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The Journey to ABL

A blog by Adventure-Based Learning graduate, Faaizah Southgate.



It is the 30th of January 2023, and I am welcomed into a room filled with rows of chairs, eager faces, and a sense of shyness and excitement. The day starts with 20 participants seated, being welcomed to the I AM WATER Foundation. And just like every group introduction session, the infamous prompt was posed “Tell us something about yourself, that we don’t know”. The next question was posed, “If you were an animal, what would you be?” Instinctively I answered “A lion”. My star sign is Leo, a sign I have felt a deep alignment with. Until today, the fire of this sign still burns within. 

This first month was filled with lots of class time, learning essential knowledge to successfully join the coaching community at the Foundation. Till the end of February, we were immersed in a range of topics to ensure that we were well prepared to partake in the work of I AM WATER. This was a deeper look into the Code of Conduct, Standard Operating Procedures followed by the organisation, a foundational Communications course offered by The Tourism and Business Institute of Southern Africa (TTBISA), a mock Ocean Guardians Workshop, First Aid training, Wealthy Workforce training and then generally learning about the roles we as coaches would come to play and the information we would need to fulfil this role. 

All of the above was done and dusted and then came the first Ocean Guardians Workshop, on which I was slotted. The workshop was held with Spineview Primary School, over the 1st and 2nd of March. It was a true test of my readiness. It went well, regardless of the howling wind that threw a spanner in the works. The support of my colleagues meant a great deal in harnessing my potential. 

Then, an unexpected email found its way into my inbox, it was from the Foundation, inviting me to be part of their year-long Adventure-Based Learning (ABL) course. And if you know me, I have never turned down an opportunity to educate myself, especially if it is free. This came at the right time, many doors along my path were being shut, and here this one opened. I was not entirely sure what I was signing up for at this point, but the excitement of gaining education whilst being exposed to the work environment was just what I needed as a premise for my journey in conservation. 

Near the end of March, the ABL course commenced. Over five skills programs, namely the Assistant Facilitator, Facilitator, Communication in Training, Numeracy, and Team Leader, a group of ten students, including myself were completing training until September. This training was presented by Lincoln Meyer, the Education and Training Manager at Contour Enviro Group, and formulated by Leone Whately a consultant for The Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) in collaboration with I AM WATER. At the end of each program, a Portfolio was due, putting into practice our newly learnt knowledge and information.  

The training blocks, held throughout the year are not only an opportunity to be upskilled in ABL but are instrumental in gaining knowledge and experience that can be applied to our work in ocean conservation. The blocks have seen great camaraderie form between the participants, lifelong bonds I will hold onto. Like everything we do with the hopes of improvement, a review was due. This was a platform for development, to see this pilot programme soar and become a highly recommended and sought-after offering by I AM WATER Ocean Impact. 

Training all complete, we ten participants were placed into a mentorship program. The Lead Mentorship Programme saw the current facilitators of the coaching community guide and evaluate our performance, ensuring we fully apply our newly learned skills. 

We reached the end, and as is the case with most achievements, a celebration was due. I AM WATER pulled out all the stops by hosting a 2023 ABL Graduation at the office, which also served as our training venue throughout the training period. The graduation ceremony was a full-circle moment for us all, celebrated by friends, family, staff, and esteemed guests. Then, as the saying goes “hard work pays off”, it indeed did. I was awarded the 2023 ABL Team Lead of the Year. Beyond ecstatic, and all smiles, I delivered a closing speech at the ceremony, awarding a vote of thanks to everyone who had been a key role player in the ABL Journey. 

Walking away with this qualification, I speak on behalf of myself and my fellow graduates, we enter into the education and conservation field a step ahead, empowered to make a positive change in our lives and those we cross paths with. My gratitude for this opportunity is immeasurable. 


Thank you I AM WATER!


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