Raja Ampat is drawing a different kind of diver – one that invests in diving to make a difference. These divers are serious about doing their research on the type of dive operators and resorts they book – realising that everyone plays an integral role in safeguarding the ocean and the intricate communities that surround it.
One such recent guest is 17-year old activist – Faye Simanjuntak.
We were absolutely fascinated by her passion, energy and wisdom that far exceeds her young age. At the tender age of 11, Faye co-founded an organisation fighting child trafficking – which let her speak at TEDxJakarta in 2017. Her absolute love for making a difference wherever she goes is truly inspiring! Her mother Uli Pandjaitan constantly told her growing up how privileged she was and continuously took her to orphanages over weekends.
Faye asked her mother whilst going to these orphanages what she was going to do to help these children – “you have the money, you have the connections”, she said. Her mother kindly looked at her and replied: “But YOU have the passion”
That was the moment when her life changed. She raised IDR 96mil on that first attempt and her various efforts towards making a difference from conservation to children’s rights, have never stopped growing.
Whilst at the resort, we asked Faye a few questions:
Q: What projects are you currently working on? What is on the cards for you in the near future?
A: So, in 2013, I co-founded an organisation called Rumah Faye to combat child trafficking, exploitation, and abuse in Indonesia. I started Rumah Faye because, truthfully, I felt that there wasn’t enough emphasis at the time on peer-to-peer education among children’s rights NGOs.
Speaking on issues like forced prostitution, reproductive health, and trafficking was hard enough to talk about, yet there really wasn’t enough emphasis on understanding. I wanted to help facilitate discussions and encourage others to ask questions. From there on, Rumah Faye has continued to grow more than I could have imagined before. We now have three programs: Prevention, Rescue, and Rehabilitation.
Prevention stays true to our initial mission. Now, we also provide scholarships and workshops to empower at-risk youths! Rescue is where we work together with local law enforcement and other NGOs to find children who have been trafficked. Rehabilitation has to be the program I’m most proud of. In December of 2017, Rumah Faye was able to build our shelter in Batam, Kepuluan Riau.
There, we have different activities all centred around healing. This includes hydroponics, pottery, and crocheting. Other than counseling, we assist every girl as needed, from legal assistance to nutritional help. We work together with local teachers to teach general education to our girls as well.
Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?
A: A given, but I LOVE to dive. Scuba diving is when I feel most at peace, not to mention I love all marine life. I’m so excited to get my Divemaster with Meridian Adventure Dive soon!
Truthfully, it’s not just being underwater and spotting nudibranchs, but also meeting new people, trying new foods, and exploring new places! At the heart of it, I love to adventure, whatever that may bring. Other than that, when I can’t physically adventure, I love to read and hang out with my friends!
Q: What can other young people, as yourself, do to help your cause?
A: The youth should first and foremost be encouraged and given confidence that their actions matter. Not only that, our actions need to be facilitated and supported. Often, we are doubted and find it hard to be moved to help. On our side, we also need to take initiative. The internet gives us unprecedented access to information and news from all perspectives. We need to take advantage of the resources we have, not just to be aware and spread awareness, but also take action! There are so many sites today that can facilitate donations and volunteering. Other than that, always remember to start local! Focus on your community and find NGOs/movements that work to what you’re passionate about.
Q: What do you try to do to help conserve our planet?
A: I do try my best to take individual action that is environmentally-friendly! Off the top of my head, I can say I don’t eat take out much (so I don’t produce waste), no longer use plastic bags (my family and I opt to bring reusable bags when grocery shopping), I don’t buy water in plastic bottles, participate in beach clean-ups, and consciously attempt to buy local produce. I also try to educate myself more by attending local forums/workshops about conservation! When travelling, I do try to be as eco-conscious as possible!
In an attempt to offset my carbon footprint, I also eat less red meat and do some conservation work involving tree-planting.
How to make a difference when travelling?
A good thing to look out for when choosing your dive resort, is the extent of their efforts towards enhancing the community, as well as the ocean.
Meridian Adventure Dive has participated in training and upskilling the local Homestay Owners by mentoring the local villagers to become their own entrepreneurs (and not taking any revenue from the bookings made via the resort). By doing this we have opened these home owners to an international market for people who not only want to visit the pristine environment but want to make a difference in doing so.
Simply put – you make a difference by just making a booking!
Local people in Raja Ampat have a great respect for their surroundings, but they are also generally poor and need to feed their families.
Through numerous education programmes about the eco-system of Raja Ampat, most people on the islands have been able to secure themselves a much better living than they would ever have had through other methods. They guide tours, work in guesthouses or resorts, show tourists their unique culture and arts, and work together with government and non-government agencies to protect their precious home.
How to ensure you are staying where it matters?
- The resort supports local employment
- They have NO single-use plastics
- The resort’s dive boats do not anchor on the reef
- The food and beverage programme does not compete with local restaurants or suppliers, but rather support them instead.