First Lady Fazna Ahmed visited Dhonfanu Island in the Baa Atoll on Friday to attend the final events of the INSPIRE Shore to Open Water Festival. The Dhonfanu Island Council organised the three-day festival in collaboration with Soneva Namoona.

The second edition of the annual festival featured beach and island cleaning events and a water polo competition. The First Lady inaugurated the final game of the water polo competition, held to inspire friendly competition between island communities, improve the residents' water confidence, and deepen their environmental stewardship. The First Lady also joined the island community to witness a simulation drill to showcase the swimming instructors' talents.

At the event, the First Lady handed over medals to 11 graduates from five Namoona islands who completed the swimming and water rescue instructor programme. It was held as part of the Namoona INSPIRE Shore to Open Water Series, which has seen the training of 200 youth from Dharavandhoo, Dhonfanu, Kihaadhoo, and Kamadhoo Islands in the Baa Atoll and Kudafari Island in the Noonu Atoll.

Speaking at the event, the First Lady commended the exemplary strategy adhered to by Soneva Namoona to create a fondness for the ocean and awareness of ocean safety. She also emphasised the importance of learning to swim and water rescue skills. She also expressed her wish to see island communities promoting smoke-free beaches which is both an environmental and public health issue. She stated that this would eliminate the possibility of children finding byproducts of smoking when they play on the beaches.

The swimming and water rescue instructor programme aims to develop the next generation of ocean goers and nurture ocean stewardship across island communities. The programme achieves this by training instructors who then train confident swimmers in their communities, equipping them with the necessary skills to enjoy the ocean safely.

The celebratory event in the harbour of Dhonfanu Island was organised in partnership with Soneva Namoona, the Maldives Swimming and Life Saving Skills Training School, Dhonfanu Island Council, the island community, the Women's Development Committee (WDC), and with the collaboration of the Namoona Swimming and Water Rescue Instructors.

Soneva Namoona is a non-governmental organisation that pioneers innovations to create empowered zero waste communities in the Maldives, centred around the three pillars of Reduce, Recycle, Inspire. Since the original pilot of three local islands in 2019, the number of Namoona islands has increased to 21 across Baa, Noonu and Haa Dhaalu Atolls. Soneva Namoona strives to create community-specific solutions to complex issues like waste management in close partnership with island communities.