It started with a Peace Corps-led summer camp: Keiwa Simpson began to care about the mangroves on her beautiful home island of St. Lucia because it was fun. When the aid organization left two years later, it fell to Simpson, who was 16 at the time, and two friends to pilot the Caribbean Student Environmental Alliance’s skiff out to the mangroves, collect water samples and voice their growing concerns to the community about fecal waste released into the harbor by visiting boaters. At age 18, she alone fought to save Marigot Bay.
Q: What has been your biggest take-away from your time at the Peace Corps summer camp?
I think my island is very special now. It adds so much to know that there is beauty on land and in the sea.
Q: How has your perspective about the ocean changed?
Here, people fish to send their kids to school and take care of their families. I want my island to see that we need nesting places so that fishermen can get good-size fish to eat. We all have to start caring now.
Q: Given your interest in the mangroves, was scuba diving a natural progression?
Diving in my country is very expensive; it’s not something locals would do for themselves. Most divers on island are foreigners or instructors.
Q: So how did you become certified?
I was offered a scholarship to Odyssey Expeditions, a sailing and scuba camp for teens. I had to get over my fear. Night diving was especially scary. You’re not seeing what’s coming up in front of you, so it’s exciting. Now I love the bioluminescence: I wave my arms a lot to see the little stars.
Q: What’s next for you?
I don’t have time to run the Caribbean Student Environmental Alliance now that I have a full-time job. I teach integrated science, Spanish and theater arts to high school students. But even if I can’t run the program, I still want to spread the word. I’ve just written a book explaining the importance of the mangroves. I hope tourists and young people read it. So if you know a good publisher, give them my name!