Tag Archives: Travel

Environmentalism in a UNESCO World Heritage Site

22 Aug Weed Team Member

In 1982, in recognition of the global significance of the island’s beauty and biodiversity, Lord Howe Island was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Just prior to that, The Lord Howe Island Act of 1981 was established which created a Permanent Park Preserve over approximately 70% of the island. Lord Howe Islanders are proud of the World Heritage designation and would do almost anything to preserve it.

Many programs and strategies have been introduced to protect the bio-diversity of this unique island including the 2004 establishment of The Lord Howe Island (LHI) Weed Eradication Program. This is a thirty-year plan to eliminate all non-endemic weeds from this island of fourteen-and-a-half-kilometers. A big part of this plan includes The Weed Team.

The Weed Team is a group of approximately ten-paid employees plus a variety of volunteers who are committed to removing non-endemic weeds which, if left to their own devices, will kill the rare plants which cover the hills of Lord Howe and take over the beautiful landscape. The Weed Team spends eight-hours per day, four-days per week, climbing into the hills on a search-and-destroy mission to eradicate very specific invasive weeds.

I had the opportunity to spend a day foraging through the jungle with the Weed Team and, let me tell you, these folks work hard; so hard that one can tell, they don’t simply do it for the money. These men and women are passionate about what they do.

We met in town at their garage behind the island’s board offices. I was provided with a backpack (though you should bring your own), some gloves, a tool-belt with clippers and a knife, and an empty weed-bag to fill.

We climb into their pick-up truck and head out to today’s grid. The island has been divided into hundreds of grids, which are marked by blue tape placed on trees, and a different grid is targeted each day. The Weed Team completes the full circuit every two-years. There are 670-non-native plants and, of those, 271 are considered invasive. The Weed Team eradication program targets the worst thirty-five.

Weed TeamToday’s grid is a fairly easily accessible one (I think they’ve chosen it as they knew I’d be joining them) and, after leaving the truck on a muddy hill (the truck begins sliding Weedssideways so we bale-out), we begin a ten-minute walk into the jungle-covered hills. Upon our arrival at today’s grid, I’m shown the two species of weeds which we’ll be pulling, and instructed on the proper way to dig them up and cut the roots off. There’s no need to bring the entire weed out of the jungle because, if we find a lot of them, our weed bags will become quite heavy. Simply carrying the root out of the jungle will prevent further spread.

While this is a planned thirty-year program, in the ten-years it’s been in existence, they’ve reduced these invasive weeds by eighty-percent. While many on the Weed Team are rock-climbers, not all areas of Lord Howe are accessible, even to them. In these cases, a helicopter is brought in for very targeted spraying of the weeds which has a minimal impact on other plant life.

We’re spread out on a search-line, much like ones formed by police when searching for missing people. Sometimes we walk, other times we crawl in order to make a thorough search of the jungle for the, sometimes, tiny weeds hiding under dead palm leaves.Weed TeamThe original weeds were mostly brought by visiting ships and from people’s gardens. They don’t belong here and, as they compete with other vegetation for sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil, some take over the food source for endemic, flightless, Lord Howe Wood Hens.

We break for tea and lunch, eating our packed snacks and sandwiches under the jungle canopy (mostly) hidden from the sudden rains. While sitting there, we report the number of each type of weed, and its stage of development to the team leader. After thirty-minutes, we’re back at it, on our hands and knees, using our knives to dig out the unwelcome weeds.Weed Team MemberThough the Weed Team is normally out there until 3:00pm, today is a short day in the jungle as they need to report to the museum for a required class. We hike out of the jungle, this time down slippery rocks, up hillsides, and through the jungle plants, which continuously tangle in our legs, before finally reaching the pick-up which has been moved to meet us.

Besides it’s UNESCO World Heritage designation, why is LHI so committed to this weed eradication? Well, again, there’s the protection of the Wood Hens. But there are also 238-native plants here and 113 of them exist only on Lord Howe Island. That’s pretty amazing in its own right and, considering the size of the island, well, it’s quite remarkable. The goal of the Weed Eradication Program is zero-weed density by 2034. Being an island, there is a very realistic possibility of complete eradication of non-endemic species.

