It was a Success! Workshop on Building Board of Directors’ Skills – Provided by National Wildlife Refuge Mentors

In June, as a result of a successful application for mentoring assistance, we were visited by Cheryl Hart (also a Board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association) and Barbara Volke through a grant sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Friends Mentoring Program.. They provided an ambitious program over four days, covering board member duties, developing a vision and mission statement, as well as helping us develop an action plan to carry forward after the workshop. We were joined by Tammy Summers, the new Project Leader, currently stationed in Guam, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Mariana Islands Refuges and Monument Complex which includes the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and its associated Refuges. Many of you may know Tammy as she has previously worked in CNMI on sea turtle conservation issues. We congratulate Tammy on her new position and are looking forward to collaborating with her and her staff on important ocean conservation issues facing the Marianas. 

After 10 years since the Monument designation, we are now working on updating our vision and mission statements and developing a strategic plan that will carry us through the next decade. Other action items include increasing our website and social media presence, and to continue to provide outreach programs for the community. Barbara and Cheryl will be helping to guide us for another 12 months as we work through our action items. Here are some of the comments from the participants of the Building Board of Directors’ Skills Workshop:

The functional exercises for capturing everyone’s point of view was useful and created animated discussion. As they say, the devil is in the details and the group exercises really helped bring a few things into focus. I especially enjoyed doing the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Though I am familiar with this tool, it was great to have an outside facilitator structure the dialogue. It made for a better outcome. I would have liked a more tangible outcome, but the action item list at least gave us priorities for the many things we already knew that we need to address.

I liked that I was able to understand the organization better, and it helped me realize how I can help given my limited capacity.”

…what I liked the most about the workshop was the part where each one of us had to tell a story on why the listener has to support/join our cause or mission and try to persuade or convince them on our story.

I liked that I was able to join remotely even if it was only for part of the Program. I am excited to help with the grant writing so we can get some new projects going!

I was most excited about getting to become better acquainted with the members of the Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument. I am looking forward to working with them to inspire future CNMI marine scientists.

It was a privilege to work with the dedicated Friends of Marianas Trench Board members and the FWS Project Manager as one of their mentor team. They are passionate about their mission to protect this unique area and to help others develop a conservation ethic that will ensure its preservation for future generations. I sincerely hope others will join them in this critical endeavor.

Who are the NWRA Friends? The NWRA Friends are among the most powerful voices that speak on behalf of their local refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) in their communities and even with decision-makers in Washington. The NWRA successfully mobilizes friends groups and private citizens to address the challenges facing our national wildlife refuges and marine monuments. The NWRA provides training workshops, communications networks, partnerships, and advocacy to help generate support for public lands and vital wildlife habitats at the local and national levels. According to NWRA, more than 230 Friends organizations work in support of wildlife refuges across the nation, with 36,000 volunteers contributing 1.4 million hours a year to the Refuge System. With Refuge System funding declining, the need to recruit and train additional volunteers is more pressing than ever! 

We are excited about bringing additional support from partnership activities with the NWRA Friends to CNMI in the future. As a result of another proposal submission to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, several board members of Friends of the Mariana Trench, along with our USFWS partner, Tammy, will be attending a peer-to-peer workshop in September to learn from and share our story with other Pacific Region-based Friends groups. 

Thanks to everyone for taking time from their personal schedules to help make our workshop possible. Special thanks to Barb and Cheryl for endeavoring to work with us with our complex circumstances. Thanks to Tammy for getting onboard quickly and making it to Saipan to attend. Thanks to Dave for securing the conference room. Thanks to Ike and Edson for the ice chest and drinks. 

Are you interested in joining us as we move forward? All you need is a love for the ocean and its abundant resources! There are no membership dues. Use our online membership inquiry form or contact us at to apply for regular membership for the Friends of Mariana Trench.