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Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors Study Paradise Cove’s Coral Reef Regeneration

On a recent Saturday, off a stretch of beach with sand so fine and waters so sparkling it  could be the iconic Instagram image, dozens of young Bahamians were hard at work.

Barry Smith, left, shows participants in Youth Environment Ambassadors how reef balls work to attract marine life. Smith is with Paradise Cove in Grand Bahama which spearheaded the island’s adopt-a-reef program. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls are deployed off the coasts of some 70 countries and are believed to be the best and most effective artificial reef design. Funding for the program also provides the means to dissect sections of endangered reefs and replant them in protected areas.

Barry Smith, left, shows participants in Youth Environment Ambassadors how reef balls work to attract marine life. Smith is with Paradise Cove in Grand Bahama which spearheaded the island’s adopt-a-reef program. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls are deployed off the coasts of some 70 countries and are believed to be the best and most effective artificial reef design. Funding for the program also provides the means to dissect sections of endangered reefs and replant them in protected areas.

Members of the Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA), a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, were learning that sometimes what man takes away, humankind can make good again – they were witnessing that even with fragile coral reefs, there can be new life.

The YEA’s were learning about and observing the Reef Ball initiative at Paradise Cove Beach Resort, Grand Bahama. Reef balls, made of a highly porous concrete and silica, are the most effective design module for artificial reefs and provide a safe, eco-friendly home for sustainable marine life. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls, each capable of producing up to 500 pounds of biomass a year, are deployed in 70 countries, not only attracting marine life they were designed for, but the adoption programs funding the regrowth of endangered corals.

Barry Smith, who spearheads the Grand Bahama reef ball project, told the youth environment ambassadors that thanks to funding through the adopt-a-reef initiative, the local program has entered its second phase, rescuing and, where practical or feasible, replanting endangered reefs.

“This is all about coral rescue and replanting and requires harvesting imperiled coral that would be at risk of death within the next 12 months and planting them in a cement plug and transplanting the coral on the reef balls so that they can grow and flourish,” he said.

YEA Coordinator Rashema Ingraham said seeing something that faced destruction but could be saved and regenerated inspired hope on many levels.

“Over the past three years, the YEA program has exposed young Bahamians to the good, the bad and the ugly of the environment,” Ingraham said. “But of all the projects we have seen, studied or helped, the reef ball program is likely the most exciting because it demonstrates that even as we watch our own reefs get swallowed up by dredging that should never be allowed, or by careless anchoring by boaters or as reefs die off from natural causes, there is hope. We humans have a role to play in creating artificial reefs and funding removal of endangered reefs and replanting. It’s long, it’s tedious but it works and that is what is critical. Learning that you really can create a living artificial reef that attracts hundreds of marine animals and where they can thrive has to be the very top of the top of the good.”

The YEA program is so popular that the demand to participate far outweighs the number of spots available. Classes are held every other Saturday for four months with academics followed by field studies and hands-on experiences.

“Since its inception, the YEA program has opened the eyes of more than 200 young Bahamians. They have trekked through wetlands, studied industrial waste management, learned about renewable energy and spent hours exploring underwater life,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville. “These young men and women have the awesome task of becoming the future stewards of our environment and this program has sensitized them to how delicate the balance is and what it will take to ensure the beauty and majesty of this country is preserved for future generations.”

Founded in 2013, Save The Bays has emerged as a leading voice in the protection of the environment and human rights through education, advocacy and legal action. The civil society organization has more than

Class Act – Youth Environment Ambassadors, a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, includes formal academics and hands-on experiences. YEAs meet every other Saturday for four months and those who qualify in knowledge and leadership at the end of each series graduate with a certificate in environmental stewardship.

Class Act – Youth Environment Ambassadors, a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, includes formal academics and hands-on experiences. YEAs meet every other Saturday for four months and those who qualify in knowledge and leadership at the end of each series graduate with a certificate in environmental stewardship.

20,000 Facebook friends and has amassed nearly 7,000 signatures on a complex petition calling for, among other items, comprehensive environmental protection legislation and an end to unregulated development. Its pressure for freedom of information contributed to the recent debate and passage of the Freedom of Information Act 2016 in the House of Assembly. The bill still faces debate in the Senate whose members are reportedly studying several amendments recommended by 21 civil society groups.

Save The Bays launches annual Youth Environmental Ambassador Program for 4th year

Freeport, GRAND BAHAMA – For the fourth consecutive year, young people from Grand Bahama are trading their right to sleep late or hang with their friends for the privilege of traipsing through woods and wetlands as they are groomed to become good stewards of the environment.

Alec Nabb, YEA facilitator, showing students different types of mangroves and their adaptation and zoning.  Photo: STB

Alec Nabb, YEA facilitator, showing students different types of mangroves and their adaptation and zoning. Photo: STB

Thirty junior high students have been selected to take part in Save The Bays Youth Environ mental Ambassador Program. The respected youth development initiative launched on January 7 and will run until May. 

“For the next five months participants will gain an awareness of their environment, learn the importance of taking care of it and how to keep it healthy for future generations,” said Rashema Ingraham, YEA organizer. Discussions and field exercises will cover a myriad of topics including climate change, plastic pollution, coral reefs and mangroves.

2017.01.12 Getting a closer look “What is interesting is that many of them really want to be outdoors,” said Ingraham. “That may be difficult to conceptualize with all the lures of electronics and mesmerizing television shows. We have to find ways to get our children to connect to the outdoors so that they grow to appreciate the beauty of the world around them.” 

