: News

The Making of Ocean Warriors

As some of you may know, Friendly Drifter has been creating a children’s book to educate young minds on the harmful effects plastic waste has on the environment. Education plays major role in creating a sustainable waste management system for Raja Ampat. The initial idea for creating such a book came to me when I received an email from Peter during my Ocean Rescue Run. It turns out Peter owns Borsi, a plastic molding business in Germany that produces automobile parts. He knows the importance of doing what we can to protect the environment. Peter has helped other similar projects in the past through his organization, Industry Responsibility. Peter offered a donation and asked what it could be used for. I’ve always had it in mind to include educational material, so I thought this was a great opportunity. The premise was created. Then I was on the lookout for people as passionate as me about the area, and the environment.

I had been communicating with Cath (seayogi) on Instagram. She was living in Raja Ampat and we shared the same concerns. She witnessed all the plastics bits washing up on the remote shores where she was living. When it came time to find a writer, I knew she was the one. She wrote an amazing blog post on why writing this book was important to her. Please check it out – www.seayogi.com

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Next on the list was to find an illustrator, someone who could bring Cath’s story to life. I had been following Jasmine on Instagram who just so happened to be newly married to Tertius, the manager of Kayak 4 Conservation. You may remember a blog post about this company on my first trip. I knew she was an artist but hadn’t thought much about it until she did some cartoon drawings of a shark called Stanley. Stanley was used to help protect sharks in the area, and teach kids how important sharks are to the ecosystem. As soon as I saw the artwork, I knew I had to ask; she would be perfect. She enthusiastically agreed to help. Now the Ocean Warriors Team was set. Jasmine has done a couple of blog posts talking about her creations, check them out here: Jasmine Kammeyer

Together we collaborated to create the first draft of the book on a deadline of April 1st. Peter will be in Bologna, Italy for the world’s largest children’s book fair. Our goal is to introduce our book to the community and meet publishers, printers, editors and distributors. If any of our readers know any of the above, please contact me. The more help we get, the more books we can hand out to the kids of Raja Ampat. All proceeds of this book will help create further editions and other educational materials. This book was purely made with our hearts, and driven by our passions.

We still have a few corrections to make until our final version will be ready to purchase. Our target month is July of 2017. If you would like to pre-order, please contact me so I can include you in the first print run. Keep in mind ALL proceeds from this book go directly towards other educational materials for the kids of Raja Ampat.

I am excited to see what Bologna brings! Let’s sell some books!!

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Team Effort

I have been in Raja Ampat for 10 days now. My arrival was perfectly timed as it coincided with a festival in Waisai. People came from all over Indonesia for the festival. There were plenty of organizations with booths dedicated to some sort of waste management; from education and programs to upcycle plastic bottles and wrappers.

The government is now receiving pressure from tourists and locals to do something about the waste and recycling issues.  The festival was an ideal venue for developing programs to showcase their efforts and express their concerns. Attitudes have begun to change. For example last year during election season the waterfront was absolutely covered in garbage from the festivities the night before. I went there around 10am and no one took the initiative. I began picking up garbage and 8 people joined me. This year we had 30 volunteers that started at 7am – before I even got there. The city seems to be growing rapidly magnifying the significance and need for proper infrastructure. I now have a good grasp of all the departments involved and together we will lay out a plan.

For the last few days I have been able to escape the city. I had a clear schedule so it was a great opportunity to spend time with Tertius and his wife Jasmine. If you don’t remember, Tertius manages Kayak 4 Conservation which I used on my first trip to Raja Ampat. We are very fortunate that Jasmine has terrific artistic talents and has taken on the task of creating illustrations for our children’s book. They are great people and I’m grateful to be spending a few days with them. Thank you so much for the hospitality!

Soon I will be off to Sorong for some more meetings, wish me luck!

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Raja Ampat Ocean Rescue Run

Things have come a long way since I’ve been back home. My health has gotten much better, Ranny is doing incredible things in Raja Ampat and Friendly Drifter is evolving once more.

