28 April 2016
Recently, I had the chance to talk with Samantha Cravens, Senior Programmes Officer at Zoox, over a cup of coffee. She explained the Zoox program in Philippines to me, and we chatted about some of her experiences.
What Zoox Is
Zoox, based in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, provides both training and practical experience to volunteers wanting to work in marine conservation. Zoox was set up in 2010, and they trained their first group of volunteers in 2011. There are 2 placements each year of 4 to 8 volunteers. It attracts people from a wide range of nationalities and professional backgrounds.
As Sam explained, the Zoox Experience Programme is different from nearly all other volunteer programs because it was designed to provide professional value in marine conservation management. It helps fill the gap between the job requirement of “3-5 years of experience” and the CV of a new graduate. It also helps prepare people who want to change their current careers and enter into marine conservation management. Volunteers need to be SCUBA diver certified and have at least 50 dives.
The primary objectives of Zoox are to:
1) Provide a volunteer experience of significant professional value in marine conservation management.
2) Contribute to real conservation efforts with impact.
3) Develop the next generation of marine conservationists.
“How It Really Works”
There are 7 modules designed to guide the volunteers through “how it really works” in the field of marine conservation. It covers conservation organizations, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, and government conservation management efforts. The modules are:
- Marine Conservation and Diving – an overview of today’s marine conservation topics, approaches and challenges;
- Blue Carbon – the critical role of oceans and coastal ecosystems in maintaining our climate through carbon storage;
- Shark Conservation – how international policy is translated into national or local policy;
- Global Marine Conservation – or the global food web of conservation funding;
- Marine Monitoring – establishing protocols for research and applied conservation impact;
- Green Fins – train as a Green Fins assessor, promoting reef resilience by establishing sustainable tourism practices;
- Professional Development – exploring the skills required for a marine conservation career.
Following the modules, volunteers spend 6 weeks as Green Fins project coordinators taking on responsibility for implementing this UNEP initiative at the grass roots level. During this time, there are also professional development sessions such as identifying skills valued by employers, career planning, CVs, on-line profiles, etc. The volunteers receive coaching and feedback from Sam and her colleagues on their capabilities and skills observed during the 8 weeks. They also receive a certificate and reference for their search for marine conservation jobs.
The goal for next year is to increase the number of volunteers in the program to give greater to support to the Green Fins initiative in the Philippines. (More about Green Fins in the next newsletter.)
A Few Questions for Sam
Kim: Why to you do what you do?
Sam: It might sound naive, but I want to make a difference in preserving the marine environment.
Kim: What are you the most proud of?
Sam: The role I had in the recruitment and professional development of other staff members. And also the Shark Conservation module that I developed it.
Kim: What is the one thing that would make your life easier?
Sam: Being able to trust the internet connectivity or electricity on a daily basis, that would be nice!
Kim: What keeps you motivated?
Sam: “Growing” a volunteer – watching their skills develop in the field from week 3 to week 8.
Kim: What surprises you about your day-to-day life here?
Sam: Although I live in the middle of the city, it is the mooing of the cow next door that wakes me up every morning. I still have not gotten used to it.
For More Information about Zoox and Sam:
Also see the Green Fins website.