Ponant Foundation Begins Construction of New School in Bijagós Archipelago

Ponant Foundation Bijagos (Photo: Ponant / Nicolas Dubreuil)

The Ponant Foundation has announced the start of construction of a new school on Caravela Island in the Bijagós Archipelago in collaboration with local non-profit association ESCama.

This was announced in a press release.

Construction has now begun to build the ‘Mantchacadé’ school, along with housing for the teachers, providing the only sanitation facilities in the village. With Ponant’s support, the community will now have the kindergarten and four levels of primary education required by the Guinea-Bissau education system, as well as literacy classes for adults, a public garden, and an awareness program for sorting and recycling rubbish.

The founders of the ESCama Foundation, Sónia and Laurent Durris, have also lined up classes in collaboration with La Maison de L’Artemisia in France to teach locals how to grow artemisia, which is a useful plant to fight malaria and other diseases.

In October 2019, Ponant organized a mission to the Bijagós Archipelago – one of the most preserved and protected archipelagos on the planet is located off the coast of Guinea-Bissa – with the goal of preparing a new cruise itinerary to the region.

“During these recces, we were developing the tourist offer with the local communities. They are the ones who tell us what they want to show us and we help them to showcase their culture,” explained Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant’s expeditions expert who was part of the reconnaissance team.

During this trip, NDubreuil met the Durrises. In addition to running a small eco-lodge, the Durrises created the local foundation to contribute to the development of the land, focusing on education, santé (or health), and community.

“Sónia showed me a school that was totally in ruins on Caravela island in a village called Anipoc. The two teachers had not been paid for two years. When you understand the importance of education, you realize how vital it was to rebuild the school,” Dubreuil shared.

Ponant has also helped fund access to drinking water and solar-powered electricity.

“Currently, 97 pupils, 180 adults and three teachers are waiting impatiently to see this project come to fruition. Our first grant gave the community access to drinking water and funded the start of the school’s reconstruction,” explained Head of Sustainability and CSR at Ponant, Wassim Daoud.

This education initiative is the latest undertaking of the Ponant Foundation, which was created in 2019 to promote mutually beneficial interactions between travelers and local communities and to encourage the development of innovative solutions to better understand and protect the oceans and the polar regions.

Ponant said it undertakes environmental and social impact studies on each new destination so as to better understand and preserve the natural settings and the indigenous populations. By entering into a dialogue with local communities and taking soundings of the seabed, Ponant “ensures that its activity takes into account both the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the zones visited and limits the impact.”

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