The MCO is making everything chaotic, but a light emerges in our first hero
So the last few months have been quite er... choppy, for WATAKALA. During the lockdown here in Malaysia, our printer went out of business, and for reasons unknown, our main designer disappeared. It was a testing time, and still is.
We missed our original launch date of June because the Malaysian Dive Expo has been postphoned to December (and even this date is in question). Even our neoprene supplier from China was away for a while, but now he's back, and from what I hear, the neoprene is on its way over as we speak.
Ok, to be honest, as a one man team, times like these are when you really have to dig deep and find something. And so we have. We now have a new printer (took months, because most printers in Malaysia have never done neoprene), some new designers, and the biggest news yet, our first ever WATAHERO.
The concept of WATAHEROs is to bridge the gap between divers and ocean conservation. Talking to various NGOs, we found that divers were often only sporadically interested in a particular effort, only to forget it, or buy a t-shirt they'd only wear to sleep. So there are two issues here.
Divers care, but not sustainably in the long term
NGOs find making merchandise necessary, but neither profitable nor impactful
So WATAKALA aims to bridge this gap by coming up with batches of designed goods that are entirely dedicated to a conservation effort. Not only is 5% of the revenue (yes revenue, not profit) given to the organisation, but they will be given a unique URL on WATAKALA, which will be on the label of every product. This page will then lead divers to links to volunteer, donate or purchase more products from the same range to support the conservation effort of their choice. Rest assured that our promise is to never stop innovating this space, and finding ways for divers to get closer, and have a more symbiotic relationship with the oceans they love.
It was in one of these NGO conservations, with Julian Hyde that we signed his organisation, Reefcheck Malaysia, as our first ever WATAHERO.
Julian told us about their struggles with merchandise, which a small number of their supporters do buy, but because the quantities aren't big enough, there aren't enough economies of scale to make it affordable, profitable, or well-designed, and that he was happy to support our effort.
Reefcheck itself is an organisation close to my heart. I originally signed up as a Reefchecker in 2017, and have been volunteering and donating to them ever since. Why is reef checking important? Well it gives us the data to be able to tell how our reefs are doing. How do they do that? Well by educating volunteers in how to measure the health of a reef in simple ways, and conducting surveys at dive sites all around the world. But that's not ALL they do. From my time as CILISOS editor, I wrote about how Julian and his team managed to get all the dive centres in Tioman to unite, and help to improve the condition of their own reefs.
And then in the 2019 survey, they found that while the world's reefs are generally deteriorating, Tiomans were actually improving - through a combination of improved waste disposal, diver education, and efforts to reeducate the local populace at Pulau Tioman.
These are the things that warm our hearts. And tell us that there's hope for our oceans yet. We would like to ask all of you to help make this happen. Buy something from our upcoming collection of ReefCheck/WATAKALA storefront. Or better yet, volunteer to be a ReefChecker this year. It's fun, and who knows, it might inspire you like it inspired us - to find ways to take better care of our oceans.