Sailing proponent 500 Sails welcomed its first student yesterday, Kagman High School’s Iverson Santos, at its boatyard in Tanapag, as part of a partnership with the Public School System’s Cooperative Education program to revive the canoe culture in the CNMI.
Early this year, the non-profit participated in the PSS Co-Op Fair to invite children to join the 500 Sails team. KHS was one of the schools that invited 500 Sails to share its program with their students.
“I love the water,” Santos said. “It is in my genes. It’s in my genes to be here so, I’m excited to start.”
Santos, along with other students who will be participating in the 500 Sails PSS Co-Op program, will help build canoes as part of the organization’s mission to revive the canoe culture on the islands, especially by bringing it closer to the youth.
500 Sails instructor Joseph Torres provided a tour of the boatyard, and showed the four boats, one of which the students will help varnish, as part of their activity for the day.
Torres said the boats are made with fiberglass, as opposed to the breadfruit tree wood used in the old days. He said this is because they do not want to kill trees, given the availability of other materials that they now can use.
April Repeki, also of 500 Sails, said that, as she was growing up, while there were a lot of traditional cultural stuff on the (Carolinian) side of her culture, there’s not that much about the Chamorro culture that her parents could teach them about.
“[Our] being involved in 500 Sails is a really big blessing,” Repeki said. “[We learn] this part of the Chamorro culture where fishermen build canoes and go out into the lagoon and get food. This is why it is very important to us and to the community to take part.”
Aside from the Co-Op partnership, 500 Sails also offers canoe camps. Last August, five teens completed 500 Sails’ Summer Canoe Camp, in partnership with the Indigenous Affairs Office.
For more information about 500 Sails, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page (@500Sails).