You can volunteer on the LHI Weed Team, but there are things to keep in mind:

First, this is not a vacation. Sure you’ll get to enjoy the incredible scenery of this unique island, and even meet many of the 350 locals. And you’ll learn so much about the native plant and bird-life. But, make no mistake, the work is physical and you’ll work your butt off. Still, your three-week volunteer experience will include your lodging and a small food stipend. And you’re sure to be in great physical shape after this. If you’re interested in the Weed Eradication Program, or in volunteering, or in any other LHI information, please visit http://www.lhib.nsw.gov.au/ for more information.

 

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Volunteer Vietnam

18 Jun

His name is Dang Van Quoc Viet, but he goes simply by Viet. He’s a child of war; what the Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War. To him, it’s simply The War. He was one a year-old riding in a car with his family when the car hit a land mine. His father and brother were killed. He, his mother, and his unborn sister survived. It was a tragedy that caused his mother such mental distress that she could no longer care for him. He was a year old and found himself in an orphanage.

A year passed and his mother was doing better. She claimed him from the orphanage and he returned to live with her and his nine month-old sister. The war raged on for another five years. Things were tough. He finished school and went to work, saving his money with the goal of, someday, attending college. At twenty-six he enrolled in college and, at thirty, he graduated, proving that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough, you can do just about anything. He taught English at the university for some time before finding his true calling – philanthropy.

Truong and Viet

Truong, 15 years-old, and Viet, Director of Volunteer Vietnam

Viet is Founder and Director of Volunteer Vietnam, a non-profit organization supporting various orphanages, social centers, homeless centers and low-income schools. While some of the buildings Childrenare governmental, most of the staff is not. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Social Support Center, which houses approximately two-hundred people, most of whom used to be homeless. The children, many of whom suffer from severe mental and physical disabilities which have been blamed on Agent Orange, include Hga, who is ten years-old and was found living on the streets. And Truong, who has no parents but does have a grandmother who left him a scar on his face due to her physical abuse. He’s fifteen but is about the size of a ten year-old.

Injured Child

This is Truc after she injured her foot. All I could do was hold her ankle and try to comfort her.

Then there’s Truc, ten years-old, who has severe mental and physical disabilities. She has spasms which sometimes cause her to injure herself. On the day I was there, we took her to the on-site hospital as she had injured her foot during a spasm and was crying inHurt Foot pain. The doctor applied medication to guard against infection and bandaged it and, for the next hour, I held her foot up to prevent her from re-injuring it, as well as from causing her discomfort. It was a small thing and I wished I could do more.

The center also houses abandoned, elderly people. Some are physically disable, some have lost their mental facilities either due to age or, in the case of some, due to trauma experienced from the war – they’ve never been the same.

 

Shower Bucket

Shower Bucket, soon to be replaced by an actual shower made possible by one volunteer and the contributions she collected

Showers

New showers being built

Besides the hospital, the building includes an area called “Step-by-Step” which is the physical therapy room, beds for children and adults, a schoolroom, in which Viet and other staff teach English, a newly built shower, made possible by Anouk, a volunteer from the Netherlands who raised money on a Facebook page when she saw elderly bathing from water in a bucket, as the facility had no showers. Other volunteers I met, Marikan and Danielle created a similar Facebook fundraising page which allowed for the purchase of wheelchairs and other needed equipment. Some of the money also went to painting the dank walls. While there, I also helped paint murals on the now more brightly colored blank walls in order to help make it a place of hope and comfort. And that’s what these people are doing here – creating hope and comfort where there was once hopelessness and pain. Nobody should be forgotten or abandoned.

PaintingYou may know that I once worked for Disney Cruise Line. We called each other our Ohana, a line taken from the movie Lilo and Stitch. In it, Lilo is heard to say, “Ohana means family. And family means, no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Viet truly believes this and, while their families seem to have forgotten this, Viet is making sure that his Ohana are taken care of.

When asked what Volunteer Vietnam needs, Viet responds, “Volunteers! Volunteers are our number-one need.” He makes it easy, as anyone who volunteers with them can pay a small fee which takes care of their housing at the Volunteer Center with shared rooms, air conditioning, showers and WiFi (I checked out the rooms and they’re basic, but nice and clean), three meals per-day, and transfers to and from the volunteer sites. Evenings and weekends are free to check out the surrounding area.

