SYSTEMIC ABUSE & NEGLIGENCE AT AIDA

May 11th, 2023

SYSTEMIC ABUSE & NEGLIGENCE AT AIDA

By Elena Petrushina, Lead author and producer of the AIDA Youth program, freediving instructor with 8 years of experience and 200+ students, teacher, educational psychologist .

INTRODUCTION

 

Today marks three years since AIDA released its Youth program, a methodology for teaching water skills to children to safely introduce them to freediving. I initiated, produced and launched it for AIDA. When I proposed creating the program, my aim was to establish some regulation of youth freediving but I did not achieve it.

I don’t believe that AIDA performs its duties as a regulating body of freediving and this conclusion is based on evidence. Moreover, my experience with the association led me to conclude that irresponsibility and abuse of power are systemic at AIDA. That is why I see it important to make these concerns a matter of active public discourse. 

 

 

Elena Petrushina
Elena Petrushina by Nanna Kreutzmann

 

WHY IS THE REGULATION OF YOUTH FREEDIVING SO IMPORTANT?

 

Physical safety of children in the water comes to mind first and is obviously important. Complacency in this matter cannot be justified although it can easily emerge when it comes to clear waters of a sunny beach resort. In the water session settings, safety must not only be ensured but also taught to children thoroughly. 

The importance of psychological safety of children learning to freedive is less obvious but as significant.

Think of it. Freediving is a very body-oriented activity: we cannot breathe underwater; we move differently in the water than in our habitual environment. Any trauma in such circumstances may be very deep and “bodily”. And the situation of in-water training is indeed vulnerable. Not only because a child can get scared in the water.

Interaction with coursemates and the instructor also matters a lot, while it’s not easy to maintain boundaries. Instructor has a lot of authority and gains a lot of trust. He or she is a beautiful strong person who dives very well and has taught the child to dive as well. Children often feel that they owe their achievements to the instructor. So do their parents. It is important that instructors keep all interactions harmless or, as we now say, ecological. 

Living in Dahab, I saw some rough practices with children in the water, sometimes cruel ones. When I taught children myself, I had many questions. How deep can I allow them to dive? How often can they have water sessions? What to do if a child can hardly swim but wants to learn how to dive? And many more questions. I checked with AIDA and the only thing I found was an instructor’s bulletin with recommendations of depth/time limits for three age groups under 16.

There was nothing else and I conceived the idea of proposing AIDA to create a proper methodology and standards for teaching freediving to children. After all, any activity for children is usually more regulated than for adults. How could youth freediving be so overlooked?  


HOW I CAME TO CREATE THE AIDA YOUTH PROGRAM

 

I didn’t feel ready to approach AIDA with such a proposal, thinking that I needed more expertise and experience. So, I took an additional course in educational psychology and deliberately sought opportunities to teach children for two years, regularly announcing free or virtually free courses.

 

 

by Vladimir Fedotov
by Vladimir Fedotov

 

In 2017, I discovered that AIDA France had their own Standards and even certificates for children. I wrote to the Education Officer at the time Jean-Pol François with a proposal to take part in developing a methodology and standards for youth freediving at AIDA International. I was readdressed to AIDA France and got in contact with Claude Chapuis who sent me their Standards translated into English. He accepted my offer to add two small chapters into their document and I wrote them: one on empathic approach to young students and the other on abuse prevention. 

In 2018, AIDA Education Committee announced a volunteering position of Communication Admin and I volunteered, saying honestly at my first interview that my bigger goal was to participate in the creation of a youth program. Soon the new Education Officer, Brian Crossland, was elected and I sent another proposal to him. Some time later the AIDA Board approved the development of a youth program and I started my work. 

I appealed to instructors in a newsletter, asking those who had experience teaching children to share their methods with AIDA so that I could include them in the Youth program. Some instructors sent me their developments. Four of them agreed to form a commission that supervised and edited all the materials that I was preparing.

Our Youth Commission was also in contact with the whole group of authors of the AIDA France Standards for children. I based the current AIDA Youth Standards on their document. In addition to that, my drafts were checked by a sports psychologist and by the AIDA Medical Committee who also provided information for the whole chapter on medical aspects of youth training. That was a big collaboration of international experts and it felt great. 

The experts were quite responsive and, although there was a lot of work, I was managing to deliver planned sub-deadlines on time. 

 

WHY THE RELEASE OF AIDA YOUTH WAS DELAYED

 

 

The delays started to pile up at the stage of producing the program within the Education Committee. By the end of 2019 we managed to complete the design of the course materials and updates for EOS (Education Online System for certifications). I created an online course for instructors and it was being tested. We were ready to present the program to the public within a month after the New Year. After that, we only needed to handle the support of instructors taking their Youth course. 

Starting January 2020, AIDA stopped paying invoices for anyone in the Education Committee, without any explanations and even without responding to our emails. At the beginning of the year we worked as usual, not knowing about any troubles. Then the Education Officer warned us to stop putting time into our projects until the Board resolves some issues with renewing our contracts.

We waited. In the beginning of April ― three months into the year ― the Education Committee wrote a collective letter to the Board, asking to explain the situation and hopefully pay our invoices. Then began a long, stressful and very confusing communication with the Board. For some reasons, the Education Committee members were treated as though we were doing something bad and that getting paid for our work was wrong.  

 

COMMUNICATION 

 

 

The President Alexandru Russu and the Secretary at the time Philippe Péan mentioned that communication was a problem. They were very keen on moving all our correspondence to Microsoft Teams. At first, I went on and tried to communicate with them on that platform; other Education Committee members did not join. Being alone while corresponding with the President and Secretary didn’t feel right ― I felt blamed, disrespected and intentionally confused while not being able to solve any issues. I have no evidence of that because I lost access to that correspondence as soon as they removed me from the AIDA’s account in Microsoft Teams. 

Thankfully, I felt that I needed witnesses and moved all the communication back to email,  adding other relevant people to the copies. That is why I have enough evidence to support my statements in this article and more. 

 

 

ABUSIVE CONDUCT OF THE AIDA ADMINISTRATION

 

 

As I mentioned, the members of the Education Committee felt that we were treated badly. Only this reply from the President to one of my many letters shows signs of several types of abuse:

There is stonewalling of paying our invoices by shifting blame to communication. There is devaluing of my time by literally putting a “very small price” on it. There is exploitation by saying that we were expected to work without compensation and calling it a misunderstanding that we still worked in the new year.

While the President writes that the Board cannot sign our contracts for the new year for some objective reasons, he then states in the same letter that the contract with an Admin can and will be prolonged. 

 

 

Mickie with snorkel freediving
Email from AIDA President Alex Russu to Elena.
 
Elena: 

“Moving to MS Teams has not changed the situation to any better for us. I spend at least half hour every day only to log in; other member[s] still have difficulties even joining.” 

President: 

“There’s probably no perfect solution, but a difficult communication is certainly better than no communication. Since our lack of communication delayed the Youth program with 1 year, the half an hour lost on the MS Teams chat looks like very small price to pay for unblocking this situation (and probably others we don’t even know about).

Elena

“But our questions remain unanswered. Are we expected to work without compensation? Am I spending this time on managing the Youth again without compensation?” 

President

“Generally speaking, based on how the AIDA structure and statutes have been conceived, everybody is expected to work without compensation. 

The board realized however that this is not adapted anymore to the present times and we are considering making fundamental changes like including paid position in AIDA, but we’re missing the legal knowledge and this is why it takes longer. Mistakes have probably been made in the past and we’re searching legal advice for a fresh start.” 

Elena

“Will I be launching the program on my own time as well? Will Green team need to do their layout just to have it finished at last?” 

President

“As I could not follow this project, for the moment I cannot answer, but I can propose the MS Team solution to avoid these problems for the future.” 

Elena

“Will admins work on their own time and reply queries from instructors on daily bases?”

President

“Based on the suggestion of the Education Officer, the Board approved, as an exception, the prolongation of the agreement with the EC Admin on the old condition up to the end of March if I remember well, so this is probably paid already. The new agreement will follow the updated requirements.” 

Elena

“Will our invoices since NY not be paid? Do you realise that we already bill only a fraction of our time?” 

President

“This should be a misunderstanding. Following a Board decision from last year, for 2020 AIDA did not renew the old payment agreements (in order to make the switch to the new hiring procedures that will include requirements from the December Assembly vote on paid positions and the legal advice)” 

 

Meanwhile, instructors started asking in the AIDA Instructors Facebook group why the Youth program was still not released. At some point I replied, suggesting to ask the Board. From then, the abuse escalated. After trying to deflect and explain away the issue in the AIDA  Instructors group, the President insistently asked me to join the online “Special Board meeting” that was planned “to fix the Education Committee issue”. 

 

freediving breath-up

 

 

ABUSE AT THE “SPECIAL BOARD MEETING”

 

At that meeting, things got rougher. I was openly laughed at for complaining about work without compensation. It was insinuated that I wanted more money for the work that I was allegedly supposed to have already done.

This was especially hurtful because the amount of my own time that I put into the Youth program by then was frustratingly enormous. I was accused of creating a “mess on Facebook”, referring to my honest answers to instructors about the delays of the Youth program release.

I was bargained with and offered to sign the new contract in exchange for silence. I was slandered and ridiculed after I left the meeting. I know this because they sent the recording of the meeting to the group chat and I heard what was said about me in my absence. I still have the recording. Below are a few quotes from it:

The Secretary Philippe Péan implied that I might be dishonest in my intentions: 

Secretary: “Today it is not clear. If we pay you today 2000 euro, what will happen in two weeks? Maybe you will say that this and this has to be done; I need more money.”

Elena: “By the time that we started this discussion, in the beginning of April, I consider everything paid. I have no claims for the overtime I did. But what I’m doing now must be paid…” 

The President bargained with me, trying to offer me the new contract in exchange for, presumably, my silence on social media; further, the discussion escalated to accusations from the Secretary:  

President: “Elena wants a new contract to do additional things on the course and we have this mess on the social media. So, can we solve all of them at one shot?” 

Elena: “How do you propose to do that?” 

President: “Well, I know what we can do on our side. Tell us what you can do on your side” 

Elena: “We are expecting you to do something on your side. That’s it. And I would not call it a mess. The only thing that makes it a mess is trying to not be responsive continually… [interrupted]”  

Secretary: “The letter that you sent with Mailchimp… There is no excuse for this.” 

Here he referred to the newsletter that the whole Education Committee wrote and signed. In it, we informed the instructors that all the Education projects were put on hold by the Board. The letter was approved by the Education Officer before being sent to instructors ― it was done the same way as any other newsletter that I had sent out in over two years. When I tried to make my points, I was interrupted with similar reprimanding: 

Secretary: “I don’t want to discuss it now, Elena. You need to be conscious that that thing is inexcusable and it should never be repeated.”

Elena: “The association should answer to instructors…” 

President: “No.” 

He then explains that the Board “responds to the Assembly”. 

Secretary: “How do we solve the damage done?”

Elena: “I have a suggestion: the Board formulates a short statement with the information that you have just summed up and an apology” 

President: “We will. We have to.” 

Secretary: “Yes, we will anyway.” 

President: “The question is what you can do on your side.” 

Elena: “I will accept the apology…” 

 

After I left the meeting, the President openly suggested an option of refusing to sign the new contract with me in retaliation for voicing my concerns to AIDA instructors (I should remind here that a considerable part of the work listed in my new contract was already done by that moment but not paid): 

President: “Do we go with this to put the ball down or we just say that we cannot work with a person who acted in the way she acted?” 

 

Then other Board members suggested that I was the right person for the job. Several members agreed that it should be a one-time “firm-priced” contract so that they could let me go as soon as I released the Youth program.

The Secretary insisted that my actions were ill-intentioned, returning to this topic three times despite that the Treasurer Sasa Jeremic expressed her trust to my motivations and the Education Officer Brian Crossland tried to explain that I felt that I was treated badly: 

Secretary: “She was the one who said that these are the problems. She should say: OK, the solution we found is OK.” 

President: “She said she would accept our apology.” [laughs]

A few Board members laugh loudly. 

Education Officer: “She would like an apology for the way she’s been treated and some of the emails addressed towards her.”

Secretary: “Well, we are quite under the impression that there is maybe no rush for this project but maybe she wanted to get paid quickly. This is my deep feeling.” 

Treasurer: ”Her intentions were not wrong from any side.” 

