An interview with children’s author, ocean plastics campaigner and good friend of SeaTrek Sailing Adventures, Yvette Bezuidenhout.
Wayan & the Turtle King is about a boy who comes from a family of fishermen. His village has always relied on the ocean for food. One day, things start changing and Wayan must find a way to save the village. The book focuses on environmental education and teaches children to think about how their choices impact the environment.
Income from book sales goes back into a literacy project to enable the printing, translation and distribution of Wayan and the Turtle King in Indonesia and other countries.
In 2017, Bezuidenhou ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that enabled the printing and distribution of Wayan and the Turtle King to reading and environmental NGOs in Indonesia. To date, 1,200 books have been handed out to remote villages in Indonesia with the help of SeaTrek Sailing Adventures and others.
Whereabouts in the world are you based, Yvette?
Right now, I`m based in Canada. I`ve been a scuba diving instructor and English teacher for most of my life, which means that I`ve lived in lots of countries, from Indonesia to Egypt. Teaching is a great way of exploring our beautiful planet, above and below the waterline.
How often do you get into the ocean?
My life is usually arranged around being near water. I first learned scuba diving and free diving in Egypt, learned to surf in South Africa and how to SUP in Korea. It`s winter in Canada now, but I look forward to meeting seals, whales and orcas later this year!
What does an average day look like for you?
I teach adults at the moment instead of kids. I’ve been surrounded by kids and their positive energy for the last four years so it’s challenging to be back in ‘the real world’. Most adults seem so caught up in their routines that they don’t really take the time to consider their habits. People have forgotten that their choices and voices matter.
In my free time, I research habit change, sustainable living solutions and potential charities in Indonesia. I like coming up with craft ideas to re-use things, instead of buying new stuff all the time. Even though it’s pretty cold in Canada right now, it’s still possible to hike, snowboard and practice free-diving indoors. I try to spend a lot of time outside.
When did you discover the issue of ocean plastic pollution?
I worked in the south of Egypt in 2006 and we`d see rivers of plastic flowing just underneath the surface as the boat moved between dive sites. We often found whole dive sites covered in trash after the live-aboards left. It was shocking and sad.
Fast forward seven years to the Philippines. When you free dive in the open ocean, you don`t necessarily see lots of marine life. But gosh, we definitely saw more plastic than fish!
I always thought that the Philippines was the worst, until I moved to Indonesia in 2015. Single-use plastic bags are used for everything: dipping sauce, drinks, take-aways . . . all of which simply gets discarded.
Our free diving training sessions in Amed included picking up plastic between the surface and 20 meters. As we removed trash, more washed past to take the place of the pieces we`d just removed. We didn’t even make a dent. Once, my flip-flop broke and I was able to find around three replacement straps out of at least 30 sandals washed up along a single stretch of beach.
There are two parts to Wayan and the Turtle King. The first part tells the story about a boy called Wayan who lives on a beautiful tropical island. He comes from a long line of fishermen, but things start changing in the village. People are getting sick and the fishermen aren’t catching much fish anymore and no one knows why. One day, Wayan falls overboard and a young turtle named Bintang saves his life. They embark on an adventure that will change Wayan’s life forever.
The second part includes comprehension questions and activities designed to improve reading and language skills, as well as encourage critical thinking and creativity.
What motivated you to write this book?
I was teaching at a school in Bandung (Indonesia) and I launched a plastic awareness campaign and competition. I wanted kids and their teachers to start thinking about how they used plastic and how they could change their habits. I contacted Bali Buda, Indosole and my future illustrator Fabianus Bayu (Shirohyde) to donate prizes to my competition. I used his awesome cartoons and some images from Christine Figgener`s famous video of the turtle with a straw up its nose as teaching aids. I`ve never met anyone who doesn`t love turtles, and the kids were visibly touched when they saw the turtle suffering in pain. Even adults tear up when they see that video.
Along the way, I realized that there weren`t many educational resources available for kids to learn about this critically important issue.
Where is the book available to buy?
The printed and e-book versions are on Amazon and most bookstores that have an online ordering facility.
What is your ultimate goal with the book?
As an English teacher, my goal is to help kids to improve their reading and English skills. I am passionate about leveling the playing field — I want kids to be able to access books regardless of their financial situation or country of birth.
I have a duty to do everything in my power to protect my blue planet. This is my way of sharing my love for the ocean and its creatures with kids who don’t necessarily have the means to SUP, snorkel or swim.
What do you hope to do in the future? Do you have any more projects lined up?
I plan to set up a nonprofit organization this year, branch out to Central and South America and go from there! I would also like to become a swim instructor, so that I can do a similar volunteer project further down the line.Tags: Indonesia, Oceans plastic campaign, Saving the oceans, Wayan and the Turtle King