When I first joined the Marine Hub, I had high expectations. I was excited to learn about the local community's role in co-management and witness firsthand the conservation efforts in the Kuruwitu Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA). The reality exceeded my expectations. I had the privilege to work closely with various community groups, such as the Kuruwitu Women's Group and Bureni Fishermen Community and Marine Conservation CBO (BFCMC-CBO), to conduct surveys and interviews, and develop a comprehensive understanding of their roles, interests, and challenges. The commitment and dedication shown by the community towards marine conservation also surprised and inspired me.
Surpassing my initial expectations, my internship proved to be incredibly valuable. While I did get the opportunity to swim, what truly stood out were the connections I made with the local community, the collaborations with the Oceans Alive team, and the engagement in research and project studies. These activities provided me with a comprehensive understanding of marine ecosystems and conservation, surpassing what I could have gained solely by swimming in the ocean every day.
Impactful experiences and projects
One of the impactful experiences during my internship was the visit to Future Hope Montessori School and Tree Planting Day with Team Sayari children. They made me realize there is a lack of engaging educational materials on marine conservation for children. These experiences inspired me to develop a fun and interactive children's activity book to teach on marine conservation. Initially, I doubted my abilities and hesitated to take on the task. However, with the encouragement and support of my supervisor, I embraced the challenge. I worked with a fellow intern with graphics design experience, and we successfully designed the book. Later, we were able to design two community guidebooks on Climate-Smart Kitchen Gardening and Coral Gardening. This experience taught me the importance of self-belief, perseverance, and the joy of research and design. It also propelled me to pursue my passion for marine conservation education and empowerment.
Another impactful experience was my first Beach Cleanup at Bureni Beach. I was able to meet the members of the BFCMC-CBO who were very welcoming. They taught us the dangers of plastic pollution on the marine environment. This experience led me to volunteer with the group, where I learned about turtles and their efforts to protect this amazing creature. I was also privileged to work with the executive board members of the CBO in planning various events and projects.
Deepening Understanding and Overcoming Challenges
Interacting with the local community deepened my understanding of their culture, values, and ways of life. When working with the CBOs, I witnessed their immense respect for the marine environment and their active participation in the conservation processes. I also learned that Coastal communities' cultures are intertwined with the ocean and they have always had aspects of conservation in them.
One of the challenges I faced during my internship was articulating my thoughts and understanding the perspectives of others. I also had a few instances of conflicts arising from differing viewpoints or expectations between me and some members of the Oceans Alive team. I overcame this challenge by learning strategies for constructive dialogue, active listening, and finding win-win solutions. I also improved my conflict resolution skills, which enabled me to contribute positively to a harmonious and productive team environment.
Engaging with the local community was also a challenge at the beginning of my internship. Initially, some community members were hesitant to participate in surveys and interviews. However, I overcome this obstacle by building trust and working with a respected community member as a way to bridge the gap. This taught me the importance of patience, flexibility, and adaptive approaches to stakeholder
Surprising aspects and reflections
The most surprising aspect of my internship was the open-door policy and collaborative atmosphere at the marine hub. The willingness of team members to engage with and actively involve the local community challenged my previous assumptions and beliefs. Also, the local community's passion for preserving the ocean and their active participation in marine conservation efforts surprised me. I learned the power of effective communication, active listening, and finding win-win solutions in creating a harmonious and productive environment. The whole experience broadened my perspective.
Advice to Future Interns and Meaningful Connections
If I had the opportunity to do my internship again, I would approach it with even more confidence and assertiveness from the beginning. Instead of hesitating, I would embrace the challenges and believe in my abilities. I would also actively seek more collaborations and networking opportunities within the marine hub to broaden my understanding and build stronger connections.
To future interns at the marine hub, I would advise them to believe in themselves and embrace every challenge and opportunity that comes their way. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take on tasks that may seem challenging. Actively engage with the community and seek collaboration and teamwork. Finally, maintain an open mind and be adaptable, as each day will bring new insights and learning experiences.
The most meaningful connection I formed during my internship was with my fellow interns, the Oceans Alive team, and the CBOs. They became my mentors, friends, and a constant source of support throughout my journey. Their encouragement, guidance, and belief in my abilities were instrumental in overcoming challenges and achieving my project objectives. The sense of camaraderie and shared passion for marine conservation inspired me and deepened my commitment to this cause.
Conclusion and Future Commitments
In conclusion, my internship experience at Oceans Alive Kenya has solidified my mission to create job opportunities for young people in Kenya by developing innovative, sustainable, and climate-smart technology and art-based solutions that generate new job opportunities and drive positive social and economic change. The marine hub's work aligns with my career aspirations and personal goals of advocating for sustainable economic development, particularly in the area of natural resource management and conservation. I am grateful for the experience and plan to continue advocating for marine conservation, educating young people, and empowering them to create alternative sources of income that reduce stress on marine ecosystems.
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