngsters could experience the awesomeness that is Fish N Fins, irrespective of financial or social background.”
The minister said the initiative provides the opportunity for children to be “introduced early to the Marine environment and it’s vast resources. They gain an appreciation for the need to use these resources wisely and encourages them to act as Agents for the protection, preservation and conservation of our marine environment while having fun and excitement doing it.”
“Minister Hogan’s support along with that of other groups like Waitt Institute and the volunteers who come out to lend us a hand gives me real hope and encouragement to push forward. A weekend version of the Fish ‘N Fins Kids Club will begin in October from the Aqua Montserrat station on Little Bay Beach.
The programme is in need of more volunteers to ensure that children are adequately supervised while in the water. Email email@example.com or visit www.aquamontserrat.com for more details on the services and water sports available with the company.