Maldives-based international NGO, Olive Ridley Project (ORP), commemorated a milestone on June 22 by hosting its very first marine conservation event ‘Vaavoshi Turtle Festival’ in Hithaadhoo, Baa Atoll.
The first festival of its kind to be hosted in Baa Atoll, the Vaavoshi Turtle Festival brings together various regional islands, resorts and other organisations in order to raise awareness within the local community about an array of environmental issues, especially concerns related to sea turtle conservation.
As such, the festival name ‘Vaavoshi’ is appropriate to the event’s theme as well as the organiser’s name as it loosely translates in local dhivehi to ‘rope-entangled’, which is a common perilous situation faced by marine life due to ghost net fishing. In fact, the Olive Ridley Project named itself after the phenomena with the common occurrence of Olive Ridley sea turtles being found caught up in such ghost-nets.
Organised by Olive Ridley Project, the event was held in the Hithaadhoo School premises; making use of its courtyard, classrooms, halls and next-door play area for the day's presentations, stalls, lunch meal areas, games and activities.
ORP said that over 200 students from eight schools from all over Baa Atoll including Goidhoo, visited their rescue centre earlier during the day before attending the festival that went on from 1000 - 1700 hours.
Various NGOs, marine biologists and conservationists from across Maldives and representatives from 12 resorts in Baa Atoll and some resorts from Kaafu Atoll came together to collaborate with Olive Ridley Project to make up the event's festivities.
With environmentalist ideals at the forefront, the event offered a platform for different NGOs, experts and volunteers who are currently working in the environmental field to impart their invaluable insight to attendees.
As such, throughout the course of the day, the school's main assembly hall was used for marine conservation presentations from each NGO. Olive Ridley Project's Veterinary Surgeon Dr Claire Lomas gave the first presentation of the day, giving an introduction into ORP and its turtle conservation efforts as well as welcoming attendees to the event.
Additionally, the entire courtyard of the school was used for the stalls where event-goers could take part in fun games, quizzes and activities, and win gifts and prises, or learn new information.
Each stall addressed a selection of environmental issues essential to the cause.
While some highlighted the importance of waste management and recycling, others addressed the significance of protecting marine species such as turtles and manta rays.
The event included stalls presented by Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Maldives, Soneva, Parley Maldives, Maldives Underwater Initiative, Zero Waste Maldives, Manta Trust, Ocean Dimensions, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amongst others.
The event further amassed drawings, paintings, photographs and even sculptors made out of recycled materials from different schools in a competition where the best three overall from each school were selected and winners received prizes.
Furthermore, a local Boduberu act, Maldivian Idol star Hamoodh, a circus performance from Area 51 and local band Equative Vibe served as the entertainment for the festivities.
In an exclusive interview with The Edition, Olive Ridley Project's Community Outreach Officer Imaha (Kaia) Mohamed revealed that the shorthanded team of three people that organised the festival received a lot of help from many resorts such as Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu.
She further stated that despite a few setbacks, the day's festival went smoothly and that the team was very proud of themselves for accomplishing this milestone for the organisation.