The second item on Viet’s wish-list is funding. They do so much with so little, but a Vietnamese Dong (the currency) can only be stretched so far.

This is not a place which exists to make life nicer for people. This place exists to make life livable for people who, through no fault of their own, are in dire straits and have little hope. If you have some extra cash, or even better, a desire to visit Vietnam and really make a difference, please consider Volunteer Vietnam.

For more information, please visit their website at http://www.volunteervietnam.vn/

Or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/vnvolunteer.org?fref=ts

Tutoring Refugee Kids in Malaysia

11 Apr

His name is Rohollah. He’s 17 years-old and was born in Iran; he and his family then moved to Afghanistan. Fearing for their lives, in March they fled Afghanistan and were temporarily resettled in Malaysia. Rohollah is very smart, but it’s tough adapting to a new country after escaping a country at war; especially when you don’t speak the language. Rohollah attends Pandawas Academy, a school for refugee children in Kuala Lumpur. Pandawas Academy employs five teachers, only one of whom speaks English as their primary language. The school charges no fees, which is a great thing because, while these families were all settled through the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), they receive no financial or educational assistance.

I had the pleasure of tutoring Rohollah, one-on-one, for two-hours one recent Saturday. Tutoring was organized by the volunteer group Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child which I found through Facebook (see link at the end of this article).

Each Saturday volunteers show up at the school to offer tutoring to some of the child refugees who have been temporarily resettled in Malaysia. While this group has been assisting at the Pandawas Academy for over a year, they’re now planning to search for another school to help, as there are many others in even more desperate need.

Volunteers for RefugeesVolunteers arrive at 11:30am where they then meet to find out more about the organization, as well as the structure for the next couple of hours. This group has an international group of volunteers from Germany, America, Malaysia, Australia, England and more. They’re either living in Kuala Lumpur or visiting temporarily. Upon arrival, volunteers meet in the office while students in the warehouse-like classroom are assigned a desk number where they take their seats. At 12:00, volunteers are asked to choose a piece of paper with a number  on it and head over to the desk with their corresponding number. There they find their student, along with some basic school books and a notebook. In the back of the notebook they find the notes on that student which previous tutors have written. As volunteers are not required to commit to coming every week, the children tend to work with a variety of volunteers.

Though the concentration is teachingEnglish, the students and tutors also work on math and science. Still everyone recognizes that the kids need to learn English in order to thrive in Malaysia, or wherever they eventually end up.

Though Rohollah is 17-years old, the books he is using are for five to eight year-olds as Pandawas Academy works with students of a variety of ages, yet funding for books is limited. While not the perfect tool, it’s fine to teach English. Unfortunately, his math and science books are at the same grade level. And while languages vary from country to country, math and science are the same wherever you go. His math book offers basic arithmetic, but Rohollah knows Geometry. I spend part of a day during the next week buying books for all the kids, but especially some math books for Rohollah which, while not completely up to his level (they’re difficult to find at everyday book stores), are definitely more advanced than his current ones.

The final half-hour of our two hours working with the children is allotted to games. When the whistle blows, the students go running to the game desks where they find Connect Four, Chess and Checkers, card games and more. They return to their desks to teach their tutors their favorite games. Many have missing pieces but the kids don’t seem to mind. They’re just happy to have games to play. Volunteers have also begun smaller tutoring groups which teach photography, music, football and chess.

On May 9th, Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child will be holding a fund-raising event at the Bentley Music Auditorium, in Kuala Lumpur, in which attendees can receive advice from top Malaysian investment experts. Tickets to this event are for sale through the contact below and proceeds will be distributed amongst some of the schools for refugees in Kuala Lumpur. They will ask the UNHCR to advise them on the ones most in need. Information on this fund-raiser, as well as volunteering and other ways to help this great group of volunteers is on their Facebook page.

If you’re in Malaysia, they’d love to have you come meet the kids and teach for a few hours. There’s no long-term commitment, but you might just find yourself wanting to return. (I did!) It’s rewarding work with people who are making a difference.

