Maldives Rowing Volunteer
 
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On Friday I went out with my camera for a few pictures of Male on its busiest day of the week, Fridays are (as in most Muslim countries) a day off here, the weekend is Friday and Saturday - until a few years ago it was Thursday and Friday, however to allow more trade with countries with a Saturday/Sunday weekend it was changed, can you imagine us changing a day of the weekend?? The confusion!! I am still confused as although I do not work normally on a Friday, I work all day Saturday and so spend all the time being confused as to what day of the week it is and when the weekend is!!! Back to my point.... Male is really alive on a Friday so I have at last taken a few photos around the city see here. 
In other news - this coming Friday I am running in the Dhiraagu Broadband Road Race around the circumventing the entire city of Male (not actually that far) but I am slightly worried that at 4.30pm it will still be scorchingly hot and I will melt like a cornetto. I have been running a bit on the running track as the roads are a bit too scary , with very narrow pavements and mopeds coming at you from all angles.  I am hoping to survive but will let you know (unless I don't actually survive and if I am able to post from beyond the grave then I think I will have more important things to say than about how I did in a race!).  
Just about to go for a practice with my running friend Linda, a lovely and slightly crazy Irish teacher on Hulhumale.

Byeeeee

PS please send your best wishes to Tash who has just had cartilage filed off the back of her knee - ouwch.
 
 
Thanks Tash!!! Rachel
 
 
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I promised more regular posts, so here you are two in two days, rainy weather means that inside is the best place to be at the moment!  I have now extended my teaching repertoire to include juvenile delinquents on top of the various other lessons I am doing.  My first teaching day at Feydhoofinolu was this morning and being completely unprepared for what to expect, not unprepared in an unprofessional way I want to reassure you, I decided that it would be best not to have any expectations, I am really happy with how everything went.  I did promise photos however I completely forgot to take my camera and as the rain clouds came across during the lesson it was probably a good thing – I will take some on a beautiful sunny day I promise!  The boys / men who are at the Correctional Centre against their wishes, as opposed to the men who are working  there who I hope are there by their own free will, have come from all over the Maldives but mainly from Male.  In the Maldives Judicial system anyone under 18 cannot be given a custodial sentence but they can be sent to the behavioural correctional centre where they are given lessons in various life skills, what else happens there I am not sure, so I would be reluctant to comment!  The aim is to give them lessons in basic literacy, English, maths and then other skills including first aid, sports, music and art so that on leaving they have a chance to try and get a job or more training. 

A big problem in the Maldives is youth unemployment and the resulting anti social behaviour and crime mainly among the men.  Children may leave school at 16 however they are not able to be employed until they are 18 leaving many teenagers at a loose end for two years and then potentially much longer.  The opportunities for employment, particularly in the islands, are not fantastic, outside of tourism there is little growth industries – I have no idea what a government would do to try an overcome these issues and I very glad I am not in their shoes.

Back to lessons this morning, the fifteen boys were all impeccably behaved, an unusual occurrence I was later told, so I dare not hope for this to become a regular event.  The standard of swimming was generally good but mainly in that teenage boy way of swimming with head moving side to side at a high speed – fingers crossed we can try to change that.  Being called Mam all the time was an improvement on the Miss, Miss, Miss I get in other lessons and standing on the edge of the track rather than in the water was a bonus too!!  I could tell the boys had been given regulation haircuts which made me laugh, there was not a Maldivian “Soul Glo” lid amongst them nor any terrible goatees (a particular favourite of twenty something men here and more than slightly nauseating in most cases), only very short hair all round and a buzz cut for the newest arrival.

All in all, a good start but I am cautiously positive, I will wait to see what Sunday (and the next lesson) brings.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 
 
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Stormy rainbow
I have been very quiet on the blog front recently and although I have not had easy internet access I think the main reason has been a touch of laziness and for that I apologise!  I have been put to shame by my father’s relentless blogging of my mother’s and his bike journey across Europe.  But back to me!  Since the last blog a huge amount as changed and I wish I had been able to write about it all sooner.  I have now moved to the big city and am living a slightly surreal existence, even by recent standards of my life.  I am living on the top floor of the mess at the main Police centre in Male, in great accommodation, the biggest excitement being that I have a washing machine which has revolutionised my life and access to a fridge; white goods excite me possibly too much! 


