Koninklijk Werk IBIS was founded in 1906 by King Albert in Ostend, Belgium, to offer a home and maritime school for orphaned boys whose fathers had perished at sea. Traditionally, the children would have been taken in by other fishermen’s families. That was a heavy financial burden, so the boys would often end up working in the fields. IBIS offered them a home and professional education, allowing the boys to follow in their ancestors’ trade and tradition of the sea.
Now, IBIS is a boarding school for boys dealing with difficult family situations, behavioral problems or neglect. They range in age from 6 to 16. The children attend primary school and then receive a maritime secondary education. They get room and board, a structure, social and emotional care and practical skills in a quiet and safe environment. For some, the school is their only home. While many children go back to their families on weekends, others rarely, if ever, return. Therefore, the school remains open year-round. Grignet was moved during the time she spent photographing at the school. “I found it to be a special place with a gentle quietness and order. Only when I photographed the boys playing in the snow was that solemnity broken,” she said.
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