French engineer-turned-sailor Jacques Luc Autran made a series of journeys to bring medical relief, technical assistance and food to communities cut off by the sea.
During several years navigating the Indian Ocean, Autran saw first-hand the difficult conditions endured by people isolated by water, many of them forced to live without even the basics of a healthy existence. These early experiences forged a determination to use his skills and energy to improve the lives of others. He founded the non-profit Marins sans Frontières (Seamen without Borders) to provide basic healthcare to those living in the extensive archipelagos of the Indian Ocean.
Beyond the coconut-lined beaches and tropical landscapes one sees in tourist ads, 1,200 islands are home to people who need better living conditions.
His first foray, on a restored fishing boat named the Listaos, was a health and immunization campaign in the Maldives, where people often have to travel five days by boat to see a doctor. Autran moved on to other projects – in Haiti, Madagascar and Mozambique, where he carried out one of his longest-running and largest operations.
In recent years, his work has continued in countries such as Benin, Cambodia and Senegal, with the organization continuing to construct boats to service its humanitarian work and deliver medical workers, drugs, vaccines and food to many of the world’s underprivileged.