Going the extra mile for BV, literally.

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While some newlyweds spend their honeymoon lying on the beach and sharing candlelit dinners, Kate Turner and her husband Will chose to celebrate their marriage by volunteering with Blue Ventures in southwest Madagascar.  Of course, in between scuba diving, conducting underwater data collection on reef health, and exploring the local community, Kate and Will did find time to simply relax and soak in the beautiful coastal landscape.

Their honeymoon with Blue Ventures changed their lives.  Now nearly three years later, Kate and Will have redesigned their lifestyles to reflect their new commitment to sustainable development and conservation.  They abandoned the hectic London life for the countryside, and both now work for Good Energy, a UK electricity company that provides 100% renewable energy.  Kate also now runs a website and blog on responsible diving, called the dive hub, where she promotes making a positive difference through diving, and the sort of safety-focused, conservative diving practices that Blue Ventures adheres to on every dive and every expedition.  Check out Kate’s website, and read her most recent blog entries, discussing the important links between education and conservation.

Not only is Kate writing about conservation and education, she’s also running for it:  Kate will run the Eden Project Half-Marathon on Friday October 9th, raising money to benefit the Blue Ventures education and scholarship program!  Check out Kate’s donation page to see why she is raising money to support this scholarship program at virgin money giving.

This year, the BV education program is dramatically increasing its environmental education program, both in and out of the classroom.  In partnership with UNICEF, BV is integrating a range of audiovisual technologies into its educational outreach activities, and focusing on training a group of “young conservationists” to use film and radio to inspire their peers to become environmentalists as well.  These youngsters are part of UNICEF’s Madagascar-wide network of Youth for Biodiversity Conservation, the first to be formed in the southwest region.

In addition, the BV scholarship program is growing tremendously in 2011, starting by providing scholarships for over 150 students (both boys and girls).  And through an exciting new partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, BV is providing an additional 50 adolescent girl scholars with support in the form of mentoring, tutoring, and meals over the next two years.  Within this group, 15 girls (who come from distant villages to attend school) will also be provided with housing in new a scholar dormitory in Andavadoaka.  What is more, Blue Ventures is challenging its supporters to help double the number of scholars it sends to school this year, and to help support the focus on girls’ education initiative.

At present, Velondriake still holds some of the largest and healthiest coral reefs in Madagascar.  But as the primary source of income for nearly 80% of the coastal population – a population with the highest growth rate on the island – the reefs continue to be at risk as the community works toward a sustainable balance with the ecosystem.  Ensuring that young people in Velondriake get a complete education – and learn to prioritize the environment in their everyday lives – is crucial to achieving this balance.

If you choose to support Kate in her half-marathon, you also support the Blue Ventures scholarship initiative and the entire BV education program.  If you miss the deadline but still want to sponsor a student, visit our education program pages.

Ensuring access to quality education for the Velondriake community is part and parcel to ensuring the survival of the unique Velondriake ecosystem.  We are so happy that Kate’s experience as a Blue Ventures Expedition Volunteer in Madagascar has helped her to see this first-hand, and that she is still promoting education for conservation in her daily life, for Blue Ventures and otherwise.

Misaotra Kate!  See you at the finish line!