Dominique Gerardin, owner of the world’s largest wooden sailing yacht Lamima, has set up a programme that will see 50 per cent of selected charter fees donated to schools and educational facilities in Raja Ampat, Indonesia and surrounding areas.
Speaking to SuperyachtNews about the initiative, Gerardin explains how he and the crew decided to introduce this programme for schools in Lamima’s cruising areas of Southeast Asia. For the past few years, the yacht has invited local children for ‘fun days’ where they could experience playing on the vessel’s tenders and toys. “Every year, we invite the kids from a primary school from a very poor area where we are cruising and we spend a day with them. They do everything, they use jet skis, the banana boat. We have three tenders and two jet skis. We then have a picnic on the beach, and they love it. For them, it is probably one day that they will not have another opportunity to repeat,” he offers.
Following on from a few of these ‘fun days’, Gerardin realised that the yacht and its clients could make a fundamental, long-term difference to the lives of these children. “I then decided I would like to be involved in education,” he remembers, and looked at the best way to enact positive change in the area. “You can either build a school or provide a teacher. To be most effective, it is best to use an existing school, but the weak point is that there are no teachers.” From speaking with local guides and his crew, Gerardin learned that due to the low salary, many teachers have to take a secondary job (such as fishing) to supplement their incomes.
“You can either build a school or provide a teacher. To be most effective, it is best to use an existing school, but the weak point is that there are no teachers.”
A week’s charter can give two teachers, four years of much higher salary (especially when compared to the modest incomes of most in Indonesia). “Normally a salary of teacher is 1.8 million rupees, which is $140, but you cannot live on that,” explains Gerardin. In order for teachers the concentrate fully on education and not need a second job, he will ensure that their wages are significantly higher, “I pay them eight million rupees, which is roughly $500.”
Shying away from traditional channels of donation and charitable organisations, Gerardin prefers to find the schools directly, to negate any chances of corruption or misuse of the funds. Also, as they will choose schools within Lamima’s cruising areas, the crew will be able to visit the areas to ensure that the money is being used correctly. “I will be involved in the selection but I will have my crew - the people who are from here - tell me who is motivated, who has a good history, and also whenever we are in the area, we can check in the school, talk with the kids, talk with the teachers and ensure that everything is fine.”
Further, Gerardin sees this initiative as a way to contribute to the local economy and positively influence the area in a way that benefits local residents, who the vessel and charter clients have direct contact with. “These people, they live in a stunning area, they are very friendly with all the visitors and they are very open when the boats visit them. But, they don’t really receive any benefit from it. We pay taxes but they go to the government, and I don’t think the villagers see anything.”
"For the charter, we charge a fee and we give it to the community. I don’t call that charity, I call that caring.”
For Gerardin, he hopes for this will be an ongoing commitment for Lamima and selected charters throughout the year. “If I give $60,000 every year to different schools, I would be very happy. And I think it will definitely make a change because one week [of charter] can provide two teachers for four years. Four years is roughly the cycle in primary school, so every week of charter can supplement a school for four years. That’s a whole village, so it is a big impact.” He is keen to stress that he is not using the yacht as a charity, rather a beneficial way to influence the area that hosts Lamima and her guests throughout the year. “We have a high price compared to their daily life, we can easily afford to give 50 per cent, the clients don’t make any donations. For the charter, we charge a fee and we give it to the community. I don’t call that charity, I call that caring.”
Charter trips on Lamima that will contribute towards the schools in the Raja Ampat are still available through Camper & Nicholsons, from 24 September to 10 October 2017. Clients will also be given the opportunity to visit the areas and schools where the money is being spent. Gerardin hopes that the philanthropic aim of Lamima will be an additional draw for clients, and will continue to benefit the areas where the yacht is based. “Even when I am very busy, I would like to keep doing this,” he concludes, “Because it’s good to give back.”
"I would like to keep doing this, because it’s good to give back.”
To arrange a charter that will influence the lives of children in Raja Ampat, click here.
Image one: Lamima in Raja Ampat /Image two: Local children and crew on board Lamima. Images courtesy of Dominique Gerardin and Camper & Nicholsons