After spending 3 months on Caqalai, I honestly don’t know where to begin aside from saying the whole experience was unbelievable. Being able to wake up every morning to a beautiful sunrise on the beach and knowing that each day would mean another chance for me to make an impact on this world brought a sense of fulfillment I had never experienced before in my life. Even the training and tests were made incredible from the sheer patience and support from the knowledgeable staff, which even as a new diver made me feel confident and safe even when I was out of my comfort zone.
I got to see first hand how caring they were when my mother, who was a poor swimmer and very nervous to dive, was met with nothing but kindness. They were beyond flexible with their teaching methods, and would go so far as to taking their own free time to help her learn and feel comfortable even being in the water. All that effort truly helped make my Mom the confident AOW diver that she is today, and just goes to show how accommodating and willing to help the staff was no matter what the problem.
My favourite memory is hard to choose from. Even post-program I find myself scrolling through the hundreds of videos and photos I took while volunteering, and just reminiscing in the sheer joy I felt while living out those moments. Every dive made me feel like I had a purpose. We got to meet the community first hand and see the differences we made in their lives by collecting this research. It was beyond gratifying seeing how thankful and appreciative the community of Moturiki was to have us, and they never failed to welcome us into their homes. I truly felt that I was apart of something much bigger, and most importantly, apart of their family.
Some useful tips would be to really come with an open mind. The conditions are harsh, and the activities are physically demanding. But if you stay open to being put way out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to growth and failure, you can meet some of the best people that you will ever know in your life, and have experiences you would have never imagined possible.
Who knows, you just might find yourself also dancing with your friends in the moonlight, while the bioluminescent plankton at your feet lights up the water like stars.