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Rowan Is Ready…To Dive! #469021
07/26/13 05:07 AM
07/26/13 05:07 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,127
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
He’s climbed Victoria Peak and walked from the western border to the city, and for the past 2 months, 14 year old adventurer Rowan Garel has been preparing for his new adventure: diving the Blue Hole.

The courageous blind teenager will be the first blind Belizean to dive the blue hole and, of course, he’s doing it for Charity. Rowan is raising awareness and funds for the BCVI summer camp which caters for visually impaired children from all over the country. Today we caught up with Rowan to see how excited he is as his big day draws nearer.

Rowan Garel - Diving for Charity
"I am excited for this actually because I've done the walk and the climb already and I was excited for those as well - all those were on land and this is in water and I'm really excited to see what the Blue Hole is like."

Monica Bodden
"Preparations for this - what did you have to do?"

Rowan Garel
"Well the BCVI just had to finalize who would come, who wouldn't come and who is diving, food and stuff like that. I finished the course for the 12th because we thought it would be the 14th but things didn't work out twice in a row which is disappointing but the point is we're going tomorrow so I'm really happy for that."

Monica Bodden
"Was the course challenging?"

Rowan Garel
"Yes, very challenging - it is dive theory and what they do is they have information that is read to you and then there's a quiz or several quizzes actually and then there is a knowledge review at the end of each section, there's six sections. Then there's an assessment so I did my course online with Asia and Carla from the BCVI - they also did theirs online like me and that's how the course works."

Monica Bodden
"What is the most challenging part for you?"

Rowan Garel
"Probably the exam because I almost had a heart attack multiple times."

Monica Bodden
"Tell me, how important is this for you? You guys are doing this as a fund raising event - it's something annual right? Can you just speak to us about the importance?"

Rowan Garel
"Ok sure, as I have said before - the BCVI is the only organization country wide that deals with blind or visually impaired people like myself and they provide services like - they actually go into people's houses and help us to be as independent as possible because that is what they are all about. They are about inclusive education and if it wasn't for the BCVI - a lot of blind people like myself just be shut up at home because people would be ashamed of having a disabled child out and the BCVI tries to integrate us with normal society so that's why it's so important."

Monica Bodden
"You guys are trying to raise $100,000 or more?"

Rowan Garel
"Yes that might sound like a lot but this is for the rehab program for the whole year and I mean things are free for us like laptops, brail, canes but they're not free for the BCVI and they give them to us for free because a lot of people are from the little villages in Belize and that's the service that the BCVI provides and it's crucial."

Rowan will be diving along with his father, members of the Belize Center for the Visually Impaired and a group of supporters.

Channel 7

Re: Rowan Is Ready…To Dive! [Re: Marty] #469082
07/27/13 04:38 AM
07/27/13 04:38 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,127
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Rowan Made It!

After months of preparation, and a few set backs due to weather, Rowan Garel, the fearless, adventurous and blind 14 year-old has completed his third great adventure: Today, he dove the Blue Hole.

It is a feat which is difficult enough for normal divers, but due to his visual impairment, it made preparations for the dive and his training significantly more challenging.

But, he took on the challenge with determination, and he made it. We’ll have an extensive look at his accomplishment on Monday’s Newscast, but after he finished the dive this evening, we asked him about the experience.

Here’s how he explained it:

Rowan Garel - Dove The Blue Hole
"I went to the Blue Hole first which is really amazing - I really wanted to do that. We saw turtles there which was cool - one of them passed right by me actually, a Hawksbill Turtle and I got to touch the shell and I meant it's just really amazing to be able to go in the Great Blue Hole. So much water as around me, above me, below and you just feel so insignificant in comparison to all that water and wildlife."

Daniel Ortiz
"After the months of preparation and the anticipation - was it exactly as you imagined it would go?"

Rowan Garel
"It was almost as I thought it would be - I had expected that I would feel sort of crowded because there were a lot of people down there but it wasn't like that at all."

As part of the accomplishment, Rowan is now a certified diver at the entry level. His certification was presented to him after the dive.

Channel 7

Re: Rowan Is Ready…To Dive! [Re: Marty] #469209
07/30/13 04:53 AM
07/30/13 04:53 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,127
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Rowan’s Undersea Adventure

Last week, 7News showed you the end of 15 year-old Rowan Garel’s third major adventure, when he dove the Blue Hole.

Rowan, the blind young man who has become the ambassador for sight, and for the BCVI, made a major accomplishment on Friday, and we were there to capture it on tape while Tony Rath captured the action beneath the sea’s surface.

Here’s the full report.

Daniel Ortiz reporting
At around 6:30 a.m., all of Rowan Garel’s supporters gathered at the Radisson Pier to see him off.

It was finally the big day after a 2 successive postponements due to weather. But the significance of the event didn’t seem to affect him much, as he socialized with his friends and supporters, just another Friday morning where, he would dive into history.

