20 Feb A PASSION FOR CONSERVATION
Marie Saleem visited Woodstock during the fall of 2018 to attend her 25th class reunion. Originally from the Maldives, she currently lives in Sri Lanka and works with Reefscapers as a consultant to the PEW environment group, on their global shark campaign.
My name is Marie Saleem and I am from the Maldives. I found myself in the Himalayas after my O levels. My parents were based in Kathmandu at the time and Woodstock was among the options they gave me for my last two years of high school. I guess the idea of boarding school appealed to me and being from the lowest point on Earth made the Himalayas a great mystery!
What did you do after Woodstock?
On graduating from Woodstock, I went on to James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. My major was Marine Biology for my undergraduate studies and I did Master of Applied Science in Protected Area Management for my masters 3 years later.
What are you doing now?
My biggest passions at present are the environment and ceramics. I work on conservation of sharks with a team of NGOs around the world. We run a Global Shark Campaign and help governments implement management measures related to sharks and rays. More than 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins to be used in shark fin soup. Their life history characteristics make them very vulnerable to overexploitation. Being apex predators, their population numbers affect the balance of the oceanic food webs and it’s important that management measures are implemented effectively and urgently. I am also interested in waste management and have over the years worked with the government, communities and schools to increase awareness among the society and to help implement waste management projects. I advocate minimizing the use of plastic, especially of single use plastics and reusing them. I also spend some of my time doing pottery which has helped me develop my creative side which I was sure I lacked.
How important is the alumni community for current students?
It is extremely important as the school can benefit from the wide range of expertise that the alumni ends up getting trained in. It will not hurt to have more avenues and may be an area that can be further developed over the years.
How necessary do you think internships are for students?
I think it is very important for the students to experience first-hand the world they will join after graduation, especially those children that join the school at a young age. Being a boarding school, and a very unique one at that, some students may have a very sheltered life and find it difficult to cope with the real world which is getting more and more competitive. Thus, it is critical that they have some ideas of what they will face when they leave school and already start to adjust their lives accordingly before they graduate. One way to achieve this is to encourage the students to do short internships during their school holidays. It is important for the students to learn to work in a team and they can help out in places like cafes and restaurants, hospitals, government offices and NGOs etc. During my visit for the reunion, I could already see that the students were very proactive in their thinking and I was very impressed to see some of them working as a team to make behavioural changes such as minimise use of plastics at school. It was heart-warming to see that.
What is unique about Woodstock?
In my opinion, the value system is a very important part of the experience we have at Woodstock. I just went for my reunion at Woodstock and I feel that my friends and I picked up from where we left off 25 years ago. There is a special bond that is created during our time together and the unique experiences we have together etches something special within us that I do not think many people around the world can identify with.
A note on your time in Mussoorie?
Looking back on my time at Woodstock, it made me a more independent person and taught me the importance of relationships with my “family” around me. Woodstock teaches you certain values that you carry with yourself for life such as humility, time management, being more responsible and compassion.