When I returned home, my body was weak, and my mind was cloudy. Doing normal daily activities resulted in muscle soreness the very next day. I was very anemic; it would take time for my body to create new red blood cells. I took it relatively easy for the first 2 weeks, trying to rest as much as possible. At this point it was unclear if I could continue with my plan to run 2700 km in April. It would take time to see how quickly my body would recover. I certainly didn’t want to make promises I couldn’t keep. My first training run was mid-January. I didn’t have any goals, I just wanted to hit the pavement and get my legs moving, no matter how slow or short the run was. I managed to run 500 meters to the first hill and had to turn back. My chest was tight, my legs felt like jelly and my breathing was fast and shallow. Yes, my first outing was only 1km but I had to start somewhere. After a day of rest I doubled my distance, and so it began. I can comfortably say now that I am continuing with the run. I ran 55km last week and completed a 25km run on Wednesday. My strength still has a ways to go but my endurance is coming along nicely. Twenty pounds of muscle was lost during my struggle with malaria. When returning to the gym, I noticed decrease of 40% in muscle strength. The muscle was simply gone – in such a short period.

Some close family and friends questioned my eating habits. As some of you may know I am vegan. I have been vegetarian for 10 months and turned vegan 5 months ago. They questioned whether I was getting enough protein/iron in my diet, especially during my recovery. I have continued to stay vegan throughout this ordeal which is proof to me that my diet has enough nutrients to grow muscle and rebuild strength quickly.

About a month ago my Friendly Drifter partner Ranny, was guiding some guests in Raja Ampat. They stumbled upon large amounts of trash left by other tourists. She cleaned up the mess and took pictures of the area that she later posted on Facebook. There was a large outcry and extensive comments condemning these actions. Ranny suggested that rather than discussing these issues on Facebook, she challenged them to take action and do something about it. After some conversations they decided to create signage for the area, reminding tourists to pick up after themselves and to leave this area clean. Ranny will continue to do these types of activities throughout the islands in Raja Ampat.

Ranny also facilitates guests who wish to help local children. With donations she receives, she delivers text books, colouring books and clothes. These items are impossible to get in remote areas and the children love them. A first step is to create connections with children, then we will explore educational opportunities about their environment. Please contact me if you would like to donate to this cause.

Friendly Drifter Ocean Rescue Run t-shirts are now available. They will be awarded to those who donate $100 or more to our cause. Friendly Drifter will soon be a non-profit foundation. Please keep in mind; all proceeds go directly to Friendly Drifter initiatives. All expenses for myself personally and Ranny are privately funded. Sponsorship packages are also available for the run. If you know a business that may be interested in sponsorship, please share this link www.friendlydrifter.com/participate/. Package information is available on the page, or contact me directly at travel@friendlydrifter.com.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As I write this post I am sitting in my mother’s living room overlooking Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island. My step-father Peter is practicing a new song on an acoustic guitar. This is quite a contrast from where I wrote my last post. I will explain why I am home over a month earlier than planned. This trip didn’t turn out as expected, most of my time was spent sick in bed. I did however manage to finish 3 books over this period (The Alchemist, The flight of the Hummingbird and the Quran). Life does throw you a curve ball every now and then, but you have to adapt and move on. In my last post on Dec 8th I noted not feeling well and explained having a fever. I failed to mention an ear infection too. I thought the fever was a symptom of the ear infection and perhaps it was. Some days were good, some days I didn’t leave my bed; I lost my appetite over this period.

I still managed to get four runs in. Running over there is hard. The heat is almost unbearable making breathing quite difficult. I couldn’t sleep on the night of the 15th, so decided to go for a 5 km jog. It didn’t help that during the past week my neighbours decided it would be a good idea to blast the same song over and over again starting at 5am. Not to mention the fireworks being set off right in front of my door at 6am. This was happening every morning. They were loud enough to startle me every time one went off. Does no one else complain about this? I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about it, being a guest in their country. One day I had enough courage to walk by my neighbour’s house with the intention of projecting a death stare. As I walked by I only noticed a little old lady jamming out to the exact same song. She waved at me, so I saluted her back feeling defeated.

The next day symptoms were getting worse. Ranny would be visiting in a few days so I decided to wait for her. She came on the 18th. I told her about the fever, other symptoms at the time included fatigue, loss of sleep, chills, headache and loss of coordination. This was the first time I heard the word malaria. She mentioned it, and suggested we go to the clinic for testing. It’s a very simple test. A nurse pricks your finger and examines the drops of blood under a microscope. It was confirmed 15 minutes later that I had malaria. They advised it was a mild strain. I was given 7 days of medication and told if I was better after 3 days to stop taking them and sent home. No one seemed too concerned so neither was I. I went home and took my first set of pills before going to sleep. I woke up the next day feeling quite ill. I ended up vomiting within 2 hours of being awake.

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I told Ranny that my symptoms had got worse overnight. She contacted a friend that was happy to take me into their home and look after me. She was a pastor, had a husband and 5 kids living with her – two of which were her sister’s. They provided me with a private room, fan and unlimited food and drink. I was very happy and thankful for their generous hospitality. We even managed to form a foundation between the local church community and the Friendly Drifter program. I will teach the kids about the harmful effects of plastic waste, and they can join us when visiting villages and help with clean ups.

Over the next two days I became progressively worse. I ran out of data on my phone so I wasn’t able to update friends and family on my condition. Everyone just kept telling me to eat more and take medication. It wasn’t quite that simple. Eating made me want to vomit. In fact the thought of food was sufficient enough. Keeping down the medicine was in my opinion the most important thing to do. It was a balancing act.

Locals contract malaria often. Their immune systems have adapted to it. I was told by one person they get malaria once a month. I’m unsure how true this actually is, but I found it interesting. As soon as a local gets a fever they get tested right away and given medication if confirmed. It’s gone within 3 days. For visitors, our immune systems haven’t had the chance to adapt, the experience is quite different. I felt as if people were treating me as a local. Things were getting progressively worse during my stay. I started getting a nasty headache on day two. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Sleep was very important for me. At this point my symptoms included a high fever, severe fatigue, anemia, headache, vomiting, very fast and shallow breathing and chills. Sleeping helped me recover from exhausting my energy during the day. I asked whether there was any headache medicine in the house. There was, but I wanted to contact a doctor first to make sure it was compatible with the malaria medication, it wasn’t; so one of the children got the correct type from the drug store. I had the pill around 8pm. Within minutes of taking it I knew I was in trouble. My eyes became wide and I had this unusual amount of energy. I hoped it would wear off as the night went on but it didn’t.

I lay in my bed all night. No headache though so that was a relief. I experienced crazy thoughts, as vivid as dreams. They came rushing through my head, completely unrelated thoughts every few seconds. They were however all dark, sad and unwelcome. This lasted throughout the night. The medication never wore off.

Around 8 am I started feeling the effects of being awake all night. My body was tired, my mind was tired; I had never been this sick in my life. I had to vomit again so off I went to the bathroom. It was relentless; I puked 10-15 times. Nothing was really coming out except water. With what energy I had left I slowly made it back to my bed and collapsed. My breathing became very fast, I couldn’t talk anymore. Speaking a word was too much effort.

It was time to get to the hospital. A friend of the Pastor gave me a ride – it was hard; I couldn’t lift my head. Once we got to the hospital I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the nearest bed – right by the entrance. It was an effort even to open my eyes at this point. They set me up with an IV and about 10 minutes later I had stabilized. I looked around the room to notice a lot of people looking at me. I gave everyone a thumbs up which garnered some smiles. They took some blood soon after I lay down. They told me I didn’t have malaria. It seemed as though they were questioning whether I even had it to begin with as I no longer had my medical diagnosis paper from the clinic. They did inform me that I had an infection somewhere so they started giving me antibiotics. I was a bit confused. Even though I had stabilized, I didn’t feel much better. My fever was 105 degrees. However since I was told the malaria was gone, I believed the medication worked.