And when the boats arrived, those who would accompany him boarded, and it was then off on a 2 ˝ hour ride out to the Blue Hole.

Once out there, Rowan looked more focused on the task at hand, taking last minute instructions from his dive instructor, John Searle.

Both he and the representative from the Belize Audubon Society made it a point to demystify the Blue Hole, which majority of the population has never seen in person.

John Searle - Dive Instructor, Sea Sports Belize
"For a lot of you this is the very first time that you are coming to the Blue Hole and you've probably heard a lot of stories about the Blue Hole and it might even sound a little scary. But I'm here to let you know that it's only a bigger swimming pool - you've done everything already in the swimming pool and in the open water dives that we've done during our training, so this is just a bigger swimming pool, alright?"

Celsio Sho - Park Ranger, Belize Audubon Society
"You guys are here at the Blue Hole, the young man here Mr. Rowan, I am glad he's going to do the dive. Show them buddy, how you can dive the Blue Hole, right? It's a sink hole that a lot of people come to dive and the Blue is 400 to 412 feet deep."

John Searle
"The Blue Hole is kind of like a big funnel like this, and we're going to be diving down to the lip and just where it starts to go straight, we are not going to go any deeper than 60 feet today. If we're lucky we'll get to see sharks, sometimes quite a few of them, but there's no reason to be alarmed or worried about the sharks, there has been no shark attack or any shark incidents here in the Blue Hole. Are you excited?"

Rowan Garel - Diving the Blue Hole

John Searle
"What's the second most important rule in scuba diving, buddy?"

Rowan Garel
"Have fun"

John Searle
"Alright, let's go have some fun guys."

And after that briefing, Rowan started assembling his own equipment with minimal help from his instructor. According to his father, it is important that Rowan be treated like any other diver on the trip."

Joe Garel - Father
"Rowan’s going to set up his own equipment just like anybody else, those are one of the things you learn to set up, hook up your regulator and BC to the tank and put everything properly, see that he does it on his own, nobody helping him, he went through this whole course on his own, so he is capable of doing that. So he will get in the water and he will be along with the dive master and just enjoy the dive."

Rowan Garel
"This is the Blue Hole and it's very great and famous and it's a real honor for me to dive here."

Due to Rowan’s blindness the dive posed additional difficulties, but through a stroke of good fortune the team was able to get access to a specialized piece of equipment for underwater audio, called the Casio Logosease Underwater Communication Device. He was also equipped with a specialized gauge for him to check his tank’s air levels.

Joe Garel
"There are a couple of things that we have that are a little different than most divers, he's got a mechanical gauge that can measure how much pressure is in the tank - so he can monitor it, there is a needle that comes up and he can feel exactly where the meter goes up and he can feel where that is, how much pressure is left in the tank; so he can monitor his tank on his own. The other thing he has is an underwater walkie-talkie device and it was loan to us from the branch of Casio and it clips on to the edge, on the strap of the mask and he can communicate."

Rowan Garel
"I also have a little thing on my mask that you tap it and you can actually communicate, for example if John wants me to check my air, he'll tap his one and he'll tell me, check air."

John Searle
"These units, I believe are something like $1,500 US each but as I mentioned, with help from Ms. Noreko from Japanese International Cooperation Agency, she communicated with the company in Japan and they loaned it to us so we have them loan, so it's very generous and we're very thankful that they helped us with this, it makes the job a lot easier."

Daniel Ortiz
"And if you guys hadn't had this audio equipment - how would you guys have conducted the dive?"

John Searle
"We were communicating just with hand signals before and we still do communicate with hand signals but it makes it a little easier and sometimes even a little more fun if we're able to talk to each other."

When Rowan was ready, he jumped in and joined his dive party, and with footage captured by cameraman Tony Rath, we got to see how his underwater adventure looked.

Rowan’s dive of the Blue Hole is notable to the rest of the country, but for his family, adventures like these are normal because they want him to experience life to the fullest, despite his visual impairment."

Joe Garel
"I grew up very adventurous, both my kids, since they were six months old, they've been on hikes with us up to Tikal, to all the ruins. I mean, not because he's blind we're going to have that keep us back so this is just something else, his sister is diving along with him as well, so we don't look at it as anything special, just another day."

Aesha Garel - Sister
"We grew up with snakes and everything before we ever had like a pet dog so we're kinda into wildlife and I've been teaching swimming for like 13 years now so the water is basically my second home and I've taught Rowan as well Climbing Victoria Peak, we always go hiking and so it's normal for us but very wild for other people, I think that's what people don't understand about our family."

Milago Garel - Mother
"He amazes us because he has a huge heart and lots of courage and I think that a lot of it has to do with growing up with Joe and Joe is a a very adventurous Father and he has encouraged Rowan to do everything that we have encouraged our older daughter to do."

