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VISAR volunteers in action. Photo courtesy of VISAR
VISAR volunteers in action. Photo courtesy of VISAR

Be a Volunteer!

Short-term seasonal cruisers to the Caribbean or life-long sailors who have made the region their home can make a difference to the islands’ people and wildlife. Here is a sampling of seven ways that you can volunteer.

 

2nd Life Sails
Donate your used sails and become a 2nd Life Sail volunteer. In the first cycle of 2nd Life Sails, in 2014, Frank Virgintino, author of A Cruising Guide to Haiti, distributed 41 used sails, over half of them donated by Seven Seas Cruising Association members, to fishermen in Ile a Vache, Pointe Sable and Bombardopolis. “Haitian fishermen are expert sailmakers who utilize materials ranging from bed sheets to plastic tarps. Imagine what they can do with real sailcloth,” says Catherine Hebson, PhD, director, Free Cruising Guides. Due to the challenge of organizing people and boats from all over, 2nd Life Sails instead asks for sails, as well as supplies such as line, hook and nets, to be delivered or sent to either Minneford Marina of City Island, New York, or Marina ZarPar in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, so supplies can be consolidated into one vessel. freecruisingguides.com

 

Yacht Aid Global
Help others who are less fortunate by delivering humanitarian, developmental and conservation aid by yacht as part of YachtAid Global (YAG). “We have launched ‘charitable charters’, whereby charter clients can donate a portion of the charter fee to YAG and request their charter to be an actual delivery vessel as well,” says event advisor Dhardra Blake. “Yacht owners may donate funds or supplies to be delivered and crew can always get creative in hosting a fundraiser on or off the yacht.” yachtaidglobal.org

 

Virgin Islands Search & Rescue (VISAR)
If you live on the British Virgin Islands of Tortola or Virgin Gorda, you can become a crew member or a rescue coordinator with VISAR. If you are in the BVI part-time or visiting, you can assist with fundraisers, painting, dredging, or other jobs. VISAR is modeled off the UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution. “Our volunteer crew members save lives and help people who are in crisis, while our fundraising volunteers feel their time is well spent helping to raise money for a life-saving cause,” says operations manager Katie Claxton. VISAR relies 100 percent on volunteers to run its organization. www.visarbvi.org

 

Youth Regatta Volunteers
Help pass on the love of competitive sailing to the next generation by volunteering when, for the first time, the Antigua Yacht Club, in English Harbour, hosts the Optimist North American Championships, July 5th to 12th. A few secretarial, housing, lunch/dinner, transportation, technology, public relations, race management and translator volunteer positions are still open. “Most important is enthusiasm and a very close second is commitment. Knowledge of sailing is not necessarily important,” says organizer John Duffy, who anticipates the same success as other events such as the RORC 600, Antigua Sailing Week and Classic Yacht Regatta, which are all ‘staffed’ 90 percent by volunteers. Email: optimists@yachtclub.ag

 

Hands Across the Sea
Make a commitment to help raise literacy levels of Eastern Caribbean children. Hands Across the Sea helps to create school libraries with brand new books. To date, the organization has served 230 different school library projects in Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. “We need volunteers to help fundraise, to serve as board members, to read to children and provide remedial reading help, to clean out old books and sort new ones, and to roll up their sleeves and refurbish library spaces,” says Harriet Linskey, co-founder and executive director. Email: Amanda@handsacrossthesea.net

 

The Sunshine School
Put your skills to benefit at this non-profit school in Port Elizabeth, Bequia, which has served special needs children since 1982. If you’re an artist, teach drawing; if you’re a woodworker, help in the workshop; if you’re a teacher, assist students one-on-one or in a group class. A minimum two week commitment is requested for classroom volunteers. Beyond this, says principal Camille Jacobs, “Volunteers are needed to help with fund raisers, especially the annual auction and jumble sale to collect, sort and organize items. Unlike being at school, the period for volunteering can be short and no ‘special’ skills are needed.” www.bequiasunshineschool.org

 

Barbados Sea Turtle Project
Enjoy the satisfaction of helping to protect critically endangered species such as sea turtles. Volunteer for a minimum of six weeks (this includes two weeks of training and obtaining permits to interact with the turtles) to patrol the beaches at night in search of nesting turtles. Or, short term visitors can help at hatchling releases. “These public releases require no special training on the part of attendees as trained volunteers will be handling the hatchlings and giving information,” says field director Darren Browne, PhD. “Without volunteers, we would be unable to make much of an impact on the conservation of sea turtles in Barbados.” www.barbadosseaturtles.org

 

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian

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