Civic Engagement Matters; Here is why!

DAN facilitating a Community-based Theatre session in Laamu Atoll Photo: UNDP Maldives


Dhaanish Nashid (Dan), 22 — is a living proof that with motivation, passion and perseverance volunteer work can help drive civic engagement and propel change in society.


Dan, who currently works as an apprentice in the Marine Biology Department at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, discovered his passion in giving back to the community.


“I was very young when I signed up as a volunteer for a local NGO called Tiny Hearts of Maldives.  People used to say that you are doing so much work for nothing. I used to reply back saying, doing what you like doing is sometimes better than good pay,” he reckoned. 

Dan diving with Manta Rays at Hanifaru Bay.


Tiny Hearts of Maldives was a beginning that would lead to numerous opportunities: one of them the Commonwealth Change Makers Forum where Dan represented the Maldives.


“The forum tasked participants to carry out a project to help society in their respective countries. There were lots of good ideas proposed by other participants at that forum. They had ideas of having solar panels, conducting dialogues using creative methods, and many more. All I had in mind was cleaning up the beaches,” says Dan.

What started off little went viral. Participants at one of beach clean ups organized by Dan's Project Damage Control. Photo: Project Damage Control


That led to his flagship project Damage Control. Project Damage Control was inspired by his strong love for the sea and swimming.


“Every day when my friends and I go to swim, we come across a lot of garbage. From plastic bags to tins, cans and bottles there were everything we did not want to see in our beautiful beaches. That is when we decided to spare one hour everyday just to pick up the trash and put it where it has to go,” he recalled.


Later, more friends joined. Some required a bit more convincing while others signed up immediately.. It was how Damage Control came to being.  “Now, almost every Friday, you can see our friends cleaning some corner of Male’,” he added.


 Dan admits that Project Damage Control is a small step towards a big problem but he believes it can have a big impact.


“Perhaps people who  see what we do – most of them in disbelief – may one day start thinking deeper into the question of why we, such young people, are so eagerly engaged in cleaning garbage. That may help them realize that they, too, have an obligation to act. Give back to society,” said Dan.


Dan’s commitment remains undeterred; his message to fellow young people, simple. Civic Engagement matters.


Dan’s passion for civic engagement and volunteerism isn’t just limited to environment. He is one of the first UNDP trained facilitators of the Community-based Theatre (CBT) Forum – an interactive method of dialogue introduced by UNDP Maldives under its flagship Integrated Governance Programme.

Dan with two of his colleagues at Friday beach clean up


Community-based theatre forums are conducted by trained facilitators, using elements of theatre to generate dialogue on social issues. Over the past four years, UNDP has trained over 30 young people and facilitated 20 such dialogues across different areas of the country.


“During my time as a facilitator, I came across this young person who was totally lost to be honest. He had dropped out of school and did not have a job. When we began the theatre forums, I began to notice significant changes in him. For once he began thinking about what he had been doing the whole time,” Dan recalled his experience as a facilitator.


“When we finally finished the sessions, he came to me and said that he wanted to change. His desire for change was largely because through CBT, he got the opportunity to see how he was like from a third-person viewpoint. That hit him hard,” Dan added.


Today, that youth has a job, and all he needed was a forum to express himself and see opportunity. That, Dan says, is the real beauty of Civic Engagement.


 “You don’t really have to be a powerful politician or a wealthy businessman to bring change. Little people, like us, can trigger change too.”

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