Secretary: “So, we agree that, before all that Facebook mess, there was no emergency regarding this project?” 

Education Officer: “Only that we’ve sat on this since January, trying to launch it. And it is still not launched. This is the frustration.”  

Secretary: “Anyway, I will be voting for this proposition but I really don’t like the way it is done. Just blackmailing the Board into, saying: if you don’t pay, nobody will ever have this AIDA Youth program because it’s ready but I want money so that it’s released. I don’t like this. But anyway, I’m OK for the contract.” 

Treasurer: “I didn’t understand that anyone said: I want money for the contract. What was said was that something extra needed to be done. And it’s a question of who will do it.“ 

Secretary: “Yes but there was no need to put all this mess on Facebook for this.” 

Education Officer: “The whole thing on Facebook is the whole frustration that we are now nearly into May…” 

He continues to list many problems that the Education Committee had been facing since the beginning of the year. 

 

TAMPERING WITH MY CONTRACT

 

 

At the “Special Board meeting”, it seemed that I finally explained to the Board that the contract signed in 2018 was long fulfilled. They agreed that a new contract needed to be signed with me for the work on the launch of the Youth program and the initial support of the instructors taking the online course on how to teach children. After the meeting, I filled my contract and sent it to the Secretary to be checked before signing. As customary, I marked all edits that I made with red ink. 

When the Secretary sent me his version of the contract to be signed, it had unfavourable changes in the Compensation clause that were hidden in black font.

Previously, I was instructed by the Treasurer and Education Officer to exclude taxes from the amount and to write the tax rate as %, meaning that AIDA would cover the tax on top of the written amount.

The Secretary’s version of the contract had this part changed so that my tax was not covered. The font colour then was changed to black which could not have occurred by accident. 

Below is the comparison that I sent to Kimmo Lahtinen when he became Vice President soon after I left AIDA. 

 

 

contract comparison
 

 

 

I felt deeply hurt and distressed. By that time, the abuse had gone on for a while and I was literally sick of it. I wrote to the Board that I was not going to sign up for releasing the Youth program because I felt ill and completely discouraged.

Before that, I asked the instructors from the Youth Commission to take over the launch of the program but nobody wanted to. I wrote in my letter to the Board: 

 

“My health has deteriorated, and chronic conditions became unbearable. I can no longer find motivation for this work; on the contrary, the task that used to be inspiring to me now seems daunting.

I feel deeply insulted by the conduct of some of the Board members, by how I’ve been treated as the author of the Youth program and by the collective attempt to silence Education Committee members. If one’s freedom of (truthful!) speech is oppressed, then one becomes completely vulnerable without support of instructors.” 

 

daunting
 

 

“NOBODY WILL DO IT AS WELL AS YOU” 

 

The next day, the President sent me a new version of the contract with the amount amended so that it covered the tax. He tried to persuade me by adding this:  

“I know the communication was rough, but in the interest of the freediving community it will be good to bring this project to the end” 

 

 

communication was rough
 

 

 

In the following several days, I was receiving calls and messages from people persuading me to finish the launch of the program. Their best argument was: “Nobody will do it as well as you”. 

I realised that nobody actually would do it at all. No one knew much about the program except the several people in the Youth Commission, and they did not want to have anything to do with it, seeing how rough the communication had been for me. Even at the “Special meeting”, the Board admitted not checking the Youth program. 

Secretary: “My question is: is it possible to review this work that has been done before going further on the publication of the work?” 

Elena: “I was hoping that it was already reviewed because, a long time ago, I enrolled the Board members on the Thinkific course. And the only Board member who did check it was the Treasurer. I have the reports in Thinkific…”

President: “Yes, I confirm, I confirm that I have seen the invitation…” 

 

The prospect of leaving the program to lie in the dust after working on it so hard and so carefully felt even worse to me than swallowing all the insults. I agreed to execute the launch. 

I regretted that many times. I felt so unwell and distraught that I could hardly manage the work physically; just sitting with the computer was hard and painful. I announced the Youth program and sent out the news to the media. This part of work felt the least bearable. I had no joy about completing such a big project. Instead, I felt grief and horrendous shame.

