Mermaid Monday is back & this one is a story that is bound to give you all the feels.

I’m so honored to have ex-yachtie Jacqui Holth on The Yacht Stew Today.

Jacqui is a wife, mum, thriving business women & philanthropist based out of Sydney, Australia. 

(P.S. I have a huge announcement that’s towards the end of this post!!)

“I think many of us have already begun to realize that fulfillment in life does not come simply from what we do for ourselves and the experiences we undertake, but true fulfillment comes from what we give to others.” – Jacqui Holth

Hey Jacqui, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with everyone today! Can you introduce yourself and tell everyone how you got into yachting?

What a pleasure to be asked to be interviewed for this inspiring woman. It is so wonderful to see such a supportive community being grown. How fortunate you all are to have Gemma and her fabulous project at your disposal. 

Back in the dark ages of 1993, after finishing uni, I headed off with my ex-boyfriend to backpack around Europe. We started to run low on money & decided to drive to Spain to stay with a friend. On route, we stopped off in a place called Antibes. All we had was an old Lonely Planet book to find the cheapest place to stay & learn the area. The first night we arrived, we ended up at The Gaff, a local yachtie bar & met yachties who suggested trying our luck at dockwalking. Arriving at IYCA the next morning my jaw dropped at the sight of these boats, I had no idea such a world existed. Within 25 minutes of being in the port, my boat licensed, scuba diving boyfriend had landed himself a job. I ended up chatting the captain had referred me to a mate of his in Cannes who needed a chef (ha! That was a laugh…but I just nodded and went anyway!) I somehow got the job, called my mum in Australia to get her to fax, (yes fax,) about 100 recipes from the good old Women’s Weekly cookbooks. I spent my first season on a 23 meter as ‘chef’. I laughed, I cried, and I cooked my butt off for that season. I had no idea where the choice to become a yachtie would lead me but I ended up crewing as chef and stewardess on about 8 boats over the following 6 years, before leaving yachting to go and work permanently land-based in Sardinia, Italy for the Saudi family who owned Coral Island at the time.  

I always love hearing how people ended up in yachting as it is so different for everyone! Good for you for jumping right into the deep end & giving it a go! You also met your husband on yachts, how did you meet? Was it love at first sight?

After crossing the Atlantic on S/Y Adelita it was obligatory to head up to Shirley Heights and have a rum punch or two. By now my boyfriend who I left Australia with was my ex, but we remained friends. Rum punch in hand I spotted my ex, he was talking to the most handsome man I had ever seen, so of course, I ran over to say hi. I will tell you without the shadow of a doubt, that when my eyes made contact with this handsome man, and his eyes made contact with mine, I knew, he was something very special. We spent the next couple of days courting, and I knew, even before we kissed, that he was the man I would spend the rest of my life with. Next year we celebrate 20 years of marriage, so it kind of worked out ok…but it wasn’t a smooth ride. Life is a roller coaster and ours has been no different, but one thing is for sure, he is the love of my life. But, we did kiss and spent the next week in a hot passionate love affair before our boats sailed off, as they do. It wasn’t until we went traveling to Nepal about 6 months later that we met again. The Nepal story will come up again later…

Having a Wedding Dress fitting in a cabin onboard M/Y Coral Island!

That is a situation I know all too well! When Ben & I first met, we had 2 weeks together before I left for a busy charter season. It certainly wasn’t easy, but planning a holiday together after the season was the light at the end of the tunnel.

You ended up spending 6 years on yachts which is no easy feat! After yachting, you worked in Villas for quite some time. How did you find the transition leaving yachting?

I adored my time on yachts, the people, the places, the experiences, the freedom, the variety…and the money. I just couldn’t imagine life beyond it. Some of my dearest friends and best memories come from those wonderful years. However life is a journey, and as I grew, my desires and needs changed. When we heard there was a new villa opportunity in Sardinia our hands went up and we dove straight in.  It felt like home & we lived there for the following 12 years. I flew home to Australia to give birth to my son & then brought him back to Sardinia. The transition was easy. I was ready to do something else and had the chance to jump into something that offered security. I had a baby and wanted to have a home. It took some adjusting, but a baby on a boat wasn’t an option for me. I had my son Aymon when I was 30, I felt ready for the next chapter.

