Soneva Namoona, Maldives
Soneva Namoona, Maldives

Island Life: Inspiring a new generation of ocean stewards in the Maldives

Born and raised in the Maldives, Azhoora Ahmed grew up a passionate thalassophile, swimming for the Maldives national team and representing the Maldives in the Asian Games in 2022, holding the Maldives Female National Records for three different events.

Azhoora Ahmed of Soneva Namoona, Maldives

Here we talk to her about her role as Inspire Manager at Soneva Namoona, a project working to reduce single use plastic, introduce recycling and inspire a new generation of ocean stewards by fostering a love for the ocean.​ The project is a partnership between the show-stopping luxury island hideaway Soneva Fushi, their three neighbouring island communities of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, and international NGO Common Seas. The project is funded by Soneva and the Soneva Foundation.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

Tell us about your role at Soneva Namoona

My background is in event management, and soon after I finished my master’s degree in event management and tourism, I joined Soneva to manage their sustainable surf programme. In addition to offering surf experiences to our guests, I had the opportunity to engage with the neighbouring communities and encourage young people to get into the ocean more than they do, through the surf lessons and surfing competitions that we were offering.

Working with these communities is what drew me to this field of work, and I found myself getting more and more involved in our community engagement initiatives. Now, I’ve moved into the role of INSPIRE Manager for Soneva Namoona, a project that started off as a pilot and is now an independently registered NGO.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

Tell us more about the project and what you’re working towards

Soneva Namoona exists to co-create, pilot and spread innovations that empower zero-waste communities across the Maldives. Our commitment to the elimination of single-use plastic (SUP) drives our strategic approach to addressing the social and systemic problems associated with this waste stream, which exacerbates the environmental crisis on small coral islands. Our innovations fall into three broad categories:

  • Reduce: innovations in SUP alternative
  • Recycle: innovations in waste processing, infrastructure and logistics
  • Inspire: innovations in community empowerment and education

Our vision is for a world in which each and every one of the Maldives’ unique island communities can once again thrive in harmony with their natural environment. For this to happen, we listen and respond to the needs of the communities we work with and co-create solutions that see locally empowered zero-waste economies and communities. Our innovations are intended to be lastingly beneficial at an island level while being quickly scalable at an atoll level, and nationwide.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

What inspires and motivates you?

I love interacting with people and making human connections. Having the opportunity through my role to connect and work with so many different groups of people across so many islands, on a mission that I am passionate about, has been so inspiring. Watching the islands transform and seeing the smiles on people’s faces make my role very fulfilling.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

What’s unique about the Maldives as a destination— how would you describe its identity?

The Maldives has such a unique character in every which way you look at it. Our geography, the dimensions of the cultures we have across the islands, and the unique blend of influences makes the Maldives a very interesting destination to explore.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

Top tips for a first-time visitor to the hotel/the Maldives?

Soneva’s resorts offer guests the ability to disconnect from the stress of their daily lives. Guests are encouraged to walk barefoot, turn the WiFi off in their villa and ignore the news.

My top tip for first-time visitors would be to completely immerse themselves in the beauty of the resorts, the experiences on offer and, most importantly, to connect with their natural surroundings – whether that be by swimming in the Indian Ocean, learning to free dive or snorkelling along the coral reefs with Soneva’s Marine Biologist.

Soneva Namoona, Maldives

What does the Maldives mean to you?

For me, the Maldives symbolises resilience. For centuries, people have survived on these islands as guardians of the ocean and its incredible ecosystems. I’ve been exploring the different cultures of the Maldives ever since I was a young girl, and still, I realise that there’s so much more to appreciate and explore about this country and its people.

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