The work on supporting instructors who were taking the online Youth course felt better. I made sure that all answers to their questions were saved in the course discussions for everyone to see. Then I made a list of the most urgent updates that the program needed and wrote down everything else to hand it over to the person who would replace me. But I was not being replaced. 

 

EXPLOITATION

 

 

Since the beginning, in the correspondence with the President and Secretary, the word “volunteering” was used a lot while they refused to even discuss paying for the work of the Education Committee members. Then, at the Board meeting, they laughed at me and slandered me for not wanting to work without compensation.

Now, as I fulfilled the new contract on the Youth program launch, I kept answering instructors’ queries on my own time again while the Board wouldn’t even reply to my numerous reminders to recruit someone to replace me. 

I ended up writing a statement in the AIDA Instructors group to inform the instructors that I was no longer responsible for the Youth program. I had to simply stop working so as to not let my sense of responsibility be exploited any longer.

I also couldn’t handle any work or communication anymore, neither physically nor psychologically. I felt very unwell. In a few weeks after leaving AIDA, I wrote a post on my own Facebook where I confessed feeling extreme despair while being bullied at the association ― I was leaving the freediving industry because I was afraid for my psychiatric health. 



freediving safety bottom weights
 

 

Full post: https://www.facebook.com/elena.petrushina/posts/pfbid0Xcgd8Sqd6RrTNuwFtmLzMimK3QHxtgF8qNjZMsqZn7fsZNYkFGrFLURcV1e1Dkhzl

 

THE PAIN OF MINE

 

 

I also couldn’t teach freediving physically any more. I felt that I had some chronic condition but I didn’t know what it was. It worsened a lot at the time of bullying. My joints hurt more than usual and I became very weak, sometimes being hardly able to use my hands to cook and take care of myself. I had daily anxiety attacks when the diaphragm would suddenly stop moving. My breathing muscles became rigid and started crackling during deep breaths and exercises.

Only this year, in 2023, I was finally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition that attacks my muscles, connective tissue and lungs. It is stress-related. I have had it for 10 years since 2013. Up until the abuse at AIDA in 2020, I managed my body so well that I was able to teach freediving, but I no longer am. I lost other important things because of that abuse. But the biggest pain of mine is that the goal that I had creating the Youth program is not achieved to this day. 

 

YOUTH FREEDIVING IS STILL MISSING REGULATION

 

 

Freediving for children did not become more regulated as a result of my work; it only became more popular. AIDA does not control whether or not its instructors follow AIDA Youth Standards and Guidelines. 

Originally, the Education Committee was planning to implement a system of surveys to assess the instructors’ work. Back in 2019, I discussed it at length with the Education Officer at the time Brian Crossland.

Earlier, he proposed the idea of such a quality control system for all AIDA instructors. In the case of youth instructors, we planned to survey the parents of young students ― all of them for the first year after the implementation of the Youth program and then randomly.

I don’t have a record of that long face-to-face discussion but I do have our earlier correspondence about a similar system for all AIDA instructors. I also have evidence of several instances when I reminded the Board members about the quality control system, mostly without reply. Implementation of the survey system was the first item in the list of most needed program updates when I handed over the project, leaving AIDA. 

Now, why is such control so important? A quote from my letter to the Education Officer at the time Sun Choi and the Vice President Yulia Maryevich explains it. I wrote this with another reminder in 2021, a year after the Youth program’s release: 

 

“Some instructors would misunderstand or ignore the Youth Standards. A certain percentage of people worldwide are inclined to abuse of various kinds and there’s nothing one can do to change that. So, it is only logical to expect breaches, mistakes and even intentional misdeeds as a part of the work routine. It is obvious that the work of instructors must not stay unregulated. It is very surprising to me that I cannot find anyone in AIDA to understand that and take it seriously.” 

 

But I found someone who understood the importance of regulating the work of AIDA youth instructors. The Vice President later wrote me personal messages. She admitted that there were no control mechanisms and that she knew those mechanisms needed to be introduced. She also acknowledged “general laxity” at AIDA. Things didn’t go much further than that conversation then, but I saved the messages. 

Not only does AIDA not provide any control of its youth instructors’ work. It does not provide them with support either. To my knowledge, there is no person or team that would be specifically responsible for the Youth program: answering queries, identifying shortcomings of the program and need for updates, and making those updates. 