According to Ingraham, the program’s success relies on the ability of facilitators to arouse passion about conservation and engaging participants to spread the message about its importance. 

One of those facilitators, Bradley Rutherford, said he wished the program had been available when he was younger.

“It is a very enriching experience for facilitators and students,” said Rutherford. “The opportunity is certainly one I wish was available when I was a youth.”

For participant Justus Fox, the YEA experience was unparalleled.

I participated in workshops with similar activities, but nothing as good as my first session experience with the YEA program,” said Fox, a student at Jack Hayward Junior High, one of six schools with students who qualified to attend. The others Bishop Michael Eldon, Sunland Baptist Academy, Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High, Tabernacle Baptist Academy, Jack Hayward Junior High and Mary Star of the Sea. 

Sessions are held bi-weekly on Saturdays at the YMCA.

2017.01.12 Save the Bays Chairman, Joseph Darville

Waterkeepers and STB lead youth environmental adventure

Camp Eco-Explorer – Kids Version taught 12 Grand Bahama youngsters to appreciate the environment and motivated them to do all they can to protect it

 

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – The word ‘environment’ means a whole lot more to a group of Grand Bahama students now that they’ve completed the first ever Kids Version of Eco Explorer Camp!

Camp Eco-Explorer – Kids Version, a seven-day camp sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, was organized to get youngsters excited about their eco-systems and impress upon them how important it is to take care of our natural resources.

Camp_6“Our facilitators had the experience of working with teenagers over the past three years and became painfully aware at times of the lack of knowledge about and appreciation for our wonderful, rich and precious environment.  It became obvious that a great deal of work has to be done to enlighten our youth about our natural treasures,” said STB chairman Joseph Darville.

The theme for the week was ‘Protect. Preserve. Lead’ and students learned about pine forests, composting, recycling, mangroves, caves, the water cycle, weather, and climate change.

Rashema Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeepers Bahamas, says her organization focuses on ensuring swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for all.  “We are adamant about giving each Bahamian an opportunity to connect with the water, either for enjoyment or to ensure it is safe.  Programs like the Eco Explorer Camp gives campers opportunities to really understand why and how all species of the Earth depend on clean water,” she said.

When they were done in the classroom, they headed to the great outdoors to see first-hand just what they were learning about.

There was no shortage of outdoor fun! Field trips to the Rand Nature Centre, Garden of the Groves, Lucayan National Park, GB Meteorology Office, and Fortune beach brought out the true explorers in each student.

They were supplied with binoculars, magnifying glasses and even snorkeling gear to help them really get into the role of the scientist or the observer.

According to Darville, the program was very ambitious. “The content was challenging and demanded a level of attention and involvement commensurate with and beyond their age. However, with due diligence and encouragement, seasoned with a lot of patience, the facilitators were able to implant in those young minds and spirits an awesome regard and respect of our precious environment”, he said.

Social Media Fun: Kids who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama last week had the chance to send a social media message with hashtags. The seven-day camp, which also included a day spent birding at the Rand Nature Centre and a visit to the compost center at the Garden of the Groves, was sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays.

Social Media Fun: Kids who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama last week had the chance to send a social media message with hashtags. The seven-day camp, which also included a day spent birding at the Rand Nature Centre and a visit to the compost center at the Garden of the Groves, was sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays.

Both Ingraham and Darville agreed these lessons should be part of everyday learning.  “We can have beach cleanups every week,” said Ingraham, but if there is no focus on why littering and illegal dumping are toxic for our water supply, there will always be unsightly trash in our communities.”

Darville is strongly advocating for the inclusion of a vibrant environmental curriculum in every school. “If our children do not know and aren’t able to celebrate our natural blessings, they will be more inclined to destroy them.” he said.

Those 12 students left camp with more than certificates. “From all indications, we have some future environmentalists on our hands,” Ingraham said.

As members of Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading international NGO that coordinates more than 290 member licensed organisations who act as watchdogs for the world’s waterways, Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas work tirelessly to make sure the citizens of the Bahamas are educated and informed about decisions, policies and practices that have an impact — positively or negatively — on the country’s fragile ecosystem. One of its main initiatives is protection of mangroves which act as incubators for marine life and a barrier from ocean surges and flooding during storms.

Bird Watching: Twelve Kid Campers were taught the basics on bird-watching as part of Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer. The weeklong camp exposed campers to the natural environment of The Bahamas while educating them on environmental and conservation issues.

Bird Watching: Twelve Kid Campers were taught the basics on bird-watching as part of Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer. The weeklong camp exposed campers to the natural environment of The Bahamas while educating them on environmental and conservation issues.

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Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer: Kids who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent a day learning about the importance of recycling and composting, with a visit to the Garden of the Groves compost section. Here little camper Stephen Gay is assessing the soil to determine if the soil is rich with necessary nutrients.

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Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer: Kids who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent seven days exploring the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas through field trips like the freshwater caves, mangroves, coastal shoreline and beaches. In addition to getting up-close-and-personal with nature, campers spent the week learning about environmental issues that will impact their future and ways they can get involved in conservation efforts.

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer: Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays took twelve kid campers to the GB Meteorology Office to learn about weather and changes in weather over a period of years recently as part of Camp Eco-Explorer – Kids Version. In addition to learning about weather and climate change, the kid campers also learned about the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas and ways they can contribute to its preservation and conservation.

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Kids Version of Camp Eco-Explorer: Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays took twelve kid campers to the GB Meteorology Office to learn about weather and changes in weather over a period of years recently as part of Camp Eco-Explorer – Kids Version. In addition to learning about weather and climate change, the kid campers also learned about the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas and ways they can contribute to its preservation and conservation.

 

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas works to promote the availability of clean water on all three of the waterbodies for which it is licensed – Bimini, Grand Bahama and Clifton-Western Bays in New Providence – with the goal of ensuring they are swimmable and fishable for future generations of Bahamians. The organisation is a proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement that has united more than 290 Waterkeeper members and affiliates around the world, all working together to focus citizen action on issues that affect waterways from pollution to climate change. If you are aware of pollution, unregulated development or other illegal activities taking place in the area please contact Rashema Ingraham via phone 242-602-7531 or email  waterkeepers.bahamas@gmail.com

Waterkeepers Bahamas & Save The Bays Sponsor First-Ever Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Sponsor First-Ever Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama

Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (l) and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville (center) spent seven days introducing nine Grand Bahama teens and pre-teens to mangroves, stingrays and farm animals as part of Camp Eco-Explorer. In addition to participating in outdoor activities, the teens were taught the importance of environmental conservation and protection, and how it all begins with leadership and good character development.

Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (l) and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville (center) spent seven days introducing nine Grand Bahama teens and pre-teens to mangroves, stingrays and farm animals as part of Camp Eco-Explorer. In addition to participating in outdoor activities, the teens were taught the importance of environmental conservation and protection, and how it all begins with leadership and good character development.

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Leaders Take Nine Teens On A Weeklong Eco Tour of Grand Bahama

Camp Eco-Explorer Teaches Youngsters Importance of Ecological Conservation

Tell people you’ve just spent seven days swimming with stingrays, gliding through mangroves in a kayak, horseback riding and swimming in the open water with dolphins and they might assume you’re describing an expensive eco holiday or a much-dreamed about summer vacation. They may even ask where they can sign up for one themselves.

But, for nine lucky Grand Bahama teens, experiencing some of the most unforgettable activities The Bahamas has to offer was all part of Camp Eco-Explorer, a seven-day camp sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays.

“It was such a blessing to convene with young minds and introduce them to Mother Nature in her most natural, unspoiled form,” said Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “To see their faces light up at the sight of a stingray and the peace that washed over their faces as we kayaked through mangroves….it was truly miraculous.”

As members of Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading international NGO that coordinates more than 290 member licensed organisations who act as watchdogs for the world’s waterways, Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas work tirelessly to make sure the citizens of the Bahamas are educated and informed about decisions, policies and practices that have an impact—positively or negatively—on the country’s fragile ecosystem. One of its main initiatives is protection of mangroves which act as incubators for marine life and a barrier from ocean surges and flooding during storms.

“For a few of the campers, this was their first time in a kayak and also the first time they had been up close and in mangroves,” said Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham. “This camp has given them an experience to use as a point of reference when it comes making big decisions about their environment going forward.”

“I found it really impressive how beautiful the mangroves are,” said 15-year-old Viore Bosfield. “They are really amazing. They live in a such a tough area and they adapt perfectly.”

In addition to acting as buffers when severe weather strikes, mangroves provide filtration adding to the reasons Bahamian waters are crystal clear. Unfortunately, they are also one of the first plants cleared to make way for developments because they often stand between the open water and land. Removal of mangroves and wetlands makes hurricanes that much more devastating.

“So many people my age don’t care about the environment,” said 14-year-old camper Tyler Adderley. “They grow up thinking they should sell off our beautiful lands and beaches to others when they don’t realize it’s unique and should be kept as ours.”

These are exactly the kind of ecological realities Darville and Ingraham spent the week conveying to their young stewards with the hope that when it comes their turn to make decisions about the ecological future of their country, they’ll make informed choices.

“A big part of changing the mindset of Bahamians so they become involved in protecting and preserving the environment is to inspire Millennials,” Ingraham said. “Everyone can relate to a calming, life-changing experience when they talk about the water. These campers are the faces of our future Waterkeepers. They now have the confidence and the spark to be stronger agents of change.”

Waterkeepers Bahamas works to promote the availability of clean water on all three of the waterbodies for which it is licensed — Bimini, Grand Bahama and Clifton-Western Bays in New Providence –with the goal of ensuring they are swimmable and fishable for future generations of Bahamians. The organisation is a proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement that has united more than 290 Waterkeeper members and affiliates around the world, all working together to focus citizen action on issues that affect waterways from pollution to climate change. If you are aware of pollution, unregulated development or other illegal activities taking place in the area please contact Rashema Ingraham via phone 242-602-7531 or email  waterkeepers.bahamas@gmail.com

 

 

Swimming with Dolphins: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama last week had the chance to swim with free and untrained dolphins while snorkeling, including a tour through a beautiful coral garden and above many small ocean blue holes. The seven-day camp, which also included a day spent swimming with stingrays and a visit to a farm, was sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays.

Swimming with Dolphins: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama last week had the chance to swim with free and untrained dolphins while snorkeling, including a tour through a beautiful coral garden and above many small ocean blue holes. The seven-day camp, which also included a day spent swimming with stingrays and a visit to a farm, was sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays.

 

Swimming with Stingrays:  Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville (second from right sitting on boat) spent seven days guiding teens and pre-teens on an eco-tour around Grand Bahama as part of Camp Eco-Explorer, including a field trip to swim with the stingrays. The weeklong camp exposed campers to the natural environment of The Bahamas while educating them on environmental and conservation issues.

Swimming with Stingrays: Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville (second from right sitting on boat) spent seven days guiding teens and pre-teens on an eco-tour around Grand Bahama as part of Camp Eco-Explorer, including a field trip to swim with the stingrays. The weeklong camp exposed campers to the natural environment of The Bahamas while educating them on environmental and conservation issues.

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent a day kayaking through mangroves while learning about the crucial role the plants play in protecting our shores from flooding and storm surges and preventing beach erosion.

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent a day kayaking through mangroves while learning about the crucial role the plants play in protecting our shores from flooding and storm surges and preventing beach erosion.

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent seven days exploring the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas through field trips like swimming with dolphins and stingrays, snorkeling through coral reef gardens and kayaking through mangroves. In addition to getting up-close-and-personal with nature, campers spent the week learning about environmental issues that will impact their future and ways they can get involved in conservation efforts.

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Teens and pre-teens who attended Camp Eco-Explorer in Grand Bahama, hosted by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, spent seven days exploring the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas through field trips like swimming with dolphins and stingrays, snorkeling through coral reef gardens and kayaking through mangroves. In addition to getting up-close-and-personal with nature, campers spent the week learning about environmental issues that will impact their future and ways they can get involved in conservation efforts.

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (above) led nine campers on a two-mile snorkeling excursion through coral reef gardens and above ocean blue holes recently as part of Camp Eco-Explorer, a seven-day camp sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays. In addition to swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, campers learned about the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas and ways they can contribute to its preservation and conservation.

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays Host Seven-Day Camp Eco-Explorer: Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (above) led nine campers on a two-mile snorkeling excursion through coral reef gardens and above ocean blue holes recently as part of Camp Eco-Explorer, a seven-day camp sponsored by Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays. In addition to swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, campers learned about the fragile ecosystem of The Bahamas and ways they can contribute to its preservation and conservation.

 

Sustainable Gardening is Rooted in Dollars and Sense in The Bahamas

Farmers Tout Economic Benefits of Living off Your Own Land

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On a recent edition of Save the Bays Saturday radio show “Rise Up, Bahamas” on Nassau’s Love 97.5 FM, Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) facilitators Ruth Cadet (left, wearing yellow), Rashema Ingraham (center wearing gray), Luckner Timothee of Grand Bahama Backyard Farmers (top right) and Javan Hunt (lower right) encouraged listeners to turn to their backyards into farms for the good of their health, and their wallets.

When Luckner Timothee was growing up, gardening was just something his mom did, augmenting family meals with cassavas and pigeon peas she grew in their backyard. It wasn’t trendy and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but it was a part of daily life. It wasn’t until his mom suffered an aneurysm a few years ago, however, that Timothee decided to put his own hands in the earth.

“Nobody in my age group wanted to get into farming because they think of it as a dirty job, but I wanted to keep it up for her,” said the 31-year-old Grand Bahama farmer during a recent edition of Save the Bays “Rise Up, Bahamas” radio show which is recorded in Freeport and airs in both Freeport and in Nassau on Love 97.5 FM.

A day spent assisting his friend, Javan Hunt, tend to his garden only served to further motivate Timothee, and practically overnight he had his own plot of land cleared out and ready for planting.

“I took gardening to a whole new level,” Timothee said. “I’m growing apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, guava…there really isn’t much you can’t grow in the Caribbean.”

Hunt, a YEA facilitator agrees, only his reasoning for turning to sustainable gardening boiled down to something much more basic: economics. As a vegetarian, Hunt was finding it increasingly difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars a month at grocery stores.

“If you go into the supermarket to buy greens, that will break you,” Hunt said on Saturday’s radio show. “Greens alone was costing me almost $100 a week. If you want to feed yourself, you gotta go out and put your hands in that soil.”

According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, The Bahamas imports $500 million in fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that price tag could be drastically reduced if Bahamian citizens placed more emphasis on cultivating their own backyards. 

“We talk a lot about organic foods, and we don’t want to have to pay $100 to $150 a week for food that isn’t saturated with chemicals and GMOs, but we have this concept that somebody else should always be there to provide these things for us when we should be able to provide for ourselves,” said Rashema Ingraham, a fellow Save the Bays YEA facilitator who also participated in Saturday’s edition of “Rise Up, Bahamas.”

Timothee admits that at first setting up a garden can seem daunting, especially when you consider the initial costs incurred when you first set out to gather supplies, but the key is to focus on the three “R’s”:  reduce, reuse and recycle. For instance, pallets and water jugs can be used as planting containers and typical household refuse such as banana and carrot peels, apple cores and leaves that fall off trees can be used for compost.

“Sustainable gardening becomes second nature once if you shift your mindset from being a taker to being part of something that is bigger,” Timothee said. “It’s not just farming. A plant in your apartment or on your patio…that will change you for the better.”

 

Students Gather to Plant Tree of Life at Windsor Preparatory School

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Diane Phillips Leads Earth Week Presentation as Part of The Canopy Project

Children dressed in every shade of green from lime to forest and chartreuse assembled in the schoolyard of Windsor Preparatory School at Old Fort in Nassau on Wednesday, ears tuned and eyes bright with anticipation as they gathered for a tree-planting ceremony as part of the school’s Earth Week festivities.

“What’s happening today? Why is everybody dressed in green?” the school’s founder Lisa McCartney asked, warming the group up for the morning’s presentation by Diane Phillips.

“It’s Earth Day!” a chorus of young voices sang in response as students ranging in age from Kindergarten to 8th grade streamed in, vying for the best view.

Phillips, a member of the non-profit environmental conservation and education group Save the Bays, was on hand to plant a Lignum Vitae tree in honor of The Canopy Project, an initiative launched by the Earth Day Network in 2011 which works with local communities to conserve, repair, and restore tree cover. To date, the project has been responsible for planting 3.2 million trees worldwide.

Phillips opened the day’s presentation by asking students for their own definition of the environment.

“It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sea we swim in….what else is it?” Phillips said, prompting the youngsters.

“It’s life!” a young girl answered enthusiastically.

“And why are trees important to life?” Phillips asked, kneeling down to make eye contact with her young audience.

Hands shot up into the air as students competed to be the first to be called upon.

“They give oxygen,” one boy offered.

“It gives a home to animals,” said a young girl. 

“They make paper,” answered another.

“They use carbon dioxide,” an older student called out.

“You are absolutely right!” Phillips said, standing up to circulate. “Trees absorb carbon dioxide, which is bad, and give off oxygen, which is good. In fact, did you know, if it weren’t for trees, there probably wouldn’t be human life? Next to water, greenery is the most important thing in the universe.” Students had been prepped for the tree-planting and could answer nearly all the questions about the value of trees from being sources of food and medicine to providing shade, limiting soil erosion and serving as a buffer against noise. 

Phillips added that while The Bahamas has been ahead of the conservation curve when it comes to enacting legislation to protect marine life citing shark and sea turtle bans and closed seasons for Nassau grouper and crawfish, the country remains about 40 years behind the U.S. when it comes to preserving the environment given the lack of an Environmental Protection Act.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 51.5 percent of The Bahamas is forested. Safeguarding the country’s tree population is critical to maintaining the integrity of its fragile ecosystem, particularly in the face of global warming. With the reality of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and more frequent and violent storms and floods, increasing tree cover to prevent devastating soil erosion especially in low-lying areas is a top priority.

The Nassau tree planting was just one of several activities by Save The Bays marking Earth Day, In Grand Bahama, Joe Darville, chairman of the organization with nearly 20,000 Facebook friends, planted a series of Lignum Vitae trees while Earthcare Eco-kids under the leadership of Save The Bays member Gail Woon did a beach clean-up. And well-known ecologist and attorney Romi Ferreira, a Save The Bays director, personally sponsored an Earth Day competition. Nine schools submitted projects for the day-long exhibition and judging held at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre at Police headquarters.

And private citizens did their part, including Elaine Pinder and team who dedicated five acres of wetlands at Sapodilla Estate in western New Providence, an oasis populated by ducks, turtles and birds and filled with beauty. 

Darville and Phillips said they selected the Lignum Vitae because it was not only the national tree of The Bahamas, but literally translates as “tree of life.”

“We have to do a lot more to protect our environment,” Phillips said. “We’re just at the start. I am not a scientist; I am not even an environmentalist—I wish I were. I am just someone like you—someone who cares about the environment.”

Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassador Leadership Program Enters 3rd Year, 100% Oversubscribed

The Fortunate Future Ambassadors for the Environment – 80 students ages 12-14 showed up to register for a spot in this year’s Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama, but only 45 could be accommodated. It was the second time that the Save The Bays program that combines academics, practical and hands-on experiences was nearly 100% oversubscribed and this year students get the additional benefit of mentoring by 16 internationally certified facilitators in environmental leadership training, thanks in part to a grant from RBC. It is the second time RBC has partnered with Save The Bays for the popular series.

The Fortunate Future Ambassadors for the Environment – 80 students ages 12-14 showed up to register for a spot in this year’s Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama, but only 45 could be accommodated. It was the second time that the Save The Bays program that combines academics, practical and hands-on experiences was nearly 100% oversubscribed and this year students get the additional benefit of mentoring by 16 internationally certified facilitators in environmental leadership training, thanks in part to a grant from RBC. It is the second time RBC has partnered with Save The Bays for the popular series.

They lined up by the dozens – teenagers eager to sign on, ready to trade chilling out two Saturdays a month for the right to become leaders in environmental stewardship. They were the hopefuls trying to secure one of the sought-after spots in one of the most popular programs in The Bahamas – Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA).

 

Now entering its third year, the popular semi-monthly training that runs from mid-January to the end of May is sponsored by Save The Bays, the fast-growing environmental organization with nearly 20,000 Facebook friends. YEA also receives grant support from RBC for the training of facilitators through an international award-winning program.

 

Sessions start at the Grand Bahama YMCA before participants head to hand-on experiences, taking to the water to study coral reefs, lakes or wetlands or going on guided field trips ranging from eco-tourism exploration to insights into industrial plants, learning what environmental risks are at stake and what protection measures are undertaken to guard against potential damage.

 

The YEA program is in such demand that Save The Bays is trying to find ways to expand. For the second time, twice as many hopefuls showed up to sign up as could be accommodated and those 12-14-year-olds trying to get in competed by answering questions on climate change and other environment-related topics.

 

“The young people in Grand Bahama have been so enthusiastic,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “Like last year, we had 80 young men and women show up for 45 spots. The fact that these young people care so much and are competing for a spot in the program is encouraging because it shows that we are making real headway with educating our own people about how important the environment is and what role they can play in environmental stewardship.”

 

Thanks to $5,000 grants from RBC for the past two years, the global financial institution committed to saving the world’s water and providing clean drinking water, YEA has been able to connect with the internationally acclaimed Center for Creative Leadership, named by Financial Times Top Five Worldwide in Executive Education. Sixteen Bahamians who graduated from the Center’s leadership program and are now internationally certified will serve as facilitators for participants.

“Additionally, in preparation for the critical issue of climate change, a number of our team members not only received certified leadership training in climate change reality under former Vice President Al Gore, but they also were part of Waterkeeper Alliance/Save The Bays  delegates to the recent climate change summit in Paris (COP21 Paris).  Thus, not only is our team immensely qualified to expertly lead our youth forward at this critical juncture on our planet, but it is more than admirably capable to assist in working with national leaders in all matters related to climatic changes,” said Darville, who also attended the Paris conference.

 

“These are critical times in the life of this nation and its people, especially the young. They will truly be out environmental ambassadors carrying the important work and message forward and this program assists them in becoming involved in all the leadership aspects for personal development as well as for the fortification of their country.”

 

This year’s series opened January 16 with West End Ecology Tours and a presentation by its owners, Keith and Linda Cooper.

 

“Keith Cooper’s spirit of passion, inspiration and dedication to our precious environment of amazing abundance cannot but be infinitely infectious,” said Darville. “When he was showing the video of locals and tourists connecting with nature through snorkeling, feeding the sting rays and exploring reefs and wrecks off the coast of West End, the students were spellbound. At the end of our session, we saw smiles and shyness evaporating, new friendships forming and a budding realization that this is no ordinary program.  We grow by learning about and exploring our environment and when you get to know something, you love it.”

The YEA program is one of many initiatives of Save The Bays, the organization that has been vocal in environmental advocacy and education as well as filing legal action to ensure accountability in matters related to unregulated or harmful development. Save The Bays has been part of a growing movement urging Freedom of Information legislation and its calls for open government are reaching a growing audience.

Patrick Vedrine, Eight Mile Rock High student, left and Lauren Bethel, Tabernacle Baptist Academy, tackle questions related to the role of wetlands during the first session of the 2016 Youth Environment Ambassadors program, a Save The Bays initiative.

Patrick Vedrine, Eight Mile Rock High student, left and Lauren Bethel, Tabernacle Baptist Academy, tackle questions related to the role of wetlands during the first session of the 2016 Youth Environment Ambassadors program, a Save The Bays initiative.

 

She’s got the answer—This eager student is all eyes and hand raised to answer a question during the opening session of the 2016 Save The Bays initiative Youth Environment Ambassadors. She was one of the fortunate ones who got into the program that was once again 100% oversubscribed with 80+ students applying for 45 slots. Class sessions start at the YMCA in Grand Bahama before moving into the field for hands-on experiences and tours.

She’s got the answer—This eager student is all eyes and hand raised to answer a question during the opening session of the 2016 Save The Bays initiative Youth Environment Ambassadors. She was one of the fortunate ones who got into the program that was once again 100% oversubscribed with 80+ students applying for 45 slots. Class sessions start at the YMCA in Grand Bahama before moving into the field for hands-on experiences and tours.

 

Enthusiasm – 16 Bahamians who graduated from an internationally acclaimed leadership course, made possible in part by a grant from RBC, serve as facilitators in the popular Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama.

Enthusiasm – 16 Bahamians who graduated from an internationally acclaimed leadership course, made possible in part by a grant from RBC, serve as facilitators in the popular Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama.

 

Passion – West End Eco Tours owner Keith Cooper led students on a visual and verbal tour of the intricate eco-system of their own island of Grand Bahama during the opening session of the semi-monthly four month Save The Bays program Youth Environment Ambassadors. The program combines environmental issues with leadership training, preparing participants for future roles as stewards and protectors of the Bahamian environment.

Passion – West End Eco Tours owner Keith Cooper led students on a visual and verbal tour of the intricate eco-system of their own island of Grand Bahama during the opening session of the semi-monthly four month Save The Bays program Youth Environment Ambassadors. The program combines environmental issues with leadership training, preparing participants for future roles as stewards and protectors of the Bahamian environment.

Students Graduate from Environmental Program

The 2015 Graduates of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) speak to parents and spectators about Bahamian environmental issues. The program is spearheaded and funded by fast-growing environmental group Save The Bays. The event took place at the Wallace Groves Auditorium of Mary Star of The Sea Catholic Primary School. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

The 2015 Graduates of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) speak to parents and spectators about Bahamian environmental issues. The program is spearheaded and funded by fast-growing environmental group Save The Bays. The event took place at the Wallace Groves Auditorium of Mary Star of The Sea Catholic Primary School. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Friends and family members filled the halls of Wallace Groves Auditorium of Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School to cheer on just under 30 students as they walked across the stage as certified leaders and environmentalists graduating from the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) program spearheaded by fast-growing environmental group, Save The Bays (STB).

The program is formed in partnership with Glover & Associates Inc. and international training company, Center for Creative Leadership.

YEA Program Director Joseph Darville said the graduation is symbolic of a milestone that will make a difference in the future appreciation and protection of the environment.

“With all of the environmental issues being faced right here at home, education is a must,” he said. “Through our program, we are educating the future – the youth – which is imperative to the preservation of the future of the environment.”

The YEA program, now in its second year, serves as the educational arm of Save The Bays and is driven by funding from the organization aimed at protecting the physical and cultural heritage of The Bahamas.

As the graduates crossed the stage, cheers of proud parents and onlookers echoed throughout the auditorium.

During the 10-session YEA program, students explored national parks, kayaked through mangroves, visited industrial facilities and heard from experts involved in park management and eco-tours – all educating and molding them into stewards of the environment.

 

Graduates of Youth Environmental Ambassador (YEA) program show off their drumming talents. The group was taught by Shayne Bethel from Junkanoo World Bahamas. Drumming was included in this year’s leadership development component of the YEA program to help build confidence among students who are able to express themselves.  (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Graduates of Youth Environmental Ambassador (YEA) program show off their drumming talents. The group was taught by Shayne Bethel from Junkanoo World Bahamas. Drumming was included in this year’s leadership development component of the YEA program to help build confidence among students who are able to express themselves. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

The program served as a learning experience for not only the 27 graduates but also the five facilitators and two trainers.

