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Play and Learn – BVI Youth ‘Unite for the Sea’


After being impressed by how much her daughter’s swimming skills improved, Symorne Penn signed up her son and herself for the Sea Turtle Aquatics (STA) programme.

“We live around a body of water and we need to ensure that our kids have the skill to rescue someone or save themselves.”

This was echoed by STA’s co-owner Stacy Mather, who said in addition to basic water safety, his organisation teaches survival skills.

Mr. Mather also said STA focuses on marine preservation, adding, “If we teach students to look for the amazing things in [marine life]…it also helps them better understand the reasons behind preservation and taking care of our environment. Because if you value why something is amazing, then you will protect it.”

STA is just one of the partners for ‘Unite for the Sea’ (UFTS), an ocean conservation education programme by Unite BVI. UFTS is meant to “inspire and empower the next generation of conservationists”, says Unite BVI Foundation Manager Ms. Lauren Keil.

“We also know how important it is for children to have fun while they learn, which is why we are grateful to our programme partners who create the perfect environment for learning and play.”

Ms. Keil said that UFTS was designed to support and accompany summer swim, snorkel and dive programmes.  This year, we launched the Unite for the Sea website giving all participants access to the on-line videos created by Marine Biologist Lenette Lewis and Videographer Alton Bertie. Due to the pandemic, some of the activities planned had to be shifted to the holiday weekend, which happened from October 23 to 25.

Unite BVI Foundation Manager, Kim Takeuchi reported that, “Over the holiday we set out 300 resources bags with materials that go alongside the on-line activities and to help reduce single use plastic bottles.  We want to thank the summer grantees for demonstrating the impact of their collective dedication to youth that will help unify, amplify and engage key voices for the future protection of the ocean.”

One participant, 13-year-old Tiya Herbert, is a Yeppie (what we call participants from the Youth Empowerment Project). Tiya graduated from the 2019 YEP swimming programme, which also falls under the UFTS umbrella. During the holiday weekend, Tiya helped out with the STA group, in addition to learning more about water testing with Ms. Lewis at Long Bay Beach, Beef Island.

The water testing ties into one of the UFTS themes, “The importance of protecting mangroves and their role in sustaining water quality for the BVI”. This year’s other theme is:“Reducing Single-Use Plastics”.

Commenting on the UFTS weekend, Kay Van Leuven, Dive Instructor at Sunchaser Scuba, said students not only learned proper dive skills, but about ocean conservation, job opportunities and the importance of the marine world in life and tourism. One of Kay’s top moments over the summer was seeing the divers’ smiling faces when they came up from their first dive after receiving their PADI Open Water certification.

Over the summer, almost 500 youth participated in the learn-to-swim, snorkel and dive programmes across 4 islands.

2020 UFTS partners include Bitter End Yacht Club and Beyond the Reef Foundation helping to support grant funding for BVI Swim School, BVI Surf School, Sail Caribbean Divers, Sunchaser Scuba, Sea Turtle Aquatics, Virgin Gorda Fisherman’s Co-Op, Igwe Swim School and Aquatics,  HLSCC Marine Programme Mangrove Project.

For more information about the Unite for the Sea programme, check out the website at: www.uniteforthesea.com and to join Unite BVI in supporting free swim, snorkel and dive programmes across the BVI, visit the Unite BVI website or copy and paste the following link: https://www.unitebvi.com/inspiring-next-generation-conservationists. 100-percent of all donations go towards the projects and the programmes that we support.

Unite BVI Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with a vision to create opportunities that inspire and empower a generation of world-changers, starting in the beautiful BVI.


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