From April 2-20, Peace Boat US held the second Sailing for Sustainability program, developed to offer youth from around the world the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the fields of conflict prevention, environmental degradation, indigenous culture, refugee issues and gender equality through grassroots peacebuilding activities. As special guests of Peace Boat’s 97th Asian Voyage, youth participated in programming both at sea and in ports of call throughout Southeast Asia, with a special emphasis on the United Nation’s 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), especially SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

The members of the Sailing for Sustainability program were chosen following an international application process.

Six youth were selected from a pool of international applicants based on a demonstrable commitment to advancing the UN’s SDGs. With the support of Peace Boat US Director Emilie McGlone, the second cohort of Peace Boat US’s Sailing for Sustainability program was comprised of Sabrina Oliveto (the United States), Keneth De Gracia (the Philippines), Maria Mejia (Guatemala), Avinash Singh (India), Sade Dean (Barbados), and Ivonne Daniella Izquierdo Rodriguez (Mexico). Joining them were Dr. Richard O’Meara and Sonam Tashi from Rutgers University’s Division of Global Affairs, with whom Peace Boat US has recently signed an agreement in support of future  Sailing for Sustainability programs.

Program participant Sade Dean at Singaporean NGO Waterways Watch Society, where she learned new ways to protect marine biodiversity in her home country of Barbados.

Program participants had the opportunity to visit Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, to witness and participate in a variety of peace and sustainability initiatives. In Singapore this included a visit to Citizen Farm, whose model of sustainable urban farming employs underutilized spaces and supplements traditional rural agriculture. Program participant and organic farmer Keneth De Gracia was inspired by this clever integration of self-sustainable agriculture and urban density. “There’s a myth that organic farming needs more space than traditional gardens,” said Mr De Gracia, “but Citizen Farm is proof that this isn’t the case. Their model can be replicated across the Philippines and throughout the world.” Maria Mejia was similarly affected. “Seeing some of Southeast Asia’s most innovative projects and meeting the other scholars in my cohort has really impacted me and will change to way I pursue my own projects back home.”

Participants pose with certificates celebrating their successful completion of the Sailing for Sustainability Program.

Avinash Singh has worked in Northern India with Waste Warriors, a community-based waste management initiative, since 2013. In Cambodia’s Kampot Village, he heard the testimony of Mr. Himm, a mangrove planter forced to live apart from his family to find employment. The situation reminded Mr Singh of his own experience growing up apart from his parents. He joined the Sailing for Sustainability program to gain skills which would help him realize a better future for those in his community. “Life is about dreams,” he said, “and not just supporting your own, but the dreams of those who can’t realize them for themselves.”

Avinash Singh shared his work in northern India as part of NGO Waste Warriors with participants of Peace Boat’s 97th Asian Voyage.

For Director of Peace Boat US Emilie McGlone, the dialogue created through global travel is integral to Peace Boat’s own mission of peace and sustainability. “Travel is not only an opportunity to learn about social and political change, but a tool for change in itself. Our partnerships with local organizations and agencies demonstrates the value we place on sustainable tourism. When done responsibly, travel can be of equal benefit to travelers and the host countries that welcome them.” It’s a bold aspiration, but according to Mr Singh, that’s the kind that Peace Boat inspires. “If there’s one thing I’m going to take home from Peace Boat, it’s that I need to dream bigger.”

The Sailing for Sustainability team poses with local partners in front of Peace Boat’s vessel, the Ocean Dream, proudly emblazoned with the colourful logo of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs.