Staff Member Spotlight: Gary Ward

Title
Program Co-ordinator & Instructor

Photos

In a prior life, I was a finance guy in some pretty large businesses but made the decision that there was more to life than a mortgage. So I followed my heart into diving and education.

Having now spent more than 10 years as a professional educator in the diving sphere, I want to share my passion for our marine environment and how we all can make a difference with a new generation of passionate, interested people.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I was fortunate enough to travel extensively as a younger man, and one of my all-time favourite memories was the awe I felt when I saw the monastery of ad-Dayr in Petra, Jordan. When you see the scale of the entrance to this complex and consider it was carved by hand over 2000 years ago... it's quite a humbling experience!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I don't think you can not change when you're involved with conservation and education. I've become much more socially aware of why people do some of the seemingly crazy things they do to the environment and become more compassionate when recognising that for many there are few choices.

Now I recognise the importance of working with people to find a solution as opposed to lecturing on why they're not doing the right thing. Be part of the solution as opposed to just highlighting the problem.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I fondly remember Sabrina. She arrived in Carriacou as a final year Marine Science student looking to embark on a related masters program back in Canada. She completed 8-weeks with us, where, as well as the learning about the basics of reef ecology, she earned her Divemaster certification.

The biggest impact made, though, was in being able to recognise the challenges associated with coastal zone management in a developing nation, and following her trip here she enrolled in a Coastal Zone and Fisheries management masters program. She came back to Carriacou to complete the research for her thesis, which we supported too. Now she has a role in environmental science back in Canada, and it's wonderful to see the development in this fine young woman.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Our program in Carriacou is special as it's comfortable, fun and very informative. We've got 6 conservation-based projects we run throughout the program, and the project I enjoy the most is the diver impact assessment. Why? As ecology thinking divers, we assume that we're protecting and saving the reefs, and yet at the same time we're also part of the problem. How? It could be the sunscreen we're wearing or the way in which we're conducting ourselves on the reef.

I love this project as it really shines a light on what we do in the water and the impact we all have made... and promotes much more awareness of being a better diver. The discussions with divers and volunteers after each session are fascinating.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

The team here operates as a small family unit. Most of us have been together for several years, and almost all of our diving based team have been recruited through the program. This means that we're all particularly fond of what we do and committed to practice what we preach.

As a small NGO, we can also be nimble enough to get involved in work-streams that the government can not, so we've been asked to update a 1997 inventory of marine life assessment in 2020.

Ultimately though, it's our volunteers and participants which make this place most special. Without each of them coming in with new ideas and exuberance, we would not have the bounce and vibe that we do.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Listening to our volunteers and participants.

Each month, each session and each year our program has evolved to take into consideration the feedback and thoughts of our participants. When there are elements that have resonated well, we've wanted to follow up on that and continue in that direction. Where there were elements which were not well received, we've wanted to understand why, and either change it or eliminate the issues.

Ultimately this program is run for the benefit of our participants. If they feel they are getting value from their experience, they will add value to the projects they're participating in. When that happens, we all have success.