Swimming and stuff
I am continuing to teach on Hulhumale (the island I was living on) but have moved all the classes to three days a week as getting to and from Hulhumale takes a while and as class sizes have settled down it makes sense to minimise my trips over there.  There are currently 45 students still learning to swim and some many of the children are improving really quickly.  With all the upheaval and the level of uncertainty that was surrounding my stay it is the enthusiasm of the children and their parents that keep me believing that I am doing a good (ish) thing.  There has also been a steady stream of new children joining the programme keeping me busy and on my toes.  Although in Male there are many opportunities for children to take part in sports including swimming on Hulhumale even if parents are willing to pay there is no facility for children to learn to swim, I am really hoping that over time we can provide a long term solution for the future.  People are starting to take advantage of my regular presence on the beach and I am currently teaching a boy with speech difficulties, in fact he is a Pompey boy, born in Portsmouth my home (ish) town.  His mother and myself work together to teach him to swim and in the process hopefully improving his English and speech in general.  Hisan, the Pompey boy, is now in a class with another young boy, Monish, who was born in Bangor, to Indian parents, so the lessons are run in a combination of Dhivehi, Hindi and English, the only problem being that I can only understand one of the languages!!

Mabrook
I am also trying, not very successfully, to help a teenage boy to swim.  Mabrook has quite severe Autism, combined with Epilepsy, ADHD and other learning difficulties, which have unfortunately made him reluctant to leave his house and unable to speak.  Mabrook’s family had felt unable to take him to the beach due to safety concerns over his epilepsy as well as concerns over how other people view his behaviour.  When I saw him was the first time he had been in the sea for ten years, he had been living in Bangalore for 8 of those years, and he loved it.  No actual teaching took place as Mabrook was far too excited and thankfully he had no fear of the water.  Luckily Mabrook was also happy to leave the beach which was one of our big concerns, at 19 and well over 6 foot tall if he does not want to do something there is no way to make him!  On following sessions there have been a few difficulties, including Mabrook becoming less than enamoured with his clothes, as nudity is actually illegal it puts his family in a really difficult position when there are other people around who may not be as tolerant as people in the UK would be in the same situation.  Speaking with his family really highlights some of the difficulties living in island nation can present, although living very close to capital Mabrook is unable to access many health services as he is unable to travel on the ferry meaning his family must pay for a private boat to take him there, when a speech therapist is so physically close yet still unreachable it must be incredibly frustrating.  I must also thank Nashath, Mabrook’s sister, for a lovely dinner the other night – my first experience of Sri Lankan food, verdict; all good!


Naughty Boys!
As part of my new work with the Police, I will be teaching on the island of Feydoofinolu, a youth detention centre about 20 minute speed boat ride from Male.  I went for my first visit yesterday, and first impressions were fantastic – I would love to spend some time there!!! I am sure the conditions are not as great as they seem, but a tropical island with white beaches, great reefs, fish ponds and chickens running around the beautifully manicured gardens surely puts some of the youth offender institutes in the UK in a different light!  I will be able to fill in the other side of the island soon as I am teaching my first lessons there tomorrow and photos will follow!

A quick update on the rowing front – we are currently still negotiating progress on the building of the boat house on Hulhumale, a process that will take time but is definitely worth getting done as well as possible, looking after the boats that were bought with all the kind donations is so important, or the donations are worthless!

Everyone here at the Maldives Police Service has been supremely helpful and lovely  and I really hope that this will be a more permanent and more effective place for me to be,  giving me access to people who can really help push the project on.  I am eating like a queen at the Commissioned Officers’ Mess, thankfully the 25 minute walk to the Mess and all the walking to and from the ferries is keeping me a bit trim although I am getting through flip flops like wildfire!  So all in all - everything is good here in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Sorry for the long blog – I solemnly promise to post more regularly and keep them short!!

