Summer Journeys: Grace Qudeen ’25, Coastal Conservation in Africa

Fifteen miles off the coast of the east African nation of Tanzania sits Zanzibar, an archipelago sometimes referred to as the “Spice Islands.” It is filled with tiny fishing villages, and surrounded by turquoise-blue waters, fine white sand, and welcoming beaches. But the relatively new tourism industry and significant climatic changes in the region have begun to take their toll on the islands, compromising, among other things, the marine ecosystem that helps drive Zanzibar’s economy. Last summer, Grace Qudeen ’25 traveled to the village of Matemwe on the northeastern coast of the archipelago’s largest island to engage in the conservation work being done by local marine biologists.

“Our primary objective was to support environmental conservation efforts in the coastal community,” says Grace. “That included protecting local marine life—specifically the sea turtles—and working on the coral reefs.”

Grace stayed at a coastal conservation camp that was close to a local beach and turtle hatchery. Work started early each day.

“I typically woke up at 5:30 am for boat patrol, where we would pass by beaches looking for turtle nests we might need to relocate to the turtle hatchery,” Grace explains. “Moving the nests gives the turtles a better chance of surviving.”

Grace also worked to address what has become a significant problem in Zanzibar, and one that imposes a substantial threat to the turtles and other sea animals: trash.

“The nature of my service was mostly laborious tasks that benefited the environment, such as recycling and upcycling projects, or cleanups of different sorts,” says Grace. “Each morning, we conducted beach and village cleanup. We brought the trash we picked up back to camp, where it would be weighed and grouped into trash and recyclables. Afterward, we would take a bus to an upcycling center and perform different projects, such as upcycling beer bottles into house decor.”

Grace extended the reach of her service in Zanzibar by earning her Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) open-water diving certification there. As a certified diver, Grace was able to participate in coral farming projects, which restore and revitalize reefs by replenishing their growth with small corals propagated in nurseries. She also got to dive for fun in her free time, which was limited: in addition to island cleanup and turtle and coral conservation work, Grace and the other volunteers spent time at local schools talking with children about conservation work, and monitoring and collecting data on the reefs.

“I am proud of the work I did in Zanzibar during the three weeks I was there. My biggest takeaway from the experience was the connections I made with the other volunteers, who came from across the world. It was very eye-opening to learn about the different cultures of different countries and to meet people very different from myself.  I am still in contact with many of them; I think that knowing we were together only for a short amount of time allowed our friendships to develop very fast, but in a way that will last.”

Grace’s travel was made possible in part by a William W. Hatfield ’32 Grant.

Established in 2010, this endowed fund was made possible through the generosity of Guy Hatfield ’65, Ross Hatfield, and the ongoing support of William W. Hatfield’s family. The grant celebrates the ideals of Horace Dutton Taft—service above self—and is given annually to one or more students whose commitment to volunteerism brings to life the message behind Taft’s motto: Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret—Not to be served but to serve.