To find out more, please visit the Facebook page Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child

Visit the Pandawas Academy Facebook page to find out more about the school and how you can help at https://www.facebook.com/pandawasacademy/timeline

To find out how to secure your ticket to their fundraising event please write to jessica.wee@cimb.com

Hungry in Hungary

9 Feb

Once upon a time there were three travelers who came to town hungry, yet had no food. The villagers were unwilling to share their food with the hungry strangers, so the travelers went down to the river, filled a pot with water and dropped in a large stone. They placed it over a fire and, when asked what they were doing, they explained that they were making stone soup and would be happy to share it when it’s cooked. They told one villager that, while they had the best recipe for stone soup, it would be much better with a few extra ingredients. Before long, a villager brought over some carrots to go into the soup. Then someone else showed up with some herbs to drop in the pot. After that, someone added some meat. Before long, the “stone soup” had turned into a full and hearty meal.

FoodIn the central part of District 7 in the heart of Budapest, is a restaurant called Köleves. Translated, it means Stone Soup. Köleves is one of many local restaurants in Budapest’s District 7 who are working with Heti Betevö, a local charity, to help feed the hungry.

It’s funny, most everywhere I travel, one of the most common volunteer opportunities I find is feeding the homeless and/or hungry. Perhaps funny isn’t quite the right word as, well, it’s sad that this need is so common. But it’s not all doom and gloom as, also wherever I go, I find caring people, not only willing, but eager to help.

Today I found those needy and caring people through the Facebook page of Heti Betevö, Loosely translated Heti Betevö means “weekly good food staples,” which is exactly what they provide. Well, that and perhaps a little pick-me-up to show those in need that others care about them.

FruitHeti Betevö is the brainchild of Bandi and his friends. One day Bandi, a cook at Kisüzem, a restaurant in District 7, began speaking with his friends about how much food waste there is in the restaurant business. They all understood that, as in many large cities, there are people living on the Volunteersstreets (and in Budapest, also in the forest). And even if people do have the most basic flat, many can’t afford food. Many of us have had these same conversations and commented that someone should do something about it. Well, these people did. About a year ago, they started preparing food out of Kisüzem and serving it in the square out front. Before long, word spread.

These days, fifteen-to-twenty people meet every Sunday at 12:00noon at Kisüzem, which is used as a staging area. Various restaurants in the area take turns cooking the hot food which is then collected by volunteers. People drop by bringing fruit, cakes, loaves of bread and candy. After two-hours the sliced-bread, polished fruit, hot food, and coffee and tea are carried outside to the square where there’s a growing line of two-hundred people patiently waiting for what might be their only hot meal of the week.

Budapest Hete Betevo Crowd“We don’t need to ask who they are or why they’re here,” says Hajnalka, one of the regular volunteers. “If they’re hungry, we should feed them.”

Budapest Hete Betevo ManEach week, a different person is designated to lead the team. They assign different food stations and crowd control areas to volunteers and make sure all food is brought out and trash is collected following service. And Köleves and Kisüzem aren’t the only restaurants involved. While Kisüzem acts as the staging area each week, many other restaurants in the area trade-off cooking duties.

Budapest Heti Betevo Donation JarIn addition, you can find Hete Betevö’s collection jars at over forty-businesses in the area. The change people drop in is used to buy food, napkins, plastic-wear, cups and other supplies. And two-weeks ago, Hete Betevö became an official non-profit and can now accept financial donations in the form of checks or cash directly to them. They hope to expand to other parts of the city where they see great need.

Budapest Hete Betevo Carole servingI was lucky enough to join them and their wonderful group of volunteers this past weekend and, as I’ll be in Budapest for at least the next few weeks, I plan to join them again. If you’re in Budapest, they would love for you to share just a few hours of your week with them. All volunteers are welcome and, trust me on this, you’ll meet amazing people and walk away with an incredible Budapest Heti Betevo Logomemory of your visit.

Click here for their Facebook Page in order to contact them or find out more

And, if you’re looking for a great organization to donate money or food to, please consider these people who saw a need and decided to act on it.

