(CNN) – Zoona Naseem took nine children, some as young as eight, to the open waters of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, sounding a list of reminders: switching regulators, inflating buoyancy control devices, adjusting masks .
“If you have any problems with your ears, we won’t go down,” he shouted before the group moved. “Going deeper is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to enjoy the dive.”
Naseem certifies that children up to the age of eight dive.
“I have a dive center here to educate people to love the ocean,” he explained. “If someone doesn’t love the reef, they won’t think twice before throwing plastic into the ocean. But if they love the reef, they’ll do their best not to throw it away.”
Breaking down barriers
“When I went to my instructor course, there were no women at the time. It was about 26 years ago,” she said. “I chose this (the race) because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to show that girls can do a lot of things.”
Naseem teaches up to two dozen students to dive at any one time.
Naseem continued to teach scuba diving at resorts across the country. In 2016, however, she decided to set up her own establishment on the small island of Villingili, partly to spend more time with her own children, but also in hopes of inspiring other curses to follow in her footsteps.
“If I worked in a complex, I would probably make more money and probably have an easier life,” Naseem said. “But I chose to start something here to open the door to (children).”
Whether diving or snorkeling, Naseem believes that all children should learn to be comfortable in the water.
In addition to offering diving lessons in Villingili, Naseem says he has asked the Maldives government to build a marine academy, offering the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the underwater world. He also hopes to open a mobile diving school, traveling the country to teach as many children as possible to dive.
“In the Maldives, we are 99% water and only 1% land,” he said. “So I think the ocean should be the children’s playground.”
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