A Caye Summer Camp With A Strong Community Component
We've covered all kins of summer camps this year - but then next one we're going to tell you about is one of the most special we've seen. The Kids in Action camp is held in San Pedro, annually since 2006, and it is sponsored principally by the San Pedro tour Guide, and the San Pedro Tour Operators Association - with a whole lot of community support.
But this camp is not just summer fun. Instead it offers 30 teens and pre-teens the opportunity to learn employable skills which are in high demand on the island. They can leave the camp as certified divers or fly fishing guides.
Now, just for dive certification, it would normally cost $800 dollars per child - but the tour operators and guides donate the training because they are investing in their industry and the island's future:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
It might look like the easy breezy summer camp, but don't let those smiles fool you. They just picked up all this garbage on a beach clean up.
That kind of work instills the ethic for this particular summer camp - community and conservation key pillars of the Kids in Action program.
Everett Anderson, Coordinator, Kids In Action
"There are 3 things that we are focussed into: 1) is to educate the kids and offer that continue education. We also focus into the conservation part of it. Whenever they get exposed then they know the true value of our ecosystem which we all depend on. Not only this island, it's the entire country depends on the natural ecosystem. Our one is the coral ecosystem, but we are trying to instil in them is that let's protect what nature have given to us. We have had tireless battle against unsustainable development. We as a small country we know that we will develop. We need to develop, economically we need those benefits, but at the same time we can do it in a sustainable way. So once you instil that from a younger age, they grew up into it."
And, so, after the beach clean up on the north end it's back to town where the dive boat is waiting at Ramon's Village. The kids assemble their dive kits like pros making sure that's everything set to their specifications, and all set for the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Where they get geared up and after that, it's the ok sign, one more fitting to make sure the goggles are snug - and then the big plunge - not just into the water, but possibly into a career:
"Many of those kids that we have certified throughout the program has become boat captains, they have become dive masters, some have become even marine biologist so we can see where the benefit comes. Imagine as a business owner, you meet this kid at 12 years old and this kid continue coming at your dive center, assisting around and learning how the business is. After they are done their studies then they have a job list."
That's right, these young teens and pre teens are certified divers. But, on this day they were just kids, taking a dive in the underwater universe that is now a second home to them:
BIANCA NARVAEZ, 16 YEARS OLD
"Honestly there is this quote that says to understand the fish you must become a fish.' So diving in general is the best way to de-stress and my first breaths under water were amazing, they were remarkable. I don't have any way to explain it. I mean swimming with the fishes and becoming a part of the ocean is something that is unexplainable, it's beautiful."
LIANDRA BODDEN, 16 YEARS OLD
"During this program I learn that there are different types of corals and each one of them play a special role outside in the reef in the marine life and how important they are to every single fish that's out there. It's something that I do see myself doing in the future. I have a big passion for the marine life and I would love to see my future grow."
Catherine Sansores, 13 Years Old
"I like it a lot, because I really didn't think that I would be able to dive and now I can dive now."
"Do you plan on coming back next year?"
Catherine Sansores, 13 Years Old
"And how many years after that do you think you might continue?"
Catherine Sansores, 13 Years Old
"Until I can't."
SUSELI LOPEZ, 14 YEARS OLD
"In reality the most fun part of diving is that you get to spend time under water with the marine life. It's very beautiful and I really enjoy watching different species like the sharks, the fishes, stingrays and the corals and its really nice and I keep coming back because I want to continue and I hope I go further in this."
CAROLINA ESPAT, 12 YEARS OLD
"It was great. I saw stuff I've never seen before. It was a great experience."
"Today was a wonderful experience. The way we do our program, is that it's a 2 weeks' program. So it started the 15th July and our first session is in classroom. We had week where all the kids they meet together with the instructor, the teacher and then we go through the theory part of scuba diving. After we are done with the theory part of scuba diving, then we assign the kids to their instructors and also to the dive centre which will be doing their certification. The instructor is the one that do the confine open water dive and do their open water dive, which is 4 open water dives. Once they get certified, then we meet like today and do a fun dive which will be done at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The fun dive to have all of them there together enjoying the underwater world."
Phillip Leslie, San Pedro Tour Guide Assoc.
"On our fun dive today with the kids, a vessel approached our big boat and when I looked down it was one of the kids that took the Kids In Action program 6 years ago and he was now a dive master in a boat. So it made us feel very proud that the program is working. We end up opening their eyes to something that is there available. Invest in the young kids, the future will be better."
A great end to another wonderful summer for the program - but it doesn't end here:
"We have seen kids take this summer program and we don't see them again. We also have kids that continue. we have kids that have been here from 2010, still continue within our program. we want to serve as a platform for those kids. We want to assist those kids into lets say later on they want to decide to continue into their marine science, we can serve as a platform."
So, with Kids in Action, hope floats - above water and below it with these diving certificates.
Campers also learn about reef ecology, mainly through a coral nursery project - and we'll tel you about that part of the training tomorrow.