Maldives Rowing Volunteer
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!!

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!!



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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