Eleuthera, Bahamas – On Saturday, April 23rd, at the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI), formally Rock Sound Club, One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) and its partners staged, what locals are calling, the best Earth Day Fest ever! 

“It was a great time! I fully enjoyed myself”, said one satisfied spectator.

“Saturday’s event was a welcome treat for most of us. It was the kind of family-friendly, cultural experience that is absent in the South”, said Pastor Juan Symonette of Fountain of Life Kingdom Ministries.

Capturing the crowd’s attention were performances by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Pop Band, National Junior Junkanoo Champions Tarpum Bay Primary and Preston H. Albury High Schools, Freedom Marching Band, Gerald Cash Primary School Rake n’ Scrape, IPