By: Lane Glaze
My first visit to the Bahamas took place nearly twenty years ago, in the spring of 2003. But when I reminisce over the twists and turns my life has taken over the years, I realize that the journey that would eventually lead me to forge a lifelong connection to The Bahamas started many years earlier, during my last year of college in January of 1988.
Shortly before graduation, I had the opportunity to spend nearly a month in the Dominican Republic with a handful of other students. The goal of our trip was to wrestle with the (now politically incorrect) question, “What is the Third World?” It was an amazing yet sobering month of soaking in the D.R.’s rich and beautiful culture while also confronting how various political and religious agendas – both past and present – had impacted the lives of those living on Hispaniola.
Looking back, my time in the D.R. has proven to be one of the most formative experiences of my life, imbued with a new and growing cultural and social awareness. I left for that month abroad viewing myself as – first and foremost – an “American.” I returned, however, convicted that I was actually – first and foremost –simply a “human being…a human being whose life was interconnected with the lives of so many others in our hemisphere and around the world.
Years later, sensing a calling to work with college students, I left my career in business and entered seminary at Duke University. Three years later, when I was appointed to serve as a Chaplain at Clemson University, I knew that I wanted to offer college students the same kind of opportunity that had shaped me and expanded my vision as a young adult. My goal was to create a relatively inexpensive cross-cultural, week-long experience for students with four areas of focus: mission/service, retreat, study abroad and spiritual pilgrimage.
In the fall of 2002, I connected with Shaun Ingraham through a mutual friend. Like me, Shaun was a Methodist pastor. He had hosted and managed teams of volunteers in The Bahamas to assist with critical hurricane recovery efforts following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and other humanitarian projects, both locally and abroad. Shaun and I hit it off immediately, and the next spring we partnered to bring a team of 30 students, faculty and staff to the island of Eleuthera. Over the next ten years, we would partner to bring a total of 12 teams and more than 500 participants to The Bahamas. Just as I had hoped when Shaun and I first formed our partnership, hundreds of former students and others now point to these trips as one of the most life-changing and riveting experiences of their lives.
After the first few years of our friendship, Shaun and I began to wrestle with how best to tackle the economic and social challenges faced by many Bahamians and others in the developing world. In those early years, our work was purely reactive: a storm would hit, and we would respond with tarps, tools and teams. But over time, the nature of our approach began to evolve. Later, our work became more proactive as we focused on projects designed to improve the livelihoods of entire communities. This new strategy was embodied in the formation of Island Journeys (IJ), a nonprofit managed by Shaun and a committed team that began hosting dozens of university, corporate and church teams on community building visits to South Eleuthera.
Through the revolutionary work of Island Journeys, a new model for community development began to take shape. In 2007, the historic, two hundred plus year old “Lil Prep School” in Tarpum Bay began its transformation into the modern Eleuthera Arts and Culture Centre (EACC), thanks in part to labor provided by local volunteers and visiting student groups. A year later, IJ helped facilitate the groundbreaking for South Eleuthera Emergency Partners (SEEP.) With SEEP emergency operation centres in both Tarpum Bay and Wemyss Bight, consistent first-response emergency services were introduced. Through all three organizations, Bahamians came together to build and strengthen their communities – one block, one nail, one dollar, one challenge, and one person at a time.
Eventually the lessons learned through these shared community development efforts manifested in two ways. First, A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera was published in 2010, thanks to the insightful work of our partners at Michael Singer Studios who spent hundreds of hours on the island researching and compiling feedback gathered from communities across Eleuthera. The findings in the “Shared Vision” continue to serve as a plan for long-term, strategic development for the island. Second, in 2012 Shaun and other key partners – including IJ, EACC and SEEP – birthed the One Eleuthera Foundation as the entity through which the concepts and ideas presented in the Shared Vision would become a reality.
As the scope of OEF continued to grow in those early years, a few of us with a love for Eleuthera and the community work being done on the ground saw the need to form One Eleuthera Foundation of the U.S. (OEF-US). OEF-US is a 501(c)3 based in the Carolinas and was created to assist with expanding OEF’s work around Five Key Areas of Focus: Economy, Education, Environment, Health and Heritage. It has been my privilege to lead OEF-US and work alongside Shaun, The Board of Directors of OEF and OEF-US and the Management Team in this capacity over the last six years.
As I look back over the last few decades, my Bahamian journey is far from over. My relationship with the people of Eleuthera has greatly shaped who I am and how I see my role in the world. Building on the lessons that I learned while in the D.R. years ago, and the many subsequent lessons learned through my Eleuthera-Bahamas experiences, our lives will be forever interconnected. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
A former CPA and private banker, Lane is a native of Charleston but now makes his home in Clemson, South Carolina with his wife Anne. An ordained United Methodist minister, Lane has served as President for OEF-US since its inception in 2016. He is also Professor of Practice at Clemson University, teaching in the area of Nonprofit Leadership.