Why Are We Doing This?

Robby speaks of these things with the authority of someone that not only commands knowledge of the importance of these species to the ecosystem and to the community, but also of someone that is aware of the personal needs of the local family.” –Joseph Amollo Ayienga

The peoples in the fishing communities that we serve are not the “other” to me. They are my friends and family. I am the other. I suppose there are two primary reasons for why we are doing this.

There is one little girl in particular that I want to write about. I came to Central America one month after she was born. Her name is Anaii. I live in their house in Belize City when I am there. I have been watching her grow up. Her sisters and brother taught her how to say my name while I was away, my name was the first word she learned after mama and dada. When I returned the following year she took her first steps without any help or encouragement by turning and walking to me when I entered their home. I was in her older sister’s wedding and attended her next sister’s graduation from high school last year. Her little sister is my godchild. Last year I drove her aunt and her new baby home from the hospital for the first time and the year before that her other aunt’s first child rode home from the hospital in my arms. The other day she asked me if I would attend her graduation from primary school. I will.

I have many, many friends just like this throughout Central America and we have created this project so that there will be lots of seafood for their grandchildren.

When I am traveling in the region I will have some short documents in various languages. In certain situations I will ask someone that I have met to read one of these documents for me. The document I give them will be in their mother tongue. They will look at it very funny and then look at me puzzled. You see many of these people have never seen their language written down. I then ask them to read the words out loud. The first word will give them a lot of trouble, the second will be much easier and they pronounce the third word perfectly. At this moment they realize that they are reading their own language. Their face changes and I see a happiness in them that I cannot describe or understand and then they read the whole document with this zeal and joy that you have to see to believe.

Imagine what it is like to be born into a language group and never see it in written form. Imagine what it is like to be educated in a language that is not your own. And then imagine what it is like to be handed a book written in your language for the first time.

These are just a couple of the reasons we are doing this.

Robby Thigpen – Marine Conservation without Borders