01 May Kathy Xu
Not many of us would quit our full time jobs and plunge headlong into advocating for a social cause. Meet Kathy Xu, a former schoolteacher who loved encouraging her students to do good deeds. After a life-changing experience in 2011 where she swam alongside a whale shark, she was so mesmerized by its beauty that she decided to lead by example.
Kathy, this week’s happy being, founded The Dorsal Effect, an ecotourism business based in Lombok, Indonesia that conserves sharks by providing an alternative livelihood to shark fishermen who previously hunted them. Her journey thus far has been riddled with challenges, but Kathy is determined to plough on.
UNSAID catches up with Kathy about taking the path less travelled and the fulfilment it gives her.
Why marine life conservation is such a pressing concern
I feel that there is not enough education happening for our children to appreciate the oceans in their natural state. This is why people continue to support the captivity of marine animals in Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). Previously, there were no marine conservation programs that were ethically run in overseas service learning trips for schools too.
1. A Lack of Support
There was a lack of tourists coming to visit Lombok, where the eco-tourism trips are conducted and a lack of funds to keep The Dorsal Effect afloat and growing, which was a great challenge to me.
1. Just gotta keep fighting on!
I do not have any strategies yet to overcome this. I plan to just suck it in and plough on.
2. Standing out as a woman in a male-dominated environment
At the fish market that I work at in Lombok, all the fishermen are males. Also, I am Asian and Chinese and look different from them. As a result, I do feel that I stand out and I do feel self-conscious.
2. Sincerity will shine through
It was really tough at first because as I mentioned earlier, I felt conscious about being stared at a lot. But it was really just a matter of letting time pass so that they understand my intentions, and that they know that I’m always going to come back here and intend on being here for the long haul. It also helps to be sincere, and I speak to them like any other person, instead of talking down to them.
I think resilience is a word that we overuse but never understand enough. I guess I would tell her that no matter what you choose to do, please pursue it to the end, even when you don’t know where the end is. You should just keep on pushing all the way.
If I compare my childhood to now, I do see more showcases of women being involved in activities that do not adhere to gender norms. I do feel that we are given so many opportunities as women here in Singapore. No one can really stop a girl from doing anything she fancies. Our privilege has led to many women actually starting their own projects and causes, no different from men. As for my experiences in Lombok, I am happy to see that girls are in schools and that there are passionate women working in the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Being able to wake up and work on something purposeful that fulfills us as human beings. Happiness is not about being passive and wasting the earth’s resources by merely existing.
To support Kathy’s work or find out more about The Dorsal Effect, visit http://thedorsaleffect.com/
Stay tuned to more stories from our ladies!