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Marko Knežević


Maritime HUB project combines heritage, sailing and social skills development to assist children growing up without parents or adequate parental care. Children from social care institutions are involved in learning and development of skills that help them achieve independence.


In Croatia, there are homes for orphaned children and for those who had not been receiving adequate parental care. Although the social care sector provides services that cover their basic needs, the adoption of orphaned children is still rare in Croatia. As a result, they often remain in the social sector as they grow up. As young adults, they retain their reduced self-worth and low self-confidence. Because they have very few or no family members around them, they often have little social capital and find it difficult to become integrated into the local community. They also have trouble finding acceptance among their peers and are often victims of bullying.

As a result of having to fend for themselves at an early age and making difficult life decisions without much support, these children often develop self-destructive behaviors and associate with the “wrong crowd.” Eventually, these combinations of factors lead them back into juvenile homes provided through the state, and later, to prison.


The Maritime HUB project engages youths from orphanages through programs that combine local heritage and sailing skills. The youths learn about the culture of their community from the elders/mentors while learning how to sail, which helps them build a link to the community they did not have before. Also, because Croatia largely relies on a tourism-oriented economy, sailing is a very useful skill that could substantially increase the employability of these youths, which would help them gain more independence. With support from Reach for Change, Marko and his colleagues -- who are behind the Maritime HUB project -- can now offer their programs to more orphaned children and youths by establishing regular workshops in several communities.

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