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Rachel 

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My Saturday girls and me having a BBQ with an odd mix of food that only 13 year old girls could provide!
 
 
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Yes I' m back on the Thames tow path selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and getting in some very last minute fundraising. So please come along and support us at:

Reading Amateur Regatta, Reading

10am - Regatta end

Saturday 11th June

£1 a scrummy frosted doughnut! £10 for the last of the very popular 'Maldives Rowing' t-shirts!


 
 
So shortly after I posted my last blog (although I had written it previously) and before Tash beat me to it and posted the news about the boats, a lot of things changed here.  For those of you who I bored before I left, you may recollect that originally I was going to an island called Gahdhoo in the south of the country.  The lovely Elise Cope stayed in Gahdhoo last November for three weeks to establish a community rowing club and it was planned that I would continue the coaching to set up a sustainable club on the island.  However due to difficulties in getting the funding required to support me there I was coming to Hulhumale to lay the groundwork for the arrival of rowing boats on an island close to Male (the capital)  before heading to Gahdhoo.  Since I have arrived in the Maldives, the funding for Gahdhoo to host a coach for any period of time has not been able to be secured so we decided to focus our energies and efforts on Hulhumale which has a bigger and rapidly growing population therefore has the support and enthusiasm for rowing to be able to commit to a fully functioning community rowing club.  

Now due to the level of interest in rowing in the Male area (which encompasses Hulhumale) I will now be working in a larger area across the capital area alongside the crime prevention unit of the police, using both rowing and swimming to try to reach some of the area’s disaffected young people, as well as those who have a keen interest in sports.  Working in a larger area will mean that the programme for both swimming and rowing will have the opportunity to develop local competitions, the backbone of any sports programme.  So in short I will be moving to Male to live but continue to teach swimming on Hulhumale and work on getting the current patch of bare earth up to scratch as a boathouse for the forthcoming brand new double scull boats which are confirmed to be ON THEIR WAY in the middle of this month.  I just need to highlight again the amazing news that the boats should be here in July, which is doubly exciting as it means that Tash will soon be on her way out here and it will be fantastic to see her.

So aside from mentally preparing myself to move to Male which will be significantly different from quiet Hulhumale, although actually now they have started building on the lot next to my flat it is very noisy here, lots of other things have been happening here.  On a slightly negative note it has been decided that one instructor for the swimming classes is not safe, although the classes are very small, trying to find someone who is a qualified lifeguard to sit on the beach for three hours every day with no pay is not an easy task but we are getting there.  With some alterations to the timings of the programme and a bit of imagination we are getting to a solution! On the positive side of things swimming ability across the board is improving hugely and I have been giving extra classes to those who are suffering from school holiday boredom, children wanting to spend more time being taught is a fantastic reassurance that I am doing something right in lessons and I have to thank The Little Gym Harrogate for some of the more unusual games and songs we have!!

Today, being a Friday (day off for everyone) we had a huge beach cleanup filling 20 sacks of rubbish from the area around which we use.  In stark contrast to the amount of rubbish that I see everywhere on the beach, roads and anywhere, the families that turned up today we so keen to get stuck into the dirty nappies littering around.  It is a combination of a completely different attitude to littering to the UK (although not everyone on the UK) and the lack of government funded street/beach cleaning that gives Hulhumale it’s unfortunate reputation amongst visitors as being so dirty.  Although I am sure that cleaning the beach every now and then will not make a massive difference I hope that possibly a few people might change their attitude to dropping litter if they have picked up so much of it.

Sorry I have just read this blog back and it is a little boring I know but I feel I should have a bit of an update as to what I am doing here rather than just wistful blogs about what I want to eat, although I am fairly confident I could do another of those right now!

PS if anyone has any recommendations or experience in educating people about litter and the impact on the oceans in a non militant way I would love to hear from you. Thank you

Byeeee

Rachel

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Check this out! 

