Pirate Mama: Connecting Kids to Their Watery Backyards

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Change starts with a glimpse. For me, it was middle school when a neighborhood friend took me on his rowboat long before we thought about owning a car. Our maiden voyage left me with a heady sense of freedom as we discovered fossil pits and blue herons.

I was hooked. I convinced my parents that I needed a battered aluminum canoe. I spent summer days skinny-dipping, watching osprey fish, and charting the tides. A sandy spit exposed on at low tide became my own private island where I scribbled stories and daydreamed.

It’s led to a life-long obsession with the water. To this day, the sound of water lapping against the hull of a boat brings a smile to my face.

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Not all kids have this type of formative experience. Last winter I went to St. Thomas (a U.S. Virgin Island) to visit my friend, Sarah Thomas, crewing on a sailboat there for the winter.  We drove past school-aged kids milling about in areas on town she pointed out as dangerous. The beaches teemed with tourist, but few locals.

I wondered what happens if kids never get to experience the water. It seemed impossible that kids could live so near the sea but never feel a connection, never engage with the subtleties of it’s movement, never fall in love with the creatures that call it home.

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Over a series of conversations, Sarah and I decided we wanted to provide other children with their first encounter with water up close, so that they too might fall in love.  We realize our own self-interest. Full -time island residents are in the best position to become stewards for the fragile island ecosystems, but nobody can protect what they don’t know about.  And what greater lengths might residents go to take care of the places they love.

We’ve partnered with the Family Resource Center, a private non-profit on St. Thomas providing a counseling program and a shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  The kids they serve are in need on many levels, especially financially.

“Our kids don’t have opportunities to go on a boat or snorkel,” Vernon Araujo of the Family Resource Center. “It would be the biggest thing that ever happened to them, it would be as wild as flying on a rocket to the moon.”

Years ago I guided sea kayak tours in Monterey, California and some of the most rewarding groups were lower-income school kids who had grown up within miles of the ocean but had never directly experienced it. They lit up with awe, realizing the fascinating and wonderful world that lurked just beneath the surface.

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We want to provide some of the most underprivileged kids living on St. Thomas with the same opportunity to delight in their own watery backyard.  Local kayak outfitters on the island are on board to help us get kids out for a day of paddling and snorkeling.

Sure, it’s a small step – the same simple action that ignited my own love affair with water so many years ago.  The kids of St. Thomas deserve to have at least one chance to connect with the nature that exist steps from their homes.

Join us in inspiring kids to lead active lives and to take care of the environment. Provide kids with a day that stirs curiosity and fuels a desire to get outside.

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For twenty bucks a kid in St. Thomas living in poverty will be able to explore their watery backyard in a sea kayak and snorkel the coral reef.  Back our Kickstarter campaign, Pirate Mama, at the $20 level and help a local Island kid get on the water. You’ll receive an individual thank-you from the child and a picture of them kayaking straight to your inbox.

Kickstarter campaigns operate under an “all-or-nothing” funding model, so if the Pirate Mama project doesn’t reach it’s goal at the end of 30 days then the crew won’t leave the dock this winter and the kids in St. Thomas won’t explore the water. To watch the video and donate, go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1435241906/pirate-mama-setting-sail-with-her-little-boy.

Follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/piratemamakickstarter to track their progress and spread the word to your social networks.


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