Javan Hunt, a YEA facilitator said the experience was both a rewarding and unforgettable lesson, one that he hopes the graduates will take seriously and share with others.

“The learning process never stops,” he said. “It’s how we evolve and grow. That’s why we are grooming leaders to facilitate growth and change in this country because we need more leaders to champion the environment. We must protect where we live.”

Youth Environment Ambassador Program Director, Joseph Darville presents one of 27 graduates with a certificate of achievement for proving growth as a leader and becoming more knowledgeable about the environment. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Youth Environment Ambassador Program Director, Joseph Darville presents one of 27 graduates with a certificate of achievement for proving growth as a leader and becoming more knowledgeable about the environment. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

In addition to receiving pins and certificates, students treated the audience to a drumming selection to showcase what they learned under the tutelage of Shayne Bethel from Junkanoo World Bahamas.

“We found that drumming is a means of creative expression,” explained Darville. “We believe that once persons are open enough to express themselves, it translates into their being stronger ambassadors for the environment.”

The scholars also showcased some of what they learned about the environment through environmental projects based on coral reefs, mangroves, dolphins and the seashore ecosystem.

Gail Woon, another STB director in attendance, said she was happy with the accomplishments of the YEA graduates and has high expectations for the next semester.

Program Director of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) program, Joseph Darville (left), congratulates a recent graduate of the YEA program with a certificate of achievement and pin. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Program Director of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) program, Joseph Darville (left), congratulates a recent graduate of the YEA program with a certificate of achievement and pin. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

“Everything starts with them (youth),” she said. “With the enthusiasm that I am seeing in this room, I expect for even more students to register for our next session.”

The next session will run for a total of six months beginning in October.

In addition to its educational efforts, Save The Bays is committed to passage of a Freedom of Information act, environmental protection act, accountability for oil pollution, and an end to unregulated development. With more than 17,400 Facebook friends and nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition, the association is the fastest-growing NGO in The Bahamas.

Students of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) program present Gail Woon with a photo plaque of appreciation as Joseph Darville, directors of Save the Bays, looks on. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Students of the Youth Environment Ambassador (YEA) program present Gail Woon with a photo plaque of appreciation as Joseph Darville, directors of Save the Bays, looks on. (Photo: Jenneva Russell)

Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors See Green Side of Heavy Industry

POWER PLAY IS SERIOUS BUSINESS – Grand Bahama teens don hard hats and inquiring minds to learn more about energy production during a trip to the Grand Bahama Power Company. It’s part of the popular Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA) leadership program sponsored by Save The Bays. In January, visits to the power plant and Grand Bahama Shipyard were aimed at demonstrating the synergetic co-existence of heavy industry and environmental protection when companies monitor, protect, respect and abide best practices and international standards.

POWER PLAY IS SERIOUS BUSINESS – Grand Bahama teens don hard hats and inquiring minds to learn more about energy production during a trip to the Grand Bahama Power Company. It’s part of the popular Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA) leadership program sponsored by Save The Bays. In January, visits to the power plant and Grand Bahama Shipyard were aimed at demonstrating the synergetic co-existence of heavy industry and environmental protection when companies monitor, protect, respect and abide best practices and international standards.

Some 45 young people in Grand Bahama in the past month witnessed the reality of what their older counterparts said for decades was possible  – the greening of modern heavy industry.

The youngsters, participants in a popular bi-monthly program called Youth Environment Ambassadors sponsored by Save The Bays, got the educational double dose with on-site tours, lectures and classroom visits by executives from two of the island’s leading industrial suppliers – the Grand Bahama Shipyard and Grand Bahama Power Company.

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“Grand Bahama is the heartbeat of industry in The Bahamas and, with the shipyard being the largest in the Western Hemisphere, it’s a real testing ground for how industry can serve the public’s needs without sacrificing the environment,” said Joe Darville Director of Education for the fast-growing environmental movement. “The presentations by both the Grand Bahama Shipyard and the Grand Bahama Power Company were lively, informative and interactive. But most importantly, they demonstrated how best practices can mitigate against any potentially negative impact on our health, well-being and on our environment, marine and terrestrial, even while operating in a massive industrial complex.”

While health and safety experts Nikita Mullings and Jensen Farquharson led the session from Grand Bahama Power, Grand Bahama Shipyard CEO Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch and Health, Safety, Environment and Security Manager Kendrick Knowles led the session that included a tour of what has been called “a celebrated example of industrial and environmental symbiosis.”

Darville had especially flattering words for the shipyard where he worked for eight years.

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“It is always my joy and delight  to tout and celebrate the care and diligence with which all work is carried out in The Yard in order to safeguard our unique environment.  Indeed, it is a shining example to uphold for the youth we are training to be the informed, committed and enthusiastic leaders and stewards of our unique heritage now and for generations into the future,” said Darville.

The work of monitoring, meeting international standards and protecting the environment is ongoing for the shipyard, said Rotkirch.

“What is more, being an ISO-certified enterprise, we continuously look for ways to further reduce our environmental footprint, and monitor our performance, as our company grows and evolves,” he noted, calling the “young bright students a true joy to meet and interact with. There is no doubt that they will be the ones taking the responsibility for forming our greener future in the years to come. The importance of the message about the environmental challenges and possibilities cannot be underestimated.”