A Living History Museum Providing Training for Successful Living in the Future

19 Jan

Living History MuseumDo historical museums bore you? Walking from room-to-room seeing pieces of paper and objects from times long since passed, feeling cold and impersonal. What if a museum were more like theatre? If you could actually meet the people who the possessions belonged to and hear their stories? If this sounds interesting to you, well, I’ve found the perfect place. It’s called the Bremer Geschichtenhaus (Bremer Story House), in Bremen, Germany, and it’s not only a combination of a museum and live theatre, but most of the “employees” are either volunteers, or are found through “bras eV”, an employment and job-training agency (through governmental support) which works with the local government to help the jobless and homeless get back on their feet.

When people file for assistance they’re connected to bras eV which provides a variety of classes, training and life-planning programs. Their methodology for Life/Work Planning is based on “What, Where and How.” The “What” is an analysis of a person’s abilities based on a detailed biography. The “Where” helps them figure out in what industry and which companies they might like to work and be a good fit. And the “How” helps them research which companies have positions which might suit their interests and qualifications as well as understand which skills they need to further develop and how to go about applying successfully.

But where does the Bremer Geschichtenhaus fit in? In its most basic form, it gives employees what’s known as a “1 Euro Job.” While it pays only slightly more than €1, it’s the term used for a low-paying job that’s not meant to be permanent, but a transitional job to gain confidence and skills. And that’s what the Bremer Geschichtenhaus unquestionably does.

I met Herman who has worked there for exactly one-year. His journey began five-years ago when his father died. He was a truck driver and stayed home to take care of his mother. He lived with her until she went to a care facility which is when his brother stopped paying the rent on the rental house they were living in and Herman’s life began falling apart. He ended up homeless for four-months before seeking help at a mission. As is the norm, they housed him for six-months (it allows for people to get their heads together and try to get back on their feet on their own). After six-months his case-worker sent him to the museum. He enjoys what he does as he has interaction with visitors and learns new skills all the time. He plays the part of historical figures of Bremerhaven and likes performing a variety of roles which bring history to life.

I also had the opportunity to meet Silke who’s been working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus for four months. After losing her job, her apartment and her boyfriend, all within a two-week period, her life also fell apart. She started working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus in October and found it difficult at first. She felt overwhelmed by the regular schedule and expectations. This is a basic part of the training that the Bremer Geschichtenhaus provides – training people to stick to a regular schedule and be on time for work. It can be difficult when you’ve lost your self-esteem.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus, which opened in 2006, is the brainchild of business partners Sara and Mick. Prior to opening the Geschichtenhaus, Sara worked in theatre as a director. When she was approached to be a part of the Geschichtenhaus, she thought it was a crazy idea that just might work. She decided to take a chance and join in the project to open a living history museum which could entertain and inform while assisting to help those in need. It was a win/win situation. While Sara handles the performance side, Mick deals with the business side including the partnership with the bras job center. They also employ three other full time people who help run the place.

Coffee MerchantThe shows cover the time period from 1635 until just before WWI. The performers tell the stories of the characters they portray who might be a coffee-maker, for which Bremen is well-known, or Heini Holtenbeen, who walked with a pronounced limp due to an accident. As he could no longer complete his apprenticeship, he made a career out of collecting the discarded stubs of cigars in the market square and selling the tobacco as pipe tobacco. You’ll “meet” the adventurous fish merchant, Fish Lucie, as well as Bremen’s most famous poisoner, Gifts Gottfried. Known as the “Angel of Bremen” she was convicted of poisoning fifteen people using arsenic-laced butter and her execution was the last public one held in the square. The stories are informative and entertaining with a little comedy thrown in. And audience members can actually ask the characters questions about their lives and the times. On Fridays they have shows in English.

The museum receives approximately 30% of its funding through paid admissions and pays 30% of the wages to employees referred through bras, while bras pays the rest.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus is located in the heart of the Schnoor District of Bremen and welcomes visitors daily. They also have programs for school groups as well as catered private parties. They appreciate volunteers to help with general administrative duties, guest relations, catering and even performing. And they’re grateful for any donations which assist in operating costs such as costuming, laundry, rent and general needs. Please visit their website listed below for all information.

