Julia Neubing, who has been supporting vista verde tours in Mindelo during her semester abroad,
tells us about a very special experience with young people
Studytime in Bluewater
High School at sea – study & sail:
The A+ World Academy experiences the culture of São Vicente
It is definitely not easy to break out of your own culture. 60 young people are daring the experiment: on December 20, 2022, the Norwegian Sørlandet arrived in the port of Mindelo on the island of São Vicente. Their voyage began last fall in Norway, the home country of most of the crew, passed through various European Atlantic ports, and after visiting Cabo Verde, they are about to cross the Atlantic Ocean. 20 cities in 14 countries on four continents are going to be explored in 11 months on the oldest active tall ship. vista verde tours accompanies the young people on their first shore leave outside Europe in Mindelo.
A+ World Academy is an international high school and gap year program, offering teenagers and young adults an experiential, long-term educational project. Besides having the campus on a sailboat, the focus lies on the conveyance of an educational program that will make the students’ global citizens and leaders of the 21st century. Rigorous, exhausting and amazing at the same time.
Its goals, in addition to academic education, are to strengthen intangible values such as tolerance, global perspective and intercultural experience. Young people learn at sea not only the principles of community living but also what is known as reflective learning, which is about self-reflection and personal future-oriented growth.
The combination of classes, duties on board and learning to sail strengthen teamwork, resilience and time management. Instead of sitting at home in school, all of this sounds like the perfect experience on the path to personal development for young adults.
The educational value of this trip is certainly undeniable. Since this program involves very high costs, these teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 mostly come from a rich socioeconomic background and have a sometimes-distorted image of luxury and economic necessity. Consequently, a "natural" social selection takes place due to the extremely high participation fees upfront.
Our mission in Cape Verde is to connect young people to a different culture and way of life. Our program in Cape Verde aims to improve their hands-on mentality, environmental awareness and cultural tolerance, as well as their view of different standards of living. It is not just about getting rid of the prejudice that having less money directly implies a poor and sorrowful life. Especially "less privileged" people are the ones who are often very rich in other contexts. Contexts that are much more important than the amount on the bank account.
One participant from Bermuda says he got to know the A+ World Academy on a shore leave the previous year, so his wish came up to participate in the project himself.
The young people were divided into three groups, each of which participated in the program on one of the three days before Christmas. They started early in the morning and went to one of the island's beaches for a beach cleanup. We got support by Débora and Helena, founders of Simili and former employees of vista verde tours. Simili is a Cape Verdean startup that unites the local handcraft and environmental consciousness. Simili gives a second life to the trash on the beaches of Cape Verde and has been making everyday products such as bags or shoes from old fishing nets (upcycling) for three years. They also organize beach cleanups every month with a large community, collecting unimaginable amounts of plastic.
Speaking of large amounts of plastic - our A+ World Academy groups did a great job and improved by every day. Each group went to a different beach and altogether they collected about 1700 kg of trash. Whilst the first group started with about 400 kg at Praia Grande, the second group collected over 500 kg. On Friday, the third group collected an unimaginable amount of 800 kg in Salamansa. Afterwards the young people visited the workshop where the collected fishing nets are woven into fabric, which the startup uses to make its products. Débora and Helena presented their work and gave the young people the opportunity to try themselves at the loom. Everyone helped to disassemble the fishing nets and prepare them for the loom - a very time-consuming manual work. After this experience, the children of Salamansa, who have their soccer field in front of the house, started to play with the students without being able to communicate with each other. With a lot of fun, they could learn that sports connect different age groups and cultures, regardless of how much money you have or where you come from.
In the afternoon, our program continued with our vista verde team member Ruben, who accompanied the young people to the traditional luthier Luis Baptista. He showed them the process of creating the typical Cape Verdean instruments and gave them a private concert to show them the traditional rhythms of the country. Some students even had the opportunity to play some of his instruments, while others found the courage to open the dance floor during the concert.
After this visit, Ruben took the young people to the informal neighborhood of Ribeira Bote, a community in transition. It is one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Mindelo, at the same time it has a not the best reputation due to its socio-economic structure. Considered to be a low-income neighborhood with problems related with alcohol or drug abuse, it is a place what most people would prefer to avoid. We want to change the way we look at this neighborhood and shed light on its rich culture and history. More about: https://www.vista-verde.com/deshalb-vista-verde/unser-engagement/
Ruben and a representative from the community informed the teenagers about Ribeira Bote during an inside tour. They visited various artists, such as a potter and people who make sustainable jewelry from shells. The children of Ribeira Bote also welcomed the teenagers with another soccer game. Afterwards, the students had the opportunity to try some of the typical Cape Verdean specialties, such as the traditional cuscus, a Cape Verdean breakfast dish made mainly of corn flour and steamed in a clay pot.
To finish the tour, they got an impression and a small show of the famous Mandingas of Ribeira Bote, which can be seen and especially heard in Mindelo on Sundays before Carnival. Dancing through the streets and cheering was a perfect end of the day for the A+ World Academy students. Some rumors say that they had the best day since the beginning of their journey.
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails (Aristotle) - we seem to have succeeded in this during the three days of cooperation with the young people in Mindelo.