September has come. Cold wind, leaves falling slowly, rain from the morning until the evening, people in big jackets, streets more empty than usual and then me. Tanned and happy about the adventures, friends and knowledge that I recently gained in Croatia, during training course called S.O.S. (Save Our Seas).
A few weeks ago I got an email with an invitation to attend a training course. After reading the information I, without a doubt, agreed to go. I had many reasons to go.
1. I was tempted to travel to a warm place again.
2. During last months my interest about ecological lifestyle had grown in strength.
3. I had no idea how I could inform people about how globally massive is the problem of pollution and how to change behaviour of people on a daily basis.
4. I was truly missing snorkelling and watching fishes.
A few weeks later I arrived at one of Croatia’s islands called Murter which for the next 9 days was the place for the project and my home. In the project I was working with volunteers from six different countries and also with three other Latvians - Laura, Uldis and Daina. Each of us had a reason to be here, but still all of us came to a conclusion that we are here because we have an interest and a wish to learn more about marine biology and massive problems of pollution.
While traveling to Croatia I kept my mind sceptical. Many times I had experienced ecologists who talk about the massive problems of plastics in our waters, but an hour later they are the ones who drink coffee and eat their lunch from single use plastic dishes. However, meeting the joyful and kind hearted leader of the project and spending the day with the volunteers my scepticism disappeared and a feeling started to grown in me that this project will be an experience that will greatly widen my knowledge.
The first day was mostly dedicated to get to know each other. We were given several tasks that we had to do all together. One of the games that I remember the most and which I think lead to most positive reactions was a game where each of us had to tell a story about an object that is close to us emotionally or just necessary. For example, I gave my notebook, because I can’t imagine my life without writing while a Greek guy gave me his glasses, because without them he can’t see. After a moment my notebook together with the story about it wandered from his hands to different hands until it arrived to a girl from Croatia. After ten minutes the exchange of objects stopped and we sat in a circle to tell the story about the object that we have in our hands. This kind of game led to a storm of laughter, because some of the volunteers were not able to retell the stories correctly so now they were said with mistakes, while other stories were very serious and kind hearted.
After the lunch we talked about what we could have done differently as a team and later we sat in a circle and one after another we told each other about our reasons for being here. One sentence led to a long and deep sharing of personal stories.
The next days were dedicated to different non formal education tasks. Some of them were more like games, but some more difficult and a massive research was necessary. One of the tasks that I recalled the most was the iceberg. We divided into three groups to find information about three biggest problems: global warming, overfishing and marine pollution. I chose marine pollution. We spent the whole day to research, analyse, discuss until we reached all of the categories of marine pollution - pollution of waste waters, noise pollution (for example, motorboats, bridge constructions, buildings on coast), ballast waters, invasive species and, of course, garbage. After we had defined these categories we analysed the reasons why these problems have started, if there are alternative, why people act in so destructive way and how could we change the mental model so people would choose more environmentally friendly alternative.
Still project wasn’t only presentations and games. We went for snorkelling to take data about the fishes at the beach ten metres from our place and also to the Kornati national park. We divided into teams were one person was filming, the second person did the measurements of the fishes and the rest rejoiced. After the snorkelling the groups sat down with computers to research and write down the species that were seen and the size and amount of them. We came to a conclusion that fishes that were in the protected area were much bigger, more rich in species and more friendly, because they were not afraid to get caught.
At the end of the course we had a grand finale - making our own workshop with an environmental theme that we found interesting and the education approach that was used by our leaders. The themes were diverse, for example, shark finning and the cruelty behind it, the usage of plastic in our everyday life, invasive species etc. Brainstorming, detailed planning, research and the presentation of the workshop was definitely stressful, but it gave it a big insight on how to do presentations. It was important to understand that if I want someone to listen and gain something from what I am presenting then I have to find a way to attract attention and involve the people that are listening. Kids are not the only ones who are not interested to listen to presentations with dry, boring information.
This training course, without doubt, gave me a lot. Much more than I was expecting to. When I arrived to Murter I hoped that I would learn something new. In the end of the course I realized that it’s not only knowledge that I have gained, but also insight on how to present my ideas in a compelling way.
Of course now I have to step the next steps and I need to learn more, go to more courses to open myself, then start with myself to change my destructive habits and inform others as much as possible. For example, after I learned that in the UK 10,000 disposable single use coffee cups are thrown out every 2 minutes I finally bought myself a thermo mug and now when I go to the work and step in a coffee shop I ask them to fill coffee in my mug. I understand that this might seem like a small thing to do for a city girl and that it doesn’t change anything worldwide, but I still believe that it’s always important to start with small steps to change your own daily habits until finally reaching something big!
The project “Save Our Seas” is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union".