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website: http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website (in English): http://translate.google.de/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/&prev=search

To donate or volunteer, please contact: fruchtmann-bras-bremen.de

Are you in Bremen, Germany, and need help getting back on your feet? Contact: http://bras-bremen.de/

Helping the Environment and Sea Turtles – Easy as a Walk on the Beach

6 Nov
Akumal Sea Turtle Nest

Guillermo and a sea turtle nest

On the most recent Drop Me Anywhere trip to Mexico, I had the opportunity to walk the beach in Akumal with Guillermo, from Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA). No, we weren’t just walking for exercise, or to enjoy the beautiful view (which it was), we were inspecting the nests filled with sea turtle eggs which are scattered along the beach just waiting to hatch. Along the way, I learned about the great work CEA does, the disagreements amongst environmentalists about the best way to help the sea turtles, or even if they need help at all, and how regular people can get involved. We even saved one from a crab attack!

Who are they? CEA was formed in 1993 by the Akumal Yacht Club, whose shareholders put their four hectares of property on Akumal Bay into a trust to generate funds and provide infrastructure for environmental initiatives to protect Akumal’s coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Different than many other conservation organizations, CEA rents out some of its property to local businesses and, therefore, retains administrative control of the property, which also allows for donations made to CEA to go directly towards conservation.

What do they do? CEA’s mission is to produce and promote strategies for ecosystem management in Akumal, through research, education and policy, for sustainability in the Mexican Caribbean. These programs include:

–      Coastal Ecosystems Program – the objective is to promote the protection and conservation of the coastal ecosystems through ecosystem monitoring, information sharing and management. It consists of Reef Monitoring and Research, Bay Monitoring and Patrol, Management and Maintenance, and Outreach and Environmental Education.

Akumal Bay–      Sea Turtle Program – the objective is to protect the nesting female turtles and their hatchlings, raising awareness among visitors and residents on sea turtle biology and conservation measures. As Akumal means “Place of the Turtle,” this program is a huge focus of CEA. The sea turtle population is of vital importance to tourism, as many come to Akumal in order to snorkel with the sea turtles (in their natural habitat). It’s a delicate balance in which CEA works as a go between in order to ensure a fun and educational experience for tourists, as well as protecting the sea turtles from negative human behaviors which may endanger their future well-being. During nesting season, CEA staff and volunteers patrol the beaches of Akumal in search of nesting females and hatchlings. Their activities include protecting and tagging females, obtaining scientific data, in extreme cases, relocating eggs to more favorable locations, and hatchling releases. The data collected is used to determine how many nests were achieved, behavior, distribution and abundance. Their work includes taking tourists and visitors on these walks visitors to help teach them to respect nature and the life of sea turtles, to be more aware of other species, to learn to cohabitate with them and to help take care of their habitats.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles hatching

–      Water Quality Program – the objective in addressing the water quality issues in the region is to dramatically reduce the amount of waste water reaching the sea. CEA works in watershed research and protection, and promotes improved wastewater treatment technologies. This is important due to the area’s highly-porous limestone rock, which is riddled with many fractures, underground rivers and caves. These are interconnected and, in some cases, channel fresh water out to sea, much like an above-ground river might in a coastal region. This is a very fragile aquifer and the quality of its waters has a direct impact on the Caribbean Sea and the coral reef ecosystem.

–      Sustainable Development Program– the objective is to influence development and lessen its impact on the local environment. CEA works with local hotels, condominiums and businesses to apply best practices for resource management. Business can become certified in Akumal and then may be listed on CEA’s website.

–      Environmental Education Program – the objective is to raise awareness among locals and visitors about the fragility of our ecosystems. They provide ecology classes in schools, summer school courses and visitor information in addition to the sea turtle beach walks.

–      Communication Program – Providing outreach to tourists, locals and the tourism sector, the Communication Program helps accomplish CEA’s mission by disseminating their research findings and information in order to be able to influence public policy and to help preserve the coastal environment. Through their Communication Program CEA works with writers, photographers, filmmakers, graphic artists, and anyone who can help getting word out about their important organization and programs.

