Recently in Papua New Guinea Category

Update on Seacology Prize Winners

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Each year, Seacology honors an indigenous island conservationist who has dedicated his or her life to safeguarding their island home. For many of our recipients, the journey to our California ceremony honoring their work is the experience of a lifetime. Returning to their native country with $10,000 in prize money, our Seacology Prize recipients continue to achieve major progress in conservation. Below are updates on recent Seacology Prize recipients:

An Island Hero

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A decade ago, when Filip Damen taught himself to read and write to defend his homeland forest in the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea, he never dreamed it was the beginning of a journey that would take him across the ocean to San Francisco, California. Last Thursday, October 8, Mr. Damen's undaunted environmentalism was honored with a reception and $10,000 award at the 17th annual Seacology Prize Ceremony at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco.

The Seacology Prize highlights the heroic efforts of people who seldom receive any publicity - indigenous leaders who risk their own lives and well-being to protect their island's ecosystems and culture. Since the inception of the Prize in 1992, Seacology has given the award to 18 native islanders in recognition of their innovative and courageous work.

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Left, prize winner Filip Damen with Seacology Co-Founders Ken Murdock and Paul Cox.

Island Community Buildings

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Naikorokoro Fiji Center.JPGAs Karen wrote in her last entry, we have a very small staff here at Seacology - only six of us. The result is a pretty efficient group of individuals who all take care of more tasks than what our official titles would reveal. While I spend a little over half my work day processing all things financial, I spend almost about as much time reviewing projects in process and communicating with field representatives and project leaders about the current state of their programs.

Sarinbuana Community Center.JPGOne thing I have found fascinating over the years is the frequent request from project partners from widely different cultural regions to have Seacology provide a public meeting space in exchange for their decision to conserve their environment. The design of these buildings is planned at the site by community members in conjunction with hired contractors and either a Seacology field representative or a project leader. This planning process involves a high degree of cultural knowledge of building techniques that are appropriate for the extreme weather in the particular area as well as what makes sense in terms of community size and purpose. (Above right: Niakokokoro, Fiji Center; Left: Sarinbuana, Indonesia Center)

Cash for Kangaroos

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When I tell people I'm a fundraiser by profession, I get a lot of interesting looks and comments. Mostly people's eyes glaze over thinking I'm going to either ask them for money on the spot or give them a speech about my organization. Then they remark on how they would personally hate my job, saying it's a career they could never handle.

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I understand. Really, I do. It's a very personal situation, asking someone for money. And truth be told, it's not easy because you have to deal with rejection. But let me explain a little of my personal motivation for asking others to dig deep. 

In my youth, which was only partially wasted, I worked with exotic animals in the entertainment industry. I became absorbed with their protection from a personal, professional and philosophical standpoint and passionately learned as much as I could about a wide swath of the animal kingdom. I've been involved in species and habitat protection since the 1970's and have an unapologetic soft spot for any creature with fur, fins or feathers.

One of Ellen's recent blog entries, containing a photo of a Balinese dancer that hangs in our office, inspired me to photograph more of our incredible office artwork to share. I decided to start with the masks (my favorites), which have hung in a spot advantageous for me to view ever since I started working for Seacology - both at our old office and at the new.

OfficeArt04.jpgThis mask is a traditional Kolam (folk theatre) mask from Sri Lanka. Seacology's work in Sri Lanka has focused on conserving and protecting mangrove forests. We have helped fund the construction of a mangrove resource center, including a store selling local handicrafts to help provide a livelihood for young women, and have helped to plant thousands of mangrove seedlings around Kiralakele, in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka.