This year has been a tough and challenging one for Azraq. We started the year having our operations suspended until March due to various legalities regarding our set up. This put a lot of strain on our core team and resulted in four board members resigning as well as unexpected costs in restructuring the organisation and having requirements such as volunteer insurance made legal as well as having to move our head office. We have also found it difficult to get the necessary permits to host some of our activities and to find venues such as cinemas to rent that are available and cost effective, which has also impacted our offerings and the opportunities to raise the funds needed to pay for ongoing overheads.
Despite these setbacks, we have been determined to raise awareness and partake in activities for the oceans. Seven of our team made up The Sea Warriors in January as we fought for the Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Life Below Water - in the Global Goals World Cup played at Sustainable City. We were further motivated by our first school partnerships with Emirates International School and Clarion School in February focussing on marine debris and shark conservation, and the launch of the #stopsucking campaign with Freedom Pizza, which focussed on food outlets reducing the use of plastic straws, one of the top five items found in coastal clean ups.
We were extremely thrilled to officially launch our website on 31 March designed by our Director - Marketing, Georgina Rawlings and to also have Lush Middle East joins hands with us in order to promote our marine debris initiatives. We also held our first movie screening on the impacts of plastic straws at The Junction, which was a sell out, and was followed by a great panel discussion with Emma Banks, Managing Director of Jumeriah Restaurant Group and Ian Ohan, CEO of Freedom Pizza hosted by radio personality, Emma Brain.
The screening of STRAWS saw us form a partnership with GEMS Modern and attend presentations at Star International Schools, as well as form further partnerships including Myocum and two CAS student which made fish out of repurposed wood in order to raise funds for Azraq.
Azraq finally got its house in order by finalising the appointment of four new board members in September, including two local females, which followed the launch of our #buttsstink initiative focussing on the impacts of cigarette butts on the marine environment which was kindly supported by Analog through a video highlighting the issue. Our first beach clean of the year was with with X-Dubai on World Clean Up Day. We have since assisted with clean ups with IMG Events, Fox Networks Group and National Geographic, Abu Dhabi and have one additional beach clean up scheduled for the year.
We have released our shark conservation program for schools, joined with Rove Hotels to raise awareness of recycling water bottles, were a key sponsor for the 1st Ocean Film Festival with Surfhouse Dubai and Single Fin Cafe and had three trophies created for the winners with thanks to JWP Technical Services, had a stall at Yogafest 2018 and announced our third initiative for the year #balloonsblow focussing on the impacts of balloon releases on marine life.
The year ahead looks to be a smoother one as we hopefully move forward with finally getting our bank account sorted, securing another corporate beach clean up in January, forming additional school partners, hosting at least three movie nights (venue and permits pending) and joining with additional outlets like Ignite Surface and Companies4Good to allow for people to connect or reconnect with our oceans.
Given the year we have had, we are looking forward to celebrating the successes this Friday on board the Lotus Megayacht. We invite our supporters, partners and stakeholders to join us and thank Dutch Oriental for hosting this event.
We would particularly like to thank our partners for their ongoing support including Alkira Consulting, Boon Coffee, Divers Down, Dnata4good, Liquid of Life, Lush Middle East, Myocum as well as individuals such as Amanda Rushforth, Marita Peters and Mariska Nell and last but by no means least, our 65 volunteers who have helped incredibly with our successes and continued with us despite the challenges.
Wishing everyone a safe and joyous festive season.