Inspiring the next generation of ocean conservationists

Unite BVI_Swimming Programme_UniteForTheSea
Unite BVI
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
7 December 2020
Unite BVI is the proud founder and sponsor of Unite for the Sea - a free programme that offers fun, educational, water-based activities to inspire young people to fall in love with the ocean.

Unite BVI was founded by Virgin Unite in 2016 to help create new opportunities for communities across the British Virgin Islands. Since its launch, Unite BVI has brought together amazing people, ideas and resources to tackle local community and environmental challenges.

The Unite for the Sea programme was designed strategically to give youth who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn about the ocean access to experience it. Though the BVI is a beautiful archipelago of small islands surrounded by the sea, many young people do not know how to swim therefore driving disconnect between human behaviour, it’s impact on vulnerable marine life, and the health of our ocean ecosystems. As Jacques Cousteau once said “you protect what you love”.

Unite BVI
Unite BVI

Unite BVI’s vision for Unite for the Sea is that it inspire a generation of arising ocean conservationists in the BVI. The programme consists of both ‘experiential education opportunities’ such as sponsored swim, dive and snorkel programmes, as well as compelling educational activities lead by respected marine biologists.

Over the last two years the themes for the summer programme have been plastic pollution, the importance of mangroves to ocean health and the need to protect endangered species of sea turtles.

“We 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,” said Unite BVI Foundation Manager, Lauren Keil.

Unite BVI
Unite BVI

Sea Turtle Aquatics (STA) is one of the programme’s key partners – it teaches students about water safety, survival skills and marine preservation. “We live around a body of water and need to ensure that our kids have the skill to rescue someone or save themselves,” said co-owner of STA, Stacy Mather. “It’s important that we teach students to look for the amazing things in marine life. It helps them better understand the reasons behind taking care of our environment and if you value why something is amazing, then you will protect it.”

Due to the pandemic many of the programme’s 2020 in-person events had to be postponed. However Unite BVI creatively designed a virtual way to continue to ensure the learning could continue, Unite for the Sea gave participants access to online videos, virtual tours, and live presentations from acclaimed marine biologists. To more effectively engage participants Unite BVI distributed 300 ‘Resource Kits’ that contained arts and crafts materials, a reusable eco-friendly water bottle, materials needed to engage in science experiments and educational interactive books. The E-Programme filled the engagement gap until physical activities could take place again.

With restrictions lifting across the BVI, the physical elements of the programme were allowed to go ahead. On October 23 to 25 almost 500 young people participated by learning to either swim, snorkel or dive across four BVI islands. Commenting on the 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.”

Unite BVI
Unite BVI

The core educational theme of this year’s programme centred around plastic pollution and its effect on the ocean. Unite BVI Foundation Manager, Kim Takeuchi, said of the lessons: “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.”

All activities and resources available from Unite for the Sea are sponsored by Unite BVI and a small handful of donor-partners who align with Unite BVI’s vision including The Bitter End Yacht Club. All Unite for the Sea activities are offered free of charge for young people who may otherwise not have the opportunity. To learn more about Unite BVI’s incredible work visit its website .

Unite BVI was founded in 2016 by Virgin Unite and functions as The Branson Family & the Virgin Group's philanthropic vehicle working for the benefit of local communities and the natural environment in the BVI.