I repeatedly reminded the Board to find Youth management to replace me; most of those messages also stayed unanswered. I had to simply leave my duties without being replaced, informing the instructors that I was no longer responsible for AIDA Youth. In one of his comments to my statement in the AIDA Instructors group, the Vice President at the time Kimmo Lahtinen acknowledged that the Youth course had no management and the Board was aware of that: 

“[At the Board meeting] I expressed my concerns related to the missing Youth course management”

 

Kimmo
 

 

 

Now, why do I think that regulating the work of youth instructors is AIDA’s responsibility? Not only does AIDA receive money for youth certificates, it proclaims its regulatory functions on its website: 



AIDA today
 

 

https://aidainternational.org/About (saved as archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20230428135250/https://aidainternational.org/About

“AIDA has grown to an international federation and is the single largest organizer of international freediving competitions, rules and regulations. Rules and regulations are discussed and improved continuously and every day around the world new students are trained and earn their certificates. Sport and education, promoting the joy of freediving are key concerns of a sports federation.“ 

 

AIDA YOUTH INSTRUCTOR TRAINERS INSTEAD

 

 

Soon after I left, AIDA implemented a system of Instructor Trainers in the Youth Program. As I understood, in the Board’s mind, it was done to replace the need for recruiting any management and implementing the quality control system in one shot. 

Initially, I intentionally avoided the need for any instructor trainers. Firstly, where do we find the first trainers who will teach others? I couldn’t possibly make myself an instructor trainer and teach everyone how to teach children. AIDA Youth program is the result of the collective work of a big team. There are about 30 names on the materials, most of which are instructors who shared their expertise. Another reason to avoid the instructor-trainer system was that I didn’t want to create any opportunities for myself to profit from the program. I wanted to prevent any accusations of profiteering. Also, by making all my work transparent, I was trying to ensure that anyone interested could take over after me at any moment. 

The solution was to create an online course for youth instructors. It was written in my initial proposal for which the Board voted in 2018. Later in 2020, its members were baffled seeing that no one was an instructor trainer and once I stopped supporting the program, they created a few of those.

The first youth instructor trainers were the members of the Youth Commission who supervised and co-authored the program, including myself ― I found out by accident. I don’t know how it works because I have never worked as an AIDA instructor since then, nor was I informed. 

As per my understanding, AIDA suggests that it provides sufficient control over following its standards and guidelines by its network of instructor trainers in conjunction with the AIDA Disciplinary Committee. Such a system is typical for AIDA Education for adults. Unfortunately, I have evidence that it is completely ineffective. 

 

AIDA DISCIPLINARY COMITTEE DOES NOT DISCIPLINE

 

 

In the beginning of March 2020, I took an AIDA FEMRI course (Freediving Emergency First Response Instructor). The experience turned out to be bad for me and even discriminatory. The trainers refused to certify me for a while and so the situation turned into weeks of mistreatment instead of just a few days on the course. Failing to sort it out between myself and the trainers, I tried to find protection in the AIDA Disciplinary Committee. I located the articles of the AIDA Standards that were breached at that course, in my view, and wrote a complaint. 

It took me 4 months of correspondence to get my complaint received by the AIDA Disciplinary Committee. They first refused to take it, forwarding my letter to other people in the organisation against their own rules.

Then I was told that the Disciplinary Committee was not formed. When the committee was finally formed, I was not informed about that. I learned it from the Vice President Kimmo Lahtinen and wrote to the Disciplinary Committee with a reminder. 

A few weeks later I received their decision: reject the charges. The Disciplinary Committee never asked me any additional questions. They wrote to one of my course mates without a reply and corresponded with one of the trainers in question. That was all the information their decision was based on, according to their own report. Not only did the Disciplinary Committee take the trainers’ side; they also threatened me for complaining ― twice in their report which was signed by Grant Graves, Claude Chapuis, Juan Valdivia, Roberta Cenedese and Kim Bongjae. 

 

 

threats
 

 

 

“the DC will not view a future complaint like this one as favorable to Elena’s standing as an AIDA representative/professional. Sanctions may be viewed as appropriate in the future if the behavior of filing unjustified cases continue. 

… 

Caution to Complainant to make use of DC only when complaint is valid and merited by the situation.” 