Future environmental leaders see heavy industry at work – Grand Bahama Shipyard, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, opened its doors with CEO Carl Rotkirch, far right, personally leading the tour and talk for the informative session of Youth Environmental Ambassadors sponsored by Save The Bays.

Future environmental leaders see heavy industry at work – Grand Bahama Shipyard, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, opened its doors with CEO Carl Rotkirch, far right, personally leading the tour and talk for the informative session of Youth Environmental Ambassadors sponsored by Save The Bays.

The Saturday sessions are so popular that when the YEA program announced its second year of the environmental leadership program more than twice as many junior high school students showed up as space allowed for. The education arm of Save The Bays is made possible by funding from the organization that is partnering with more than a dozen community-based groups and associations aimed at protecting the physical and cultural heritage of The Bahamas.

In addition to its educational efforts, Save The Bays is committed to passage of a Freedom of Information act, environmental protection act, accountability for oil pollution, and an end to unregulated development.  With more than 17,200 Facebook friends and nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition, the association is the fastest-growing NGO in The Bahamas.

Chain reaction – Just as human hands intertwine and the movement of one impacts the rest, everything in ecology is linked. That’s the lesson being demonstrated in this classroom section of the Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama. The series of hands-on experiments, classroom material and field trips is so popular that when the second year session opened in December, more than twice the number of junior high school students applied for the spots available. It’s one of several environmental education efforts supported by Save the Bays based on the belief that the youth of today will be the stewards of the environment tomorrow.

Chain reaction – Just as human hands intertwine and the movement of one impacts the rest, everything in ecology is linked. That’s the lesson being demonstrated in this classroom section of the Youth Environment Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama. The series of hands-on experiments, classroom material and field trips is so popular that when the second year session opened in December, more than twice the number of junior high school students applied for the spots available. It’s one of several environmental education efforts supported by Save the Bays based on the belief that the youth of today will be the stewards of the environment tomorrow.

Save The Bays Environmental Facilitators, Education Team See Nature & Technology Work Hand in Hand at Cape Eleuthera Institute

YEA FOR CAPE ELEUTHERA AND SAVE THE BAYS – YEA, Youth Environment Ambassadors Facilitators from Grand Bahama, attend the science symposium at Cape Eleuthera Institute, thanks to funding from Save The Bays. Pictured l-r, Javan Hunt, Sharon Glover, Save The Bays education director Joe Darville, and Jensen Farquharson.

YEA FOR CAPE ELEUTHERA AND SAVE THE BAYS – YEA, Youth Environment Ambassadors Facilitators from Grand Bahama, attend the science symposium at Cape Eleuthera Institute, thanks to funding from Save The Bays. Pictured l-r, Javan Hunt, Sharon Glover, Save The Bays education director Joe Darville, and Jensen Farquharson.

It’s rare that a school visit elicits a response so effusive it sounds like something reserved for eyeballing an Orca, but then neither the school nor the students were ordinary when the education team from Save The Bays landed at The Island School, Cape Eleuthera recently for a scientific symposium.

It was environmental protection advocates meeting those who live, work, teach and breathe the environment, making the most of nature’s bounty with sustainable energy and renewables while sharing lessons they have learned with those will become the future stewards of a fragile eco-system.

The hands-on, four-day, live-in training was made possible by a grant from the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays. Like last year’s symposium attendance which was funded by the Moore Bahamas Foundation, this year’s brought members of the education arm of Save The Bays, headed by Joseph Darville, and its Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA) Facilitators to the Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Island School.

The school, started in 1999 with six students and the philosophy “We live what we teach” has become a magnet for high school seniors from various countries who grow their own food, explore the coral reefs and the deep, interacting with sharks, sea turtles and other marine species, learning eco-management. All their surroundings, including living quarters, are textbook sustainable.

Jensen Farquharson and Javan Hunt listen on to students at the Island School and are intrigued during their exhibits

Jensen Farquharson and Javan Hunt listen on to students at the Island School and are intrigued during their exhibits

“The best part of this trip was actually seeing and experiencing how technology/development and nature can live and work together in harmony and peace without devastation and destruction,” said Javan Hunt, Environmental Facilitator. “It can be done! And now I take with me this blueprint and will implement what I can in my personal life, teach those willing to learn and lead by example.”

Hunt echoed what environmental spokesmen have frequently said – that blue and green economies can provide untold numbers of jobs without endangering species or resources.

“Each time we attend, we return renewed and even more passionate about leading our youth expertly along the path of creating a dynamic, sustainable and leadership role in preserving and protecting the unique beauty and resources of this archipelagic nation,” said Darville. “The Island School and Cape Eleuthera are undoubtedly the microcosm of the type of environmental stewardship that should be propagated throughout our island nation.”

YEA Facilitator Jensen Farquharson agreed.

“I am thankful to Save The Bays affording me the opportunity to be a part of an experience that will forever enforce my faith in the hope that this country can realize its potential if we invest in our young people wisely,” said Farquharson. “The island of Eleuthera is certainly a paradise: the people, the marine scenery, and the unique topography confirmed why I love this country.”

Leadership trainer Sharon Glover called Eleuthera “one of God’s greatest creations,” encouraging every Bahamian to visit Eleuthera and The Island School.

“I do believe it would renew and confirm their belief that there is no place like the Bahamas and therefore we should do everything in our powers to preserve and protect it.”

Protecting the environment and preserving it for future generations are the primary goals of Save The Bays, the record-breaking non-government organization that has amassed more than 17,000 friends on Facebook since its launch in April 2013. Its petition at savethebays.bs calling on government to pass an environmental protection act, a freedom of information act, control oil pollution and end unregulated development has nearly 7,000 signatures.