You change people’s lives. Be bold not British.

djibuti 2011-husain (16)Every February divers from all over the world gather at The Royal Geographical Society in London for the London Diving Chamber lectures in aid of The Scuba Trust.

This year we were truly inspired by Michael Pitts and Paul Rose who captivated us with their passion for diving and their stories of their underwater adventures.

Michael Pitts is one of the worlds leading underwater cameramen. He explained how he fell in love with diving, simply that,

‘from the moment I put my head under water I didn’t want to do anything else’

I could see people in the room nodding in agreement. He spoke about his frighteningly close encounters with crocodiles in the Amazon, being in waters teeming with Candiru; toothpick fish or vampire fish rumoured to crawl up your urine tract – and the need for the tightest speedos and full wetsuit for safety!

He spoke of the joy and privilege of filming new species in the wild and enthralled us with some amazing footage including the delightful orphaned giant otter pup ‘Sancho’ and less delightful Orcas hunting elephant seal pups.

He showed the Bulmers cider born for ice advert. 30 seconds of wildlife filming with a difference that cost more than the filming of the BBC Blue Planet.

I can’t help but think that there is something wrong; while species in our oceans are dying more money is spent on selling cider than educating people about the importance of protecting the oceans; the ecosystem on which all life depends.

Paul Rose has been a diver for over 40 years and is an expert in Polar Regions and environmental issues.

Paul introduced himself as ‘defined by diving’ and judging by the pictures of all the dive equipment in his house that he had collected over the years he indeed was. Paul enthralled us with stories of his underwater adventures and near misses, but what I really loved was some of the environmental projects that he is involved in.

The Ocean Debris project involves teams of divers who collect debris from underwater. School groups then transform this underwater “treasure” into beautiful sculptures and objets d’art. These works of art are then displayed and auctioned to raise funds for charity.

The dive lectures are in aid of The Scuba Trust, a charity that helps people with disabilities go diving. Every year I wonder if people in Scuba Trust t-shirts shaking buckets is the most effective way to raise money for the awesome work they do from a captive audience of divers. There is never a real ‘ask’ that shows the audience how they can help people with disabilities do something that most of the audience take for granted; to experience the magic of floating in space with some of the beautiful plants and animals that live under the water.

This year, for the first time we heard from someone whose life had been transformed because of the work of The Scuba Trust.

Cate Stephens, was involved in a car crash that left her in a wheelchair. After the crash Cate threw away her dive cards and logbooks, thinking she would never be able to dive again.

When Cate did summon the bravery to get in touch with The Scuba Trust they helped her overcome her fears about not physically being able to dive again. She was dreading the reality of getting her paralysed leg into a wetsuit. But The Scuba Trust had seen it all before. Nothing phased them.

Cate now dives with the support of 3-4 people around her who help her keep her buoyancy, hold her tank l and keep her balanced in the water. So, as she simply put it ‘ I can just look at the fish’. The Scuba Trust made it possible for Cate to dive again. That is an incredible gift. Especially for us lot in the audience who were all emotional after hearing about others underwater stories and imagining our own joyous experiences of being underwater.

Then all we were asked to do was to put spare change in buckets.

Scuba Trust; I hope that you did raise significant money on the night. You do amazing work, but I can’t help thinking that you could have been bolder about asking for support last Friday.

You change people’s lives. Be bold not British. Its not about asking for money its about giving us the opportunity to make a difference.

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