Now that you have a son, what advice would you give him if he wanted to join Yachting?

Aymon is 16 in a couple of weeks and we often talk about yachts and villas. It was his life too. He often came on board Coral Island when I was setting up parties and also had the chance to live and breathe villa life as he was growing up. As a result, he has about 25 Italian aunties. He spent 6 months earlier this year living in China with a family on an exchange. Without a doubt, the confidence to do that comes from travel, exposure to cultures, and a life of variety. I think adaptability is the key to a successful life. Yachting and villa life allow that. Albeit that it gives you a somewhat distorted view of how the average person lives, it exposes you to many nationalities and personalities. I would say go for it. Make it fun, not serious, and see how it feels, if it fits, that’s fabulous. I met my husband, bought my first house, met some incredible friends, some of whom I am in business with today as well, all thanks to yachting. It’s a fabulous place to spend some years of your life. 

Can you explain your charity work that you now focus on?

Not long after meeting my husband Torstein in the Caribbean (Torstein and I met whilst working on passing yachts on the Caribbean island of Antigua in 1995), we decided to go to Nepal. We hadn’t even spent a week together when we decided to go traveling in there – it was a baptism of fire. He was 29 and I was a mere 24. We spent 10 days rafting the river before arriving in Bardia National Park to seek out the Bengali tigers and Indian elephants. Then Torstein got ill.

Try to picture the isolation in this community. No running water, no phones, no cars, and the closest ambulance was over two hours away. I was beside myself with worry. There were no nearby hospitals. I needed to get Torstein to a hospital, but he was barely conscious and couldn’t walk.

The Khadka family who owned the cottage we were staying in offered to help us. Their teenage son, Bikram, found a couple of pushbikes that he and I used to go and locate a car. We drove to the closest airport to fly the closest city with a hospital.  Torstein had life-saving surgery to prevent his intestine rupturing into his stomach cavity. Four other foreigners, I sourced from the local bar, there alongside him donating blood due to lack of blood storage facilities at the hospital. If he had stayed even one or two days later in Bardia– the doctors told us he would have died.

Two years later Torstein and I got married. And then in 2002 we had a son – and called him Aymon “Bardia” Holth in recognition of the people to whom we owed so much.

I think the last sentence sums up the impact that the ‘chance’ encounter had on me.

When our son was eleven, we took him to Bardia. The local family who helped us recognized my husband and I as soon as we walked in and we together embraced from our souls. Bikram, the families son was now a Principal of a small English speaking school he had set up for the community from their family home. On the spot, we pledged to help him expand the dream school he was visualizing to educate the local community. I am a strong believer in the ability of one person to make a real difference and feel it is our duty to support the ones who do that.

Bikram and his father have already done an incredible job in getting the school up and running. The school is available to both children whose families can afford to contribute a few dollars per month to pay for education, as well as those who are ‘landless’ and who can’t afford to pay for education.

But the most shocking part came when Bikram explained why the school was so important: Children in western Nepal are being trafficked into India in higher numbers than ever before. Girls, in particular, are at risk, numbers have increased five-fold since 2013. They often end up as sex workers or in forced labor. Uneducated families are often preyed upon by traffickers and this is why we, together with Bikram, believe that the expansion of the school for the children of Bardia is vital.

In this case, what is financially so little for us living in a developed country, can have such a HUGE impact in a place such as Bardia.

Bikram has created an amazing place where children are being educated, yet the conditions are incredibly uncomfortable and in desperate need of an upgrade. The school now crams in over 500 students, up to 51 students in one classroom, and has only 3 toilets with no running water for all of these kids. They desperately need help. The school has been self-sustaining for many years, however, their income is not sufficient to finance the upgrade. If they cannot upgrade many children will be turned away from the school, they will not be able to open years 11 and 12 to keep kids in school longer.

How can yachties be involved in helping Bright Futures of Bardia?

