How We Make A Difference - With the Pay it Forward Program
The Pay it Forward program is so simple yet it can seem complex. So let's break down how WE (this means you supporters too) make a difference, and specifically focus a little less on the scuba courses but rather the peripheral affects and career development potential our participants can benefit from.
Dominica is a small island with somewhere around 50,000 inhabitants after Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island is also known as the Nature Isle due to its 'untouched' rainforests, and reefs, stunning landscapes and natural resources yet few people on this island swim and fewer have ever seen beneath the waves.
It's not that locals don't want to swim, snorkel or scuba dive, but for a long time Scuba Diving has been a 'tourist activity' not promoted towards locals and not priced for locals but that doesn't keep young Dominicans from dreaming of one day breathing underwater, see fishes up close, and explore the unknown.
Many of our candidates and participants have always wanted to learn to dive, but for a variety of reasons always believed it to be out of the realm of possibilities. Most of the reasons revolved around finances and the expenses involved in scuba certification and recreational scuba diving as a hobby or even as a job. Each course can have many fees from the learning materials (text books) to tank fills, rental equipment, boat fees, certification processing and the staff to teach, and it can quickly become expensive especially when these items are priced for an American / European market (think $60-$80 USD for a text book) it can seem like an impossible dream to anyone from a developing country.
Through our program there is no 'shame' for not being able to afford the courses, there is just hard work and determination to earn them through the sheer power of giving back and paying it forward.
We turn dreams into reality by creating opportunities where money isn't a factor for our participants, where everyone who is eligible is treated the same no matter where they come from, what their family does for work, or the circumstances they are growing up in. These participants are mentored by a variety of people / professionals who lend their experience, advice, skills and support during the participant's projects and scuba courses.
These participants are not just learning to scuba dive, but how learning new skills, overcoming fears or obstacles, and applying yourself can completely change your life. There is a level of personal growth and development that happens through this program that is undeniable, and often noted by the parents & teachers of our students.
Some of our divers find a love for marine biology & are interested in learning more about the fishes and ecosystems and the science behind it all, some learn that they can get jobs doing underwater construction, public safety diving (working for coast guard or police) or another non recreational scuba job that excites them. Some even find a passion for protecting our ocean and decide to focus on conservation issues (above or below the water).
Of course, for our super scuba savvy participants, this program can really take them to the next level. At the age of 17 divers can apply for our 'Divemaster Development Curriculum" which lays out the necessary courses, dives and experience programs they will need to complete before they turn 18 to be eligible for the Divemaster Course as of their 18th birthday! The Divemaster Course is the first professional training level of scuba diving and upon completion of this course our graduates can not only get a job in Dominica but anywhere in the world there is a PADI dive operation (which is pretty much everywhere). These career development candidates also act as mentors for our younger participants and divers, paying it forward on every level so that all our participants feel like they are teaching and learning, growing and evolving, and most importantly making a positive impact on the lives of others.
Your support at any tier directly makes a difference in the lives of our participants, giving them access to these opportunities that would't exist without that support.