The last twelve months have seen I AM WATER growing from a small unfunded South African Trust with big dreams, to a global Foundation with successful projects in four countries and several more planned for 2015. A perfect storm of vision, timing and the support from influential partners.
It all started when I AM WATER Founder Hanli Prinsloo got invited to speak at the UBS Global Philanthropy Forum in St Moritz, Switzerland. The overwhelmingly positive response from Philanthropists and management alike to the I AM WATER vision led the UBS Philanthropy Department to selecting I AM WATER as one of their flagship projects for the year of 2014- with emphasis on ‘Scaling Up’. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Hanli and her partner, recently retired American swimmer Peter Marshall were in the process of considering career changes when the opportunity arose to lead I AM WATER into a new era and structure.
I AM WATER Founder, Hanli Prinsloo, has been supported by visionary citrus concern, ClemenGold for the last two years, allowing her to focus all her energy on I AM WATER and future plans - even sharing the Ecuadorian Manta expedition with ClemenGold CEO and his wife, sharing Ocean Conservation tips and creating awareness together. Without such visionary supporters no organisation can grow!
January and February 2014 saw Hanli and Peter spend many cold weeks in Zurich working with the philanthropy advisors to craft a true strategy document for I AM WATER. The three pillars of I AM WATER were defined as Ocean Experiences, Awareness and Advocacy.
March was an ocean adventure month shooting the Epic TV series Ocean Adventures and initiating our Mozambican ocean experience outreach program with a short snorkel experience for the kids at the Momoli Orphanage.
In April I AM WATER hosted a two week intensive Instructor Course, training seven marine enthusiasts from differenct ocean fields and regions. Megan from Hawaii, Alex from Bermuda, Lauren and Jess from Cape Town, Peter from California, Alana from Australia and Beth from Durban. Together the team hashed out what it would look like to grow the global footprint of I AM WATER and make Ocean Conservation through Human Experience a force to be reckoned with in the crucial time of ocean degradation through human disconnect.
In May and June the new I AM WATER instructors ran transformational ocean experience courses in:
Durban - Watch our video working with the the Surfers not Streetchildren Cape Town and Bermuda - KIDS ON THE REEF!
July through August were challenging but important months of restructuring the Trust in South Africa, redesigning the logo and the website, creating working budgets and sinking our teeth into the ongoing work of fundraising for the sustainability of the organisation. Typical start-up stuff! Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean it’s easy!
September saw Hanli and Peter travel extensively working with the I AM WATER ‘The Last Wilderness’ project, solidifying I AM WATER internationally and developing partnerships. From an invitation only speaking event at UBS in Zurich, to the World Economic Forum Annual Summit of Young Global Leaders in China, Peter’s workshops with young swimmers in Beijing and Hanli’s interviews with numerous Chinese media outlets (Beijing Kids, South China Morning Post) as well as a glitzy gala dinner and photographic exhibition in Hong Kong hosted by the new I AM WATER board members.
A long flight to Ecuador and a new partnership with the Marine Megafauna Foundation photographing oceanic mantas, sharing wild oceans with clients and planning transformational ocean experience courses for kids in Ecuador for 2015. (Read I AM WATER Instructor Megan's blog!)
In October the new I AM WATER website and logo went live under the expert supervision of I AM WATER Instructor and designer Alana Beales, as well as the launch of the UBS Pioneer Programme on The Economist.
Hanli addressed an audience of young students/ leaders at the Emerge Conference in Oxford (read the Pioneers Post write-up of Hanli's talk) and filmmakers at the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol.
November was (another!) important month for I AM WATER launching our very first bespoke ‘Last Wilderness’ trip to the spectacular Soneva Fushi resort in the Maldives. Hosting an experienced philanthropist and her family Hanli, Peter and Beth shared the joy of freediving and manta interactions while securing a donation earmarked for I AM WATER projects for 2015, while sharing the wonderful knowledge of the local Manta Trust researchers. Slip streaming with the Soneva owner Sonu Shivdasani and his Slow Life Foundation/ Symposium, Hanli and Peter offered workshops for Learn to Swim volunteers in the Maldives, looking forward to significantly growing this relationship and expertise sharing in 2015.
December we celebrated the growth of I AM WATER to three full time employees, Hanli, Peter and freediver/ filmmaker Beth Neale. The team had the great privilege of sharing a Hope Spot Roadtrip with Dr Sylvia Earle, diving new South African Hope Spots and sharing the I AM WATER transformatioanal ethos along the way, watch our fun video clips from the Marine Ranger Snorkel Day in False Bay, and the Tu Aliquid Snorkel Day in Knysna. Thanks to the great energy and effort of Dr Tony Ribbink and the Sustainable Seas Trust.
Just before popping the bubbly for the festive season, Hanli chaired the first ever I AM WATER Foundation Board Meeting in Zurich, I AM WATER is now also a registered Swiss Foundation in support of our global projects.
Thank you to everyone who made this year possible, you know who you are!
Yes, 2014 was a big year for I AM WATER and 2015 is gearing up to be even bigger! We are excited about the value I AM WATER can bring to the international ocean conservation landscape, and we will continue to get more people in the water, salty and in love with the ocean!