I have a dream

Jonas Van Polen has a dream. A dream which usually a 15-year-old wouldn’t dare thinking of. To sail from the Netherlands, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and back again. 6 months. 1 ship. 12,000 nautical miles.

Blog of the week

The dream – School at Sea

In a small town in the Netherlands, in Ede, lives a 15-year-old with big dreams. Jonas Van Polen wants to sail for 6 months all the way to the Caribbean and back. Together with 35 fellow students, he will learn to sail the Barquentine Thalassa, a three-masted tall ship. Rumor has it that it’s one of the most beautiful ships in the Dutch fleet.


The organization behind the project, School at Sea, consists of experienced crew members and qualified teachers who will help the students find themselves and develop their talents. In the 6 months at sea, they will study the same subjects their classmates at home also study. They will have days of school, days of watch and days of expeditions. But most importantly, they will learn skills which are not taught in school, such as team spirit, leadership, time management and independence. Especially the last skill will be reflected after two months of sailing, as the students will take over the ship. Everything from navigating, cooking, cleaning, and maintenance of the machines will be their full responsibility.


The journey already starts one year before going to sea. Part of the project consists of a preliminary process where the students must do their utmost to raise 26,000 EUR to pay for the trip. This fee will cover accommodation, food, 6 teachers, a professional crew and fuel for the ship.

Jonas is therefore looking for business sponsors, who can help him realize his dream. In return he will make a drone film of your company, build complex Lego sets you want to exhibit at the office, or you can just brainstorm together something useful that your company needs. Jonas Van Polen is a special youngster with many talents whose recreation is building Lego and becoming the Dutch Lego Champion and even programming robots and making tutorials of it.

Individual people can also sponsor Jonas. In fact, a heartwarming episode Jonas told MARPRO, was about his very first sponsor. In his family, volunteering and giving back to society is a duty. Jonas does therefore his part, by visiting a nursing home every Tuesday afternoon to play chess with his 90-year-old buddy. The symbiotic benefits of this connection have resulted in Jonas becoming the highlight of the week of his chess partner, while he gets challenged with thrilling chess games. After his elder friend learned about Jonas’ plans to join School at Sea, he sponsored Jonas with a generous donation.

The story of Jonas

Johas has been creative in his outreach to companies and people in the maritime and shipping industry. This is reflected in the way, MARPRO encountered Jonas. In booth 5103 at the Europort Exhibition 2021, there was Jonas with his banner, his presentation, and his enthusiasm. We fell for him and his cause right away and decided to give him some exposure through our channels.

But to fundraise 26,000 EUR in one year can be quite the task for a 15-year-old. Jonas has a limited time to find sponsors as he needs to undergo surgery because his heart and lungs don’t have enough space. He will be hospitalized for one week and go through a recovery period of three months.

The largest cleanup in history

Jonas also mentions: “It does not feel right to collect such a huge amount of money just for my own ‘growth’. Therefore, I have decided to help a good cause at the same time.” Therefor Jonas decided to help the Ocean Cleanup, a company which aims to get rid of the plastic pollution at sea. Along the route, Jonas will present the Ocean Cleanup and its mission at local institutions.

How is it going?

Read our interview with Jonas at Sea

An average 15-year-old would worry about ordinary things important in a 15-year-old’s life. How did all this idea start?   

Well, I think it’s an amazing opportunity to develop myself more. In 2 years, I will have to choose what I want to study and what I want to become later in life. And, same as everybody else, of course, I want to make a difference in this world. And how can I make a difference in this world if I haven’t seen the world? So, when this opportunity to see the world came along, I thought I should take it. And that’s how the whole story started.

How has it been for you being at Europort?

It has been so great. Everybody is nice. I also thought it will be kind of scary, but I just went to the other people at their stands and presented myself. I just said Hello, I’m Jonas, this is who I am, this is what I want to do and did my presentation. They are all really kind. They’ve also told me, what they do. A lot of companies are involved with tech, and I totally love tech, so it’s really great.

This project sounds like a dream. The question is, how much would that cost for you?

It costs 26,000 EUR to pay for the trip. The organization behind all this, School at Sea, is a non-profit organization. All the money goes back into the trip. One must earn it through sponsorship and actions. That’s why I’m here, I’ve been sponsored with a stand by Europort.

Also, 26,000 EUR just for me, I think that’s a bit much. I also want to help society, so I want to do that by helping the Ocean Cleanup becoming more famous. The Ocean Cleanup is a company who has developed a technology to clean 50% of the garbage and plastic in the Great Pacific Ocean. They can clean 50% of that in 5 years. They are a still a start-up company, so I really want to help them become more known. In our journey, we are going to visit multiple schools, and during those visits I want to tell the local students about the Ocean Cleanup. In that way, I try to do my bit in decreasing the plastic in the ocean.    

Let’s say I’m a company interested in sponsoring you. How does it work out?

I will  offer you a counter deal. For instance, if you sponsor me with a 1,000 EUR donation, I will make a drone movie of the company or a location of your choice. If you are international, and not located in the Netherlands, that can be a little bit hard. But then we can think of out of the box possibilities, and if the company has any ideas, I’m very flexible.

For example, there’s a company who wants a LinkedIn post and photo within 3 weeks, so they can post and show they have helped me accomplish my dream. And there’s also a company whom I’ve made some drone films for. And it’s also possible to give a higher donation, for example for 2,000 EUR, to have the company’s logo as a flag on the ship on departure and arrival at several ports. Most of the time, there’s a lot of press present.   

Is there something you want to say to other 15-year-olds out there?

Don’t give up your dreams. I really think that if you actually go for something that is genuinely good, don’t let anybody else talk you out of it. Just do it. It’s going to spread out to become something amazing.


    Sponsor Jonas at Sea


    Blog of the week by Narjiss Ghajour, Marketing Manager at MARPRO. Read more about MARPRO.

    For more information about Jonas at sea, follow the link.

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