Supposedly, (plans change regularly with this project so no definitely's here!) this is going to be the HUGELYMONGOUS ship that will be taking our 7 brand new doubles out to the Maldives! Well, Colmbo (Sri Lanka) first where they then get transferred onto a much tinier boat and go to Male. Hopefully,  I will have arrived earlier and together with Rachel we will have worked out how they will get down to Addu Atoll in the south. 

Donaratico are saying the boats are to be shipped imminently (9th of June - but shh it might get jinxed and delayed) which is great news. So I'm looking at flights around the 20th and before you ask, those of you that are pro active and organised, no of course i haven't booked anything and nor am i packed or in any shape ready to go - last minute madness is a much more preferable way to be! Also I keep thinking it's ages away or may be further delayed - head in the sand syndrome 'r' us!

So what have I been doing with myself since cooking breakfasts for the masses. Trying to slow down (on orders) - don't think I've succeeded - as I'm now coaching swimming three evenings a week up at Gillets Pool in Henley (thought I should get some practice in) and selling t-shirts to unsuspecting and firmly trapped people on river banks around the Thames Valley. I had a really good day on Saturday last week coaching the Weybridge Ladies 8 - keep an eye out for them racing this summer. This was followed by a totally unexpected invite back to Martina's for brunch - and what a brunch - scrambled eggs, ham, salmon, fresh bread, salad, croissants, coffee, juice and to top it off strawberries and bubbly Reisling!!! Think I've listed it all and never fear had a 'bit' of everything...... 

I am back at Weybridge on Sunday for the regatta, presenting medals etc and of course selling doughnuts so please come along and support the regatta and Maldives Rowing!

A big thank you to Hampton School who donated 6 ergos for the Maldives. These were delivered today and are an awesome asset - thank you soo much!

Cheers Tash

 
 
I have been trying to write a blog for a few days now, and no I am not suffering from writer’s block; firstly I wouldn’t really call this writing more babbling and secondly it has been problems with the website that have prevented me from posting a blog.  To elaborate on the title, as anyone who has lived away from their home for a prolonged period of time knows that as many new friends you make they do not replace your friends and family back home, and after time the inevitable homesickness can set in.  However I can safely say that the advances in communications make these feelings so much easier to cope with.  When I first went away to school as a scrawny nine year old and letters being the only way to communicate, phone calls were allowed but could only be received, you always had 20 odd girls listening to your end of the conversation and my parents were not the best at timing their calls before we went to bed (it all seems a bit cruel in hindsight). In comparison to now when although I am now far, far further away, the ability to stay in touch with my family and friends is unbelievably easy – with my parents currently on one of their crazy trans Europe bike rides it is me in the Maldives who is uploading their photos to their blog slightly belatedly I must admit, and I am able to see the rest of my family and friends on skype anytime we can actually organise it.  All the ways we can communicate make being away much, much easier, although it does mean that sometimes you feel you are missing out on things it makes the distance between you so much shorter, I love it!!!

News from the Maldives is that the rainy season combined with school exams and now holidays plays havoc with attendance at swimming lessons and one day I could be sat on the beach in the rain waiting for only one, or sometimes no, students to turn up and other days I have a full class in the blazing sunshine.  This varying attendance can be really frustrating but I have made it policy that lessons always go ahead unless there is thunder and lightning.  For the reputation of the project either swimming or rowing it is really important that I am reliable and dedicated to the children, if I do not show up without warning then this is hugely detrimental to my credibility and therefore the whole project’s image.  I know this is a very grandiose opinion of myself but a child does turn up and I am not there word spreads very, very quickly here – so what I am trying to say is that recently I have spent quite a large proportion of my time sat in the rain on the beach!! On the positive side the rain is not cold and rarely is longer than a brief shower and always better than British rain!

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My lovely parents and me at the airport for my departure, they are cycling their way from the UK to Budapest at the moment (or Bucharest I cannot remember which!)