 

I could not possibly appeal such a decision. However, I still have evidence of unethical conduct of the trainers that I complained about. I also have evidence that AIDA is aware that the course in question was problematic and possibly illegitimate. The current Vice President contacted me in 2021 and asked about my experience at that course ― she was “auditing the processes” at AIDA.

I sent her some of the evidence about the course and the following dealings with the Disciplinary Committee. Later, she informed me that, in fact, irregularities were uncovered when the FEMRI course was assessed. I still have her messages. It seems there was merit to my complaint after all. 

 

SYSTEMIC NATURE OF ABUSE AND IRRESPONSIBILITY AT AIDA

 

 

Above in this article, I mentioned a few times that I informed newly elected AIDA officers about the problems raised here. Two vice presidents admitted these problems in correspondence and on Facebook.

Moreover, AIDA instructors are aware that the management of the association is problematic. Below is a post from the AIDA Instructors group. It can no longer be found in the group but I made a screenshot of it in April 2020. By then I knew that everything had to be saved when it came to communication with AIDA. 

 

threats
 

 

 

“the Education Committee faced tremendous problems in continuing its commitment in support of the instructor’s work by producing the projects required to keep the education material on the necessary level of quality. The main reason why this happened is because the Board, under the new direction, had a reluctant attitude towards all the project proposals, delaying their approvals to an unsustainable level. 

… 

Despite the education sector constitutes the main source of income on which the whole AIDA structure is maintained, the Board is having destructive attitude toward it, jeopardizing in this way the existence of AIDA itself. 

AIDA still cannot update its didactic material and put it online to keep the pace of the other agencies, just because of the inertia of the Board. As an instructor, I consider this unacceptable, and as an AIDA member, I want to openly express my disappointment towards this irresponsible attitude of Board. The legitimacy of the highest representative organ of an organization is sustained exclusively by its capacity of providing service for which it has been appointed by the members of the organization. During the last few months, the AIDA Board proved to be unable to provide such service, and for this reason, in my opinion, it lost its legitimacy.” 

 

 

AIDA is governed by the Board of Officers that are elected by the Assembly, an organ composed by the leaders of AIDA Nationals of a number of countries. The Assembly members are aware about the problems in the organisation ― the Education Committee informed them in April 2020 when we sought help in communication with the Board. The Assembly still re-elected the President after that. 

 

 

 

threats

 

 

 

“We, AIDA Education Committee, would like to inform you about the difficult situation we found ourselves in and ask you to help us negotiate with the Board. 

We still cannot proceed with the projects that need completion, let alone commence new ones. We have been in correspondence with the Board in recent weeks after waiting patiently for over three months, but there is still no more clarity as to when we can continue working properly. 

The Board have not shown interest in Education projects for years. And only when we appealed to them recently, demanding that they finally take vital decisions and administrative actions in order to let us proceed with our work this year, the Board started to request information about our projects (most of which should already be in Board’s possession). However, the attitude that is being shown to us in those dialogs is very concerning. We are being treated as if under suspicion and as if we were withholding information about our projects even though all project proposals were submitted to the Board for voting before any work began.” 

 

 

There were many more instances that demonstrate the systemic nature of complacency and abuse of power at AIDA. This article presents only a small fraction of the evidence that I collected ― of both systemic abuse and the irresponsible approach to the Youth program. 

I have written to a number of organisations but am still failing to find any organisation that could audit the affairs of AIDA. I know my efforts cannot be enough. This is why I would like to share the evidence that I gathered with the public. I am sure there were other cases at the association when rules and ethics were broken by those in power, making others endure harm. My evidence will be useful to those who need to challenge AIDA but cannot do it alone. 

 

For detailed evidence, check the PDF files in this shared folder: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/58t05sh2qnmo90s0562db/h?dl=0&rlkey=b00q8hdtw2c4l0dsiibr9n464 

Please contact (  elena.petru@gmail.com  )me if you had adverse experiences with AIDA and thank you for reading this article to the end. 

 

About the author:

Elena Petrushina

Elena Petrushina, 

Lead author and producer
of the AIDA Youth program, 

Freediving instructor with
8 years of experience and
200+ students, teacher, educational psychologist 

11.05.2023 



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