Honestly, the best way others can help right now is to support our Bright Futures of Bardia fundraising efforts to ensure that the upgrade of the school happens as soon as possible.

  1. Collaboration is vital to the success of this project. Without the other wonderful individuals who have put their hand up and said, I will help you, this would not be possible.
  2. Monetary donation through our crowdfunding platform
  3. Spreading the word, of course, liking our social media and sharing what we do with others will be very helpful

We are getting close to the phase 1 goal, which means we can get started on the bathrooms and foundations for the new classrooms. The overall project cost is about USD $110k. If everyone who actually sees this figure committed to raising a few hundred dollars we would achieve this goal together. Imagine how quickly we would find the funds if it was our family.

My commitment to helping these children is unshakeable. For so many years I have enjoyed what Nepal has to offer in terms of mountains and rivers, and I know a project such as this can impact generations to come and ensure a dignified and valuable future for many children.

And..what if WE can change the world one little soul at a time…isn’t it so very worth it?

What has been the biggest inspiration in your life?

Wow, I have to pick one!

My mum and dad have both been incredibly inspirational to me for different reasons, my son is a huge source of inspiration for me to be the best version of myself #thekidsarewatching, yet I would say that travel, adventure, and immersion in different cultures has been what inspires me to continue to grow. If it doesn’t sound too arrogant I would like to say I even inspire myself some days. Particularly when I look back on my life, and all the magic there has been and continues to be, and this excites and inspires me. Tony Robbins needs a mention here too.

Do you have any advice for stewardesses that want to make a difference, but aren’t sure where to start?

The easiest way to get started is to start! Find someone doing something that inspires you and offer to support them. Together the multiplier effect kicks in and partnering with a team is magic. If it wasn’t for my team you would not be reading this article, as it was her contact with Gemma that made this happen.

Someone asked me once if there is one piece of advice I would like to give a younger version of myself, and it is the same advice I give myself every day even now as a big girl, and I offer it to you too… and that is.. it is OK to think you can change the world even if others think that it is not possible. I wrote myself a reminder which sits on my wall in full view today, and if I had little Jacqui here I would paint it on her wall too, and it says… ‘I don’t have to sit down because of what someone might think of me, I have to stand up because of what I think of myself’.

My wish for you all is that you all go out there and make the difference you were born to make.

I would love to hear from any of you who would like to partner with us and help these children to have access to an education they deserve so please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

A big thank you to Jacqui for taking the time to share your stories with everyone!

When I started The Yacht Stew, I wanted to create a place of kindness & community. So when Jacqui’s story was sent to me, I knew I had to do something to help. As you may have seen on my Instagram account, I am currently in the midst of The Yacht Stew’s 12 Days of Kindness. It’s 12 days where we all make conscious efforts to do random acts of kindness. We all have the capability to make a huge difference, whether it be at a local or global level.

To be honest, I never feel as though I’m doing enough to help others & I’m always brainstorming different ways we as a community to make an impact…

I am so ecstatic to announce the first (of hopefully many) “The Yacht Stew Charity Initiative“. My goal is to raise $1000 to build a classroom at the Bright Futures of Bardia school. 

If you feel compelled to donate, please see the below link where you can make a donation. Can’t commit to raising funds? It would mean the world to me to have people from around the world sharing our donation page & encouraging others to learn more about the global epidemic that is Child Trafficking.

https://chuffed.org/fundraiser/bright-futures-of-bardia-TheYachtStew

Thank you Jacqui for your inspiration & passion for helping others. You have encouraged me to do more & I can’t wait to hear more stories of the students that will occupy The Yacht Stew sponsor classroom!

Big Hugs,

Gem

Follow:

https://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.holth

https://www.facebook.com/brightfuturesbardia

https://www.brightfuturesofbardia.life

Gemma Hulbert
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Gemma Hulbert

Hello! My name is Gemma, the girl behind The Yacht Stew. After 7 years of working on yachts, I wanted to create a platform where I could share my stories, travels & passions. I have been asked a million and one times “What do you actually do working on a yacht?” – hopefully this blog will give you a good insight. I’m so excited to share my travels & stories with you.
Gemma Hulbert
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