People November 22, 2019 | 12:44 pm

Happy Dolphins lists achievements for north coast youngsters

By Patricia Hiraldo

Cabarete.- Thanks to a joint action with the Nova Scotia Lifesaving Society of Canada and local foundations, the Happy Dolphins Project of Cabarete successfully launched for the first time its Swim Instructor and Lifesaving Certification Programs.

During two weeks, over 32 youths from Cabarete and Sosua worked tirelessly in the water and under the Caribbean sun; the action took place in the pools at Viva Wyndham Tangerine and the Inspire DR Foundation. The mission: to learn swimming and lifesaving techniques from veteran instructors, who traveled from Canada, in a generous gesture, to teach locals and turn statistics around; amazingly, 8 of 10 Dominicans don’t know how to swim.

Tough practices, fitness tests, stroke exercises and rescue drills were seen nonstop in the pools as well as the beach. The results: 15 Bronze Medallion certifications in lifesaving and 12 Swimming Instructor certifications, which were handed to the proud participants in a joyous dinner ceremony at seaside Ojo|Lax Club; this was the first step of an ambitious journey which will rise our young men and women to the highest international levels in the field.

The north shore of the Dominican Republic lives on a blue economy, which is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health,” according to the World Bank.

However, even though the country is surrounded by water on three coasts, it lives with its back turned to the sea.

Happy Dolphins wants to change this by creating a strong bond between the new generations and the ocean through swimming and water sports. It builds sustainable lives and supports ocean health in the region, and this is done through training in surf, lifesaving and swim instructors plus education in ocean conservation and safety.

The goal is to educate Dominican youth on some of the many critical problems which our dying oceans face today:

– Protecting corals dying due to warming temperatures;

– Disregard for the marine environment (overfishing and disregard for closure periods);

– Illegal poaching and sale of sea turtle shells destined for jewelry and utensils;

– Other species at the brink of extinction in our island, such as manatee and parrotfish;

– Plastic pollution and how it affects our tourism industry while hindering the health of our oceans;

– How human behavior affects the global climate, resulting in ever increasingly disastrous weather events in our region and mass migration from neighboring nation Haiti, due to these events and poverty.

Cabarete is a small active community, which for the past 35 years has been thriving on water sports tourism. Not only do hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive yearly (400,000+), to enjoy perfect wind and waves conditions with constant 26 degrees C water temperature; additionally, this Caribbean hotspot is in the limelight for top international water sports competitions, such as the Master of the Ocean and the Cabarete Kite Festival. These two world-class events lure watermen and waterwomen from all over the planet and challenge local riders, who seize the opportunity to show off their abilities for international media to see, as they absorb this healthy, competitive culture.

Recognized as the cradle of watersports champions worldwide, Cabarete has produced stars in all four disciplines; one name stands out, kitesurfer Adeuri Corniel. Corniel brought home the gold during the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics games in 2018; he has not stopped shining through races in Europe and Africa, to the marvel of his fellow community.

The strength of the Happy Dolphins Project lies in a strategic tight collaboration with local foundations, such as Inspire DR, The Mariposa Foundation, DREAM Project, Ocean Academy DR and Dove Youth Development (Puerto Plata). As a whole, these game changing centers reach out to over 2,000 underprivileged children and youth in the province.

Other Happy Dolphins achievements:

– March 2016 – Starboard donates four SUP board equipment, made available at the Encuentro Beach station, 321Takeoff Surf School.

– June 8th, 2018 – United Nations Ocean’s Day – 1st Happy Dolphins Festival: a  celebration of our oceans, organized for over 200 local children of the North Shore. Activities included: surfing lessons and a friendly surfing competition, followed by soccer, yoga for children, circus games, beach clean ups and inspirational environment talks, to connect the children with the ocean.

From now on it is time to face the ocean; Happy Dolphins is committed to continue with the certification programs, summer surf camps, and is planning its new Adopt A Beach program. Adopta Una Playa seeks to create a profound connection with the coastline by creating awareness about the coastline: fauna and flora, sea currents, wind and wave patterns, and swimming safety to prevent drownings.

The task at hand isn’t easy, and as with all major shifts the it belongs to all of us: the community, private businesses and government institutions. All must do its part to make change a reality.

After all, a child who loves the ocean will care for it always.

This action was made possible by Mamey Librería Café, Viva Wyndham Tangerine, Let’sGoDR.com and Ojo|Lax Club Cabarete. To be part of the solution, please donate by going to  www.happydolphinsdr.org .

Photos: Sebastiano Massimino

Cel. +809 856 4798

Patricia.hiraldo@gmail.com