Beyond The Reef is a British Virgin Islands based nonprofit organization that is working towards creating innovative ways to help our marine ecosystem while generating positive publicity for our island and educating the local community on the importance of ocean health.
Our most recent projects have focused on building artificial reef systems that are both functional for marine life and highly interactive for humans! In August we turned the "Willy T" (the BVI's most famous floating bar that was destroyed in Hurricane Irma) into a large scale pirate ship prior to sinking it in 65 feet of water where it has now already begun attracting a wide variety of fish species.
In November we also sunk 3 airplanes that we converted into sharks at a separate site. In addition to generating tourism and creating new marine habitat, we also hope that this site will further positive dialect surrounding sharks in our local community and bring pride to their conservation in the BVI. As a result of this, we have also begun shark tagging within the BVI to help shark researchers further study certain species such as Tiger, Bull and Reef sharks and their migratory patterns.
1) Recycle derelict vessels that would otherwise be disposed of as waste.
2) Create artificial reef in areas that are in need of additional habitat for fish species and coral growth.
3) Create positive tourism and publicity for the BVI's while increasing viable (and very fun) dive sites.
4) And lastly create awareness within the local and internationally community for all of these causes.
5) Use this "product" to generate revenue in the form of diver donations that then benefit local childrens swim lessons.
This last and "main" goal, is to collect $5 from every diver on the site that then goes directly towards teaching local BVI children how to swim, as currently its thought that only 1/10 know how to. In exchange for the donation, divers will receive a commemorative souvenir sticker courtesy of Beyond The Reef.
Not only is swimming a fun, social and confidence boosting activity that all children should be comfortable doing (especially when you live next to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches), it is also a necessary skill to ensure safety when living on an island chain that requires using boats for transportation.
We realized that LESS than 1/3rd of the children living in the BVI actually know how to swim (and we are told it might actually be closer to 1 in 10)!
Not only is this unfortunate for recreational and safety purposes, it also removes some of the best job opportunities that the BVI has to offer.
The ocean is the BVI's greatest resource for tourism and our hope is that once local children become comfortable swimming, they can dominate the lucrative fields of becoming boat captains, scuba diving instructors, sailing instructors, paddle boarding guides and surf instructors.
And better yet- if kids can learn from a young age that some of the most fun and lucrative jobs in the BVI come from ocean eco-tourism and preserving their natural resources, they will be less likely to need to exploit their resources for money (such as turtle hunting which is also legal here)!
How do we plan to help?
We are suggesting a $5 donation from every scuba diver that enjoys one of our artificial reef wreck sites that will go directly towards programs that teach local children how to swim. In exchange, each diver gets a fun souvenir sticker!
We hope that this platform will become a global example of how a tourism attraction (such as an awesome sunken pirate ship artificial reef site) can grow to be something far more than just a reef, and generate enough donation revenue that in 10 years every child in the BVI will know how to swim.
And where do we go from there?
We work with local companies to offer sailing, scuba diving, kayaking and paddle boarding courses as school extracurriculars to get children passionate about their ocean and future job opportunities.
...and then we continue this model globally :)
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