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Deptherapy Team Mark IYOR 2018 With Coral Cay Conservation

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Deptherapy programme members explore the Red Sea's reefs (Photo: Dmitry Knyazev/Deptherapy)

A team of UK Armed Forces veterans is launching a project to ‘give back’ to the marine environment that they credit with turning their lives around.

The 30 wounded in service veterans, all suffering from life-changing physical and/or mental injuries, are programme members of scuba diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy. The aim of the 'Protecting Our Oceans' project is to raise awareness of the plight of the world's oceans and for Deptherapy programme members to make their own practical contribution to environmental protection

The project comes as the world's attention is increasingly focused on environmental sustainability, mass coral bleaching and the scourge of plastic pollution. 2018 has been designated as the third International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2018)

Deptherapy Ambassador and former Royal Engineer Ben Lee, who lost both legs and sustained other injuries in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is leading the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project. 'The Red Sea and Deptherapy changed my life forever,' said Ben. 'If I could, I would live underwater – the tranquillity, the beauty, it just blows your mind. You feel at one with nature.' Recently awarded the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund ‘Recognising Achievement’ Award, Ben is also currently in training to be a Divemaster, with the goal of helping to teach his son to dive, and raise awareness of the effects that global warming, pollution and overfishing are having on our oceans.

'These are our oceans,' said Ben, 'and as surely as we fought for our Country, we must now, as that same ‘Band of Brothers,’ fight to save our oceans. We stood to arms in Afghanistan or Iraq, we now stand united in our determination to fight for the future of our oceans.'

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Deptherapy Ambassador Ben Lee during his open water training (Photo: Dmitry Knyazev/Deptherapy)

Deptherapy will mark the start of the Protecting our Oceans project during their next dive training programme, which takes place from 17 to 24 May at Roots Red Sea in El Quseir, Egypt. Tom Dallison, Head of Science at Coral Cay Conservation, will accompany the programme and lead six Deptherapy team members on a coral reef surveying and conservation course, in order to prepare the divers for an expedition to Chuuk Lagoon later this year where the team will independently map, and report on, the health of the marine life around the wreck of the Shinkoku Maru.

'Deptherapy does magnificent work, offering incredible opportunities to injured veterans,' said Tom. 'I am honoured to have this chance to facilitate their efforts whilst incorporating my own passion into their cause – the conservation of our ocean’s fauna and flora.' Programme members will also take part in a ‘Dive Against Debris’ underwater and beach clean-up during the Roots trip. ''By building an affinity to the marine world, Deptherapy will boast six newly trained conservation-advocates for their Chuuk Lagoon expedition and future programmes,' said Tom. 

Deptherapy partners PADI, and its associated Project AWARE foundation, are fully supportive of the project.'Deptherapy has demonstrated that by adapting teaching techniques, those with perceived limitations can overcome them and become scuba divers,' said Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager for UK South & Ireland 'The PADI Adaptive Techniques programme has been designed using these same techniques. PADI is proud to partner Deptherapy and is committed to helping to bring more troops through their programmes in the years ahead.'

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Coral Cay Conservation volunteers survey Philippine reefs (Photo: Coral Cay Conservation)

Ahmed Sayed, PADI Regional Manager for Egypt, said: 'When ocean health is combined with the health of those within Deptherapy’s program it is all the more powerful. Project AWARE is grateful for all the support Deptherapy gives. It is fantastic to see two charities working together for the good of so many and I am honoured that Egypt will host the first stage of this project.'

Along with PADI and Coral Cay Conservation, the Protecting Our Oceans campaign will be supported by expedition medical specialists the Lifesigns Group, TV presenters and explorers Paul Rose and Andy Torbet, and David Jones, founder of environmental organisation Just One Ocean has come on board as a technical advisor.

'In 2018 plastic pollution, especially that in our oceans, seas, rivers and lakes has become front page news,' said Andy Torbet. 'This is great for those of us working on these problems for years. As divers, we have seen the plastic detritus and damage it causes first-hand and often out of sight of those who do not venture beneath the surface of the ocean.

'As the Deptherapy programmes continue to help those with massive, life-altering injuries or serious mental health issues, those within the problem are trying to give back to the environment that has helped them - our oceans. The majority of the Deptherapy veterans feel the underwater world saved them, now it’s time for some payback.'

You can read more about Deptherapy, pledge support and learn more about the work of Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk.

 

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