Interview with Séverine Vasselin, Watertrek founder and professional actress who has decided to dedicate much of her life to protecting the environnement…. on a Stand Up Paddle board.
Can you introduce yourself to our SUP community?
My name is Severine, I am an actress and the founder of Watertrek, a charity involved in protecting aquatic ecosystems that I launched from France 4 years ago. I live and work between London and Paris, and I share my time between my work as a screen actress and my work developing projects with Watertrek and the team.
What is Watertrek and how did it originate?
Watertrek is a French charity organisation founded in Paris in 2013, and it is now also a British Charity. Our mission is to reconnect man to water, using stand-up paddling as a physical tool to educate, initiate and bring together a community of like-minded people willing to protect our natural resources. We operate in 3 main areas, these being Plastic Pollution, Climate Change and Water Quality. Two of our ambassadors are just back from an exciting expedition they embarked upon through the mangrove in Myanmar. Right now, we are a pretty small team, with 6 French and English people at work and me at the helm. Our local intiaitives are organised through a grass-roots network throughout France and England, with new branches of this network ready to be launched this year.
What place does SUP occupy within your actions?
SUP is our main tool. It is the perfect way to discover waterways and understand why we should protect them. It is accesible to everybody, whatever their age or wherever they live, which is why I have always believed it could play an interesting part in reconnecting people to their natural surroundings. But if you’d rather kayak or swim, you’re welcome to join us still, you just need to love the water!
What territories do you cover? Can you present a few examples of actions Watertrek has carried out?
When I created Watertrek in my small appartment in the east side of Paris, I had no intention of making it an international structure. I travel a lot, I connect with like-minded people everywhere I go, so it just happened quite naturally. Our main sponsor – Starboard – is based in Asia, with strong local involvement in clean-ups, plastic pollution prevention and protecting the mangrove. I went to Thailand and Cambodia to give environmental classes in local schools and orphanages, and I soon realised that environmental issues had to be tackled on a global scale. We are all (and should feel) connected to ur seriously threatened planet. The notion of “borders” in and of itself is something I find totally out-of-date in so many ways. It is time to break down walls, not build them. Right now, Watertrek is pretty active in France and England, and is involved in projects in Myanmar, Thailand and India. We’ll soon be developing educational programmes in Morocco, Norway, and several countries in Europe.
How is the Watertrek foundation funded?
So far, we’ve been operating on a very modest budget, with a grant we’ve received from the Charity Pot programme in Paris and London, as well as a further subvention we’ve received from the City of Cannes. We have a very dynamic branch there, which is run by Alexandre Gallier, and Cannes happens to be a leading city in France regarding all that has to do with protecting seabeds and beaches. Laurent Lombard – a famous local whistleblower – was one of the very first to try to raise some awareness on the subject, and since then, a lot has been done locally to fight plastic pollution. Cannes encapsulates my love for cinema and my passion for the blue Mediterranean Sea, which are among the most beautiful waterways in the world. I consider myself lucky to have a great group there. Other than that, I am currently seeking a trustee with a solid executive background to help establish Watertrek as a sustainable and steady organisation, gathering funds and a real professional team to help develop things further. Sponsors and patrons are welcome to get in touch. I’d love to be in a position to fund at least 2 full-time positions shortly. But whatever your skills, background and/or your current location, feel free to get involved and join the Watertrek team!