>"I was struck by the way one person helped another without batting an eye. I started thinking about founding a nonprofit to combine spearfishing with giving back to the community," Gallagher said. An ICU charge nurse dedicated to helping others, she was instilled with a passion for spearfishing by her now-deceased friend Bonnie Row. Gallagher's combination of these two abiding commitments laid the foundation for Diving for a Cause. The first trip she organized concluded with a donation of almost 500 pounds of fish to an orphanage in Baja California.
>Since then, Gallagher has organized other trips — to Greece, New Zealand, Panama, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Madagascar and elsewhere — aiming for a trip every month. DFAC has also returned to Baja, staying again at Palapas Ventana, a collection of seaside casitas owned by Tim Hatler, who helped with the first trip. Californian Eric Smail, who previously worked for Hatler as a divemaster, led one of those trips.
>Diving for a Cause is a charitable nonprofit that offers volunteers opportunities to freedive, spearfish and help communities in need all around the world.
>The spearfishermen took children from the local orphanage snorkeling. "It was the first time most of them had worn a mask and looked into the ocean," Smail says. "Some of them were very shy, but they started having fun and then we had to drag them out of the water." On the final day of the trip, the group formed a bucket brigade from their vehicle to the orphanage freezer to deliver the donated fish. "Passing it along that way, you got a sense of how much we're actually donating," he adds. "It was several large coolers full of some really nice fish." The divers then ate dinner with the kids and ended the evening with a soccer game.
>Gallagher points out that the selective nature of spearfishing is used to limit its potential impact on fish populations and that DFAC pays careful attention to regulations and limits. The group's emphasis on service also creates a different atmosphere. "No one cares who gets the biggest fish. It takes away the whole competition side of it," she said. "We're doing it as a team, and we all give it away." Bill Ernst, a retired firefighter in California and long-time competitive spearfisherman, went on a recent DFAC trip to Greece, which donated fish to three local charities. "Spearfishing seems a lot more fair to me than other ways of taking fish," he said. "You're on their terms."
>A typical DFAC trip lasts a week and combines several days of spearfishing with at least two days of community service. Divers donate 70 percent or more of their catch and pitch in on a service project. They take along donated masks, snorkels and soccer balls to give to local children in person. They also take books and education supplies to schools and participate in classroom activities, often reading the books they brought. They paint buildings, make electrical repairs and generally add lasting improvements wherever they go.
>Trips are open to divers and nondivers alike. Visit www.divingforacause.org to learn more or to join an upcoming trip.
>For More Info
>© Alert Diver —Winter 2013