TORTOLA — Kayla Smith used to go seine fishing with her father Garry, but Thursday morning the 13-year-old Adventist student had a totally different experience — scuba diving for the first time.
Smith was among eight Youth Empowerment Project participants who traveled to Cooper Island, first for a lesson and then a 24-foot, 43-minute dive off Cromus Reef.
“It’s different to go seining because there you’re above water, but with scuba diving you’re underwater,” Smith said. “It was fun. We got to see a lot of different fish and coral reefs.
Youth Empowerment Project Director Stacy Mather said the group started working on an aquatic and marine program with children in 2020, and it evolved into different types of programs and activities. opportunities. He said the organization works closely with Unite BVI and Sail Caribbean Divers sponsorship and last year ran a Professional Association of Divers program as a basic introductory activity for children 10 years and older to adults.
“It gives you the ability to get in the water, learn how to use the equipment, put it on, and then dive ashore,” he said. “And then basically you’re put on the boat, hauled in about 24 feet of water, with the opportunity to see a coral reef and see what’s going on.”
He praised the program and what it means for students.
“It also gives the kids the opportunity to see what’s underwater, the fish, the sea life that they would like to see. They are close and personal. They’re over there. They are breathing from a tank and they can see a fish right in front of their face,” he said.
This exposure, Mather said, gives them a mindset of what needs to be protected in our Caribbean waters and the BVI. It also gives them a better appreciation for preservation and conservation.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity because it’s sponsored,” Mather noted. “It is supported and we hope that these experiences will be a springboard for children to want to become more involved in the blue economy, in careers involved in the maritime industry and for children growing up to be more heard on the protection of our most wonderful national resources.
Sail Caribbean Divers Instructor Charlotte Hounsome said it was a wonderful experience because all the students were enthusiastic and enthusiastic and wanted to learn.
“They were listening, engaging, so it was wonderful to take them underwater and show them things they might not have seen before,” said Hounsome, who has been an instructor for eight years and worked in other parts of the world. “It’s my passion to take young people underwater. When they’re done, they usually say “wow”. It was amazing. It’s incredible.’ To be like a fish under water, to be weightless, that’s great. Today they saw snapper, cromus, porcupine fish and a stingray was there in the distance and of course the coral too. It was really beautiful.”
For Roman Nibbs, it was a great experience.
“It was surreal. Like I was one of the fish,” the 13-year-old Elmore Stoutt Jr. High student said. made for adventure, experience.
Maliakh Bowen, 11, from Francis Lettsome Primary School, said it was fun.
“It was beautiful. The corals were beautiful and I had fun,” she said. “For someone who has never done this, it’s a fun experience that should come and try. ”
Tiffany Herbert, 10, from Francis Lettsome School, said she had never done anything like this before.
“It was fun and I enjoy coming here,” she said.
Chelsea Jones, a 12-year-old student at Enis Adams School, said she learned the different signs used in scuba diving and learned how to fix her snorkel.
“I’ve done snorkeling before, but it’s not like scuba diving,” she said.
Sophia Peppard, another Sail Caribbean Divers instructor, said it was wonderful to see children learning something new and getting out of their comfort zone and seeing their faces light up after going underwater for the first time.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to see something right at the back of their door and experience it in a new way,” she said. “They said they enjoyed it so much that even the smallest fish made them excited. Some went snorkeling and it made them progress to learning more and more.”