I was moved me to a room once I was able and given some lunch. Lunch included rice, hard-boiled egg, an apple and bread. I only managed to eat half of it. Unfortunately they never took my plate away until dinner which became a magnet for mosquitoes. There must have been at least 30-40 surrounding my bed at one point. I tried to ask for a mosquito net but it was lost in translation. I asked for someone who speaks English but perhaps that was lost in translation too as no one came for a long time. To get attention one basically has to yell with hopes a nurse who isn’t sleeping will hear you. Usually there were visitors in the hospital, who went to fetch a nurse for me.

Medical care here obviously isn’t up to western standards, which I understand. It’s the common sense stuff that frustrated me. As I waited for someone to come, I started killing mosquitoes and putting them in a pile so I could better explain what I wanted. Finally someone that spoke a little English came. She was able to supply me with some repellent and a sheet to cover myself. Overnight, one person stays at the hospital near the front. This was nearly 200 meters from my bed. By morning I had communications with family, who thought it was best to move to a larger city. It was important to get to the bottom of this continued illness. Something wasn’t quite right.

The daily ferry left at 3pm, it was my goal to get on it. I felt strong enough now to walk. I figured once I got on the ferry I would be able to sit and regroup for the walk off the ferry. Sitting or lying down was okay. Moving however was exhausting. The ferry ended up being sold out when I got there. Someone can still get on but getting a seat was impossible. Once on, I managed to find a spot on a narrow metal staircase. The ferry is 2 hours long including both docking maneuvers.

Someone close to me noticed I wasn’t doing too well and struck up a conversation. She spoke English but I couldn’t hold much of a conversation. I just told her I was sick and on my way to a hospital. She told me her sister was picking her up from the ferry; she works at the hospital and offered to give me a ride. I couldn’t refuse. Getting off the ferry was difficult; the dock runs about 400 meters. My balance and coordination were off. There were a lot of people including scooters. I stumbled and lost my balance a couple of times and almost went in the water.

Once we got to the hospital, I could lie down near the entrance while they took my blood. The results came back, not only did I still have malaria, but I had the most serious strain possible (malaria falciparum OR tropical). I started taking medication right away. I lay there for 3-4 hours waiting for a private room. At this point I was very anemic and breathing very fast and shallow. I remember almost passing out once by focusing on a discolouration in the ceiling, this slowed my breathing, but luckily I snapped out of it. I finally got into my room around 11pm, and they hooked up an IV. I felt the worst was over and hopefully we could tackle this now and get it over with.

I woke up around 5am to find my IV bag empty. I had enough energy to get up, so I continued to the door. I opened to yell for help. The yells became louder and louder as I didn’t see anyone coming to my aid. I am two blocks from the hospital at a private one story building with a courtyard situated in the middle. The rooms enclose the courtyard. The nurses stay in a room across from mine. After 5 mins of yelling, finally someone came. They were apparently all sleeping. The bag was replaced but I wasn’t feeling well. It was probably a combination of not having the IV for who knows how long, the medication and using my energy to get out of bed and yell for help.

Matters got worse over the next few hours. I again called for help. This time I couldn’t get out of bed, and my yells became weaker and weaker. I tried to text my family, asking for them to come, all I could muster was the word “hard”. After seeing my text, my mom called – she heard how much stress I was under even though I couldn’t speak much. This felt like the first set of medication I had after the misdiagnosis (although more severe) and it grew worse over 3 days. I was afraid of the same thing happening this time around and being alone.

Nurses came about 45 minutes later and noticed I wasn’t doing well. They tried to give me some antibiotics orally. My throat was so dry that it got caught on the back of my tongue. I moved my head to the left and started vomiting. There were 5 nurses in the room. One retrieved a waste bucket for me. I couldn’t open my eyes during this time, I just heard him slide it under me. Then I heard one of the nurses vomiting in my toilet because I was vomiting. This is not a sound you want to hear. I managed to open one eye just to see what everyone else was doing; I saw one of the nurses taking a picture of me. It was upsetting but I had no way of explaining that. Some were very professional, others weren’t. The standards are just completely different there. I began feeling better over the next couple of hours.