Aesha Garel
"Well if he's doing it, then that pushes me to do it because I'm the big sister, I am supposed to be doing it first but since he does it first, it gives me extreme confidence and courage, that if he can do it, of course we can do it."

And when he completed his dive, we asked Rowan about what his experience was like.

Daniel Ortiz
"After the months of preparation and the anticipation, was it exactly as you imagined it would go?"

Rowan Garel
"It was almost as what I thought it would be, I mean, I'd expected that I would feel, sort of crowded because there is a lot of people down there but it wasn't like that at all."

Rowan was awarded with his PADI certification as en entry level open water diver. He had participated in 6 other dives already

John Searle
"On behalf of PADI International and Sea Sports Belize, I am happy to present you with your certification cards. You guys worked hard for this whole program and I know we have to come up with some adaptive techniques, we had to do a lot of extra dives in the pool and in open water and throughout all, you guys were great students. To my newest dive buddy and the newest certified diver in the whole world, we have Rowan Garel."

Carla Musa
"This Blue Hole dive, we were hoping to raise a hundred thousand dollars and we are at just about fifty thousand right now so we're still working even after the dive to try to promote what Rowan has done to make sure we can reach our goal."

It is important to note that Rowan’s sister, Aesha Garel, and their friend, Carla Musa also received their certification as entry level open water divers.

Channel 7

Re: Rowan Is Ready…To Dive! [Re: Marty] #469358
08/01/13 05:45 AM
08/01/13 05:45 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,127
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
I would like to big up Channel 7 News for the great story they did on Rowan's Blue Hole dive. Here is the the story in full from website. Would also like to thank Channel 7 for acknowledging the underwater camera work, not once, but 4 times. I think Channel 7 understands the importance of giving credit where credit is due. The other station? Not a peep .... any way great job to 7 News and BCVI and of course Rowand Garel.

Tony Rath....

Rowan dives the Blue Hole

Rowan Garel conquers yet another achievement for the visually impaired by diving the Great Blue Hole. The dive was originally scheduled for July 14th, but due to weather conditions, the dive was postponed. On Friday, July 26th, Rowan, accompanied by a crew of supportive family and friends set off to dive one of Belize’s greatest marvel. The group departed from the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina at around 7AM, equipped and determined to brave the Caribbean Sea under the guidance of Sea Sport Belize.

Diving the Blue Hole is the third major feat for 15 year old visually impaired Rowan. Rowan was born blind, but he has never let that get in his way of experiencing life. In 2011 Rowan climbed the second highest summit in Belize, the Victoria Peak over the course of two days. In 2012 he journeyed across the country, walking 92 miles. These milestones conquered by Rowan were done to raise funds for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI), which is the only organization in Belize that caters to the blind or visually impaired.

In order to dive the Blue Hole, Rowan went through vigorous training and completed PADI e-lessons before getting certified. Rowan also made several smaller dives at Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and South Gallows Point in preparation for the big dive. Training and providing assistance to Rowan were PADI certified instructors, John and Linda Searle of Sea Sports Belize.

Apart from the months of preparation, Rowan also received additional support from Noriko Takemae of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Belize Office. Takemae facilitated the loan of Casio Logosease Underwater Communication Device from Japan’s Casio Company and Logosease. The equipment was of great aid to Rowan and his team on the dive. “The units are something like $1,500US each. With help from Ms. Noriko the company in Japan loaned them to us. We’re very thankful that they helped us with this, it makes the job a lot easier,” said John Searle.

The Blue Hole is one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. The “submarine sink-hole” is rimmed by a circular coral bed, and below the surface, it is walled by stalactites and stalagmites, reminding everyone that this marvel was once above sea level. The Blue Hole was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who explored the depths of the Blue Hole in 1971. Today the Blue Hole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich with marine life and coral formations.

Diving along with Rowan is Carla Ayres Musa, BCVI Communication Officer. Rowan and his team dove a little below 70 feet of depth and got to experience the Caribbean Sea. Rowan even got the chance to touch a Hawksbill turtle that was hanging around the dive group. “I went to the Blue Hole first which is really amazing; I really wanted to do that. We saw turtles there which were cool, one of them passed right by me actually, a Hawksbill Turtle and I got to touch the shell and I meant it’s just really amazing to be able to go in the Great Blue Hole. So much water was around me, above me, below and you just feel so insignificant in comparison to all that water and wildlife,” said an excited Rowan to Channel 7 News.

Rowan set a goal of $100,000 BZE to raise by doing the dive, with all funds going towards BCVI. The goal has not been met as yet. To make a donation visit the BCVI’s office on Princess Margret Dive, Belize City, online at or via direct deposit at the Belize Bank Account # 71096.

The San Pedro Sun joins the Belizean community in congratulating Rowan on this great achievement. He truly is an inspiration to many, and an exemplary young Belizean who, despite limitations, aims high. Keep up the hard work!

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

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