Sea Turtle Nest

Sea turtle nest

How can you help? With office space and overhead provided by its property, CEA can dedicate funds from memberships, donations, and grants to cover expenses related to its specific conservation programs. Any donations are gratefully accepted. They also depend on volunteers, students and partnerships with many other organizations to carry out their work. If you’re planning a visit to Akumal, or the nearby cities of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or Tulum, you can arrange a visit to CEA to learn more about the sea turtles and environmental issues in the area. If you’re there at the right time of year, you may also be able to participate in a nighttime beach walk where you may run across a sea turtle and have the chance to assist in nesting, tagging, or collecting data. At other times of the year you might have the chance to walk the beach with A CEA employee or volunteer in the morning in order to check on the up to 170 nests which are laid throughout the season.*

During your next trip to this area, I’d highly recommend a stop at Centro Ecológico Akumal. Please contact them through their website listed below and ask about their educational programs or even a beach walk. It’s a great family activity (they may even be able to arrange assistance for accessibility issues) which will make a positive impact on you, your kids, and the environment.

Crab*Note – while walking with my guide Guillermo, we noticed some holes in a nest. Suddenly, Guillermo dropped to his knees and began digging. Once he’d dug a few inches down, a crab scurried out of the nest. We dug further and saw that the eggs were intact. If the crab had made it to the eggs, it would most likely have punctured at least one, which would then attract ants that would demolish the shells and make their way into the eggs and destroy the developing turtles inside.

To learn more about the great work that CEA does, or to learn how you can help by donating or volunteering, please visit their website: http://www.ceakumal.org/

Celebrating Pride

17 Aug

I’ve always been a big supporter of equal rights. Not gay rights, not women’s rights, not African American or Latino or any other groups’ rights. Simply equal rights for all. On this last Drop Me Anywhere trip, I had the unique opportunity to support people who just want to be treated equally. I worked with ILoveLimerick.com and their film crew spending four hours running around Limerick, Ireland filming scenes for a promotional video announcing the 2014 Limerick Pride Festival.

FilmingHow did Limerick Pride come about? Well, it began with the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland in 1993 (unbelievably recent). But due to violence and the general non-acceptance of people who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer), there were no celebrations and it was generally not spoken about. Finally, in 2002, a weekend of events was held. It was small, but it was a beginning. In 2004, the first Pride Parade was held in Limerick with six people walking up O’Connell Street. Steadily it grew.

In 2007, the first Official Pride March was held and included Limerick Pride’s first float. Much different than the 2004 parade, this march also included the University of Limerick Students Union marching behind their banner, as well as an art exhibition. In 2008, Richard Lynch, Founder and Manager of ILoveLimerick.com joined the party and with him came mainstream involvement. By 2013, Limerick Pride had grown to a week-long event with an attendance of thousands.

I Love Limerick Richard Lynch

Richard Lynch, Celine, Madonna and Sheila

This year, Limerick Pride Week kicks off on August 24th with Pride in the Park, which will include a dog show, sports, kids’ entertainment and music, along with an official opening ceremony in the evening. It continues on Monday with HIV testing, and a presentation and discussion on hate crimes. Other events throughout the week include political debates, a wedding fair, sexual health, sexual empowerment and coming out workshops. But it’s not all serious business at Limerick Pride Week. There will be BINGO, a Mr. and Mrs. Gay Limerick contest, a “Twas the Night Before” party, Pridefest and, of course, the official Limerick Pride Parade, which takes place at 2:00pm on Saturday, August 30th. Limerick Pride Week has become so large that the events are too numerous to mention. Please click here for the full schedule.

Limerick Pride is a volunteer led, not for profit collective, working to promote positive visibility of LGBTQ people and their community in Limerick. The goal of the Limerick LGBTQ Pride Festival is to promote ‘EQUALITY, LOVE, DIVERSITY, CELEBRATION.’

Limerick Pride Promo Video Crew

Limerick Pride 2014 Promo Video Crew

You can find out more information about Limerick Pride and Pride Week at http://limerickpride.ie/

To learn more about ILoveLimeric.com please go to their website at http://www.ilovelimerick.ie/

Corresponding Drop Me Anywhere story of the filming at http://dropmeanywhere.com/2014/07/29/limerick-is-a-drag/

Limerick Pride Week 2014 will be celebrated August 24-August 31.

All photos copyright of Dolf Patijn 2014

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