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My father and brother were on their way – to the rescue. Over the next couple of days, I slowly got better. I was no longer vomiting, my fever was subsiding. After my last episode the nurses started giving me medication through my IV instead of orally. I think this was a big factor. My brother and father arrived on Christmas day. I can easily say this was the best present I have ever received. Seeing familiar faces was such a relief. Within 5 minutes laughs were shared. I haven’t laughed like that in what seemed like a long time. They were instrumental in getting everything in order and getting me out of the hospital. I moved to a hotel that day since I no longer needed an IV. I was malaria free on Dec 26th. Over the next four days I stayed with my brother. It was funny seeing these two worlds collide.

We managed to do a little sightseeing; we visited a local Buddhist temple and did some touristy things. We flew out of Sorong on the 30th; I felt comfortable enough to make the trip. There were so many people that helped me. A special thanks goes out to my family for their support. They were on the next plane, as soon as I asked; even though it was Christmas and they probably wanted to spend time with families of their own – Thank You! I met a girl named Kate only 10 days before I left Canada for this trip. She’s just finishing nursing school and was instrumental in supporting my family and assuring them everything was going to be okay. She answered lots of questions and really blew everyone away with her kindness and attentiveness. She also helped me pass time as I lay in bed for 3 weeks. Thank You! The people of Waisai and Sorong who helped me – thank you so much for your generosity! The people’s spirit reminds me of why I love this place, and why I return. Ranny, who knows what would have happened if I didn’t get to the clinic when I did. Thank You! There were so many people who helped with flights, vaccines and medical support. Thank You!

Malaria is something not to be taken lightly. It can be a deadly combination when traveling in a remote area, the medical standards and the seriousness of the illness. It can often lead to serious complications down the road. A series of small mistakes can often lead to tragedy. Please don’t make the first one by not taking preventative malaria medication. If I can convince anyone to take this medication during a trip to the tropics, then my experience was worth it.

Now… back to training for my run.

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Good Morning Waisai

It’s great to be back in Waisai. I’ve seen some familiar faces already. One of the guides on the jungle expedition, (who happens to work for a forest and wildlife conservation program), offered me a free place to stay while I get situated. I took him up on the offer and stayed for a night until I found something more permanent.

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There was a young German fellow named Timon who was also staying there while working on a project. He had just returned from a jungle expedition himself, collecting species of frogs. He was in the jungle for two weeks. Now, just so you get an idea of how remote and undiscovered this region is to the western world, Timon numbered all the frog species. There were over 50 in his collection. I asked him whether any of these were new species…his answer, “practically all of them”.

After a few calls made by Ranny a place was found to call home. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit under the weather since I left Canada. I had a cold at first, and now I have a bit of a fever. I’ve been in my new place for a few days now, only leaving to grab some water and a bite to eat.

Ranny will be away with guests until the 15th, so while I can, thought it was a great time to describe what happened with the Clean Raja Ampat campaign after I left earlier this year. I had to leave soon after our very successful Clean Raja Ampat movement; too soon, but everything just happened so quickly near the end of my trip. I found out within a week of being home that the government issued us a substantial grant. After hearing this news, some of us looked into creating a foundation in Indonesia. Unfortunately as others involved couldn’t agree on the direction or an effective use of the money, I disassociated myself from that particular group. The positive news is that we were recognized by the government; they valued our efforts and are willing to support these types of initiatives.

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Fast forward to now. On my first full day in Waisai I decided to visit my good friend Yuning; the local artist whom I have worked closely with in the past. We went for a walk down to the promenade. The area was completely littered with garbage (this particular area was a key focus for the Clean Raja Ampat campaign).

Election season is here and there was large rally held the night before. Unfortunately, no one had the forethought to place garbage bins in the area; we know what happens when a large crowd of people gathers together. Water bottles were passed throughout the crowd and subsequently thrown on the ground.

There were eight gentlemen nearby and they all joined us in helping with a clean-up. Yuning made a couple of phone calls, and down came their party candidate to offer us money for lunch and water while we cleaned.

There is now a recycling facility in Waisai. It was built here about a month ago and is called the Garbage Bank. It’s the same facility we transported our bottles by ferry to in Sorong last spring. The system is very inefficient, but it is a system none the less. At least this area now has a place to bring plastic; it is time to move on to other initiatives. These initiatives include, buying a piece of land in Waisai and building a waste management center where we can sort, recycle and incinerate waste. We are also working on plans to construct a large boat with a built in compactor for collections throughout the islands. People also need a financial incentive to collect plastics, so we will be working with the government to implement a tax on all plastic bottles sold in the area.

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Once we have a sustainable system, our goal is to move onto other parts of Indonesia. We’ve already had a great deal of interest in what we doing. We just need to figure out the best plan of attack and then streamline the processes as much as possible.

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Into the Jungle

Last minute changes again (I love not having a schedule). I flew with Ranny to Sorong. Along the way she told me about some guests she was having the day we arrived. They are reptile lovers and had plans of trekking into the jungle in hopes of finding snakes. I’ve been itching to see the jungle and the creatures within it. Most people visit Raja Ampat for its underwater beauty. I was curious to see if the beauty continued above. So off we went, on a three day trek into the unknown, with three local guides.

It was so hot, and I didn’t have the proper gear, but made do with what I had. We trekked for two hours until we made it to one of the guide’s houses; this would be our base camp. After dinner we set out to complete a night hike. I sure am glad we did.

One tree looked like it had Christmas lights on it. It was filled with fire flies. The canopy floor was also lit up with other insets. We saw a tarantula and numerous other interesting insects. The highlight of the night for me was seeing “glow in the dark” mushrooms. These mushrooms were a neon green colour… absolutely amazing.

The next day we hiked to a cave with hopes of finding some snakes. The cave entrance was about 4-5 meters high, so to get there I had to climb up some vines (sorry mom). Once we made a bit of noise, we heard this loud commotion. We looked up and saw these massive bats flying above us. At first I assumed they were fruit bats because they were so large, but no, they were just huge bats. My guess is their wing span was around 3-4 feet.

Arriving inside the cave, we saw a very small species of another bat. Because we are on an island, most creatures are normally smaller than their mainland relatives; small, but stunning. The amount of colours and diversity is mind boggling. For instance every tree has its own eco-system. I saw a number of spiders with horny shells – go figure.

Our base camp was situated along a river which was perfect for bathing. At night the river filled with large shrimp. You can see their eyes glowing beneath the surface. We never did find any snakes and as half of them are deadly, I didn’t mind too much. Once the jungle trek was over, Ranny joined the American couple at a nearby homestay. I am now off to Waisai where I can get situated, and find a place to call home for the next two months.

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Yogyakarta

Well I remember why I fell in love with Indonesia. Not only for its majestic beauty, but because of the people; I’m blown away how the people here are so warm and welcoming. Last minute I made a change of plans. Ranny had told me she was attending a sustainable tourism conference in Yogyakarta on Java. I took this opportunity to see an area of Indonesia that I haven’t seen before, and made some great connections within the tourism ministry. The city is known for being the cultural center of Indonesia. The sultan’s residential palace is here along with universities and other tourist attractions that you can find here –

https://indonesia.tripcanvas.co/jogja/things-to-do-in-yogyakarta/.

I didn’t ask to attend the conference myself, not wanting to barge in, so I spent the day exploring the city. One can easily walk around the city day or night alone, and feel completely at ease. On my last day in Yogyakarta, conference attendees and I went to a rural village where traditional dance and music took place. I made some great connections while there.

Tourism officials from all over the country were intrigued by what we’re trying to accomplish in Raja Ampat. I received three offers from other communities within Indonesia to try and create sustainable waste management systems. Obviously there won’t be a time when no plastic waste exists in the area. But if we can pressure the government enough to create sustainable programs for waste management, my work will be somewhat complete and I can focus elsewhere and replicate these efforts.

To Learn of an Amazing Connection with New Friend and SupporterCLICK HERE

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Friendly Drifter Run for Raja Ampat

Friendly Drifter Announces Fundraising Run from the US/Mexican border to Vancouver Canada. Funds raised will go towards creating a recycling facility for plastic waste in Raja Ampat Indonesia. For more information, visit www.friendlydrifter.com/participate. If you wish to support our efforts, please consider a donation through www.gofundme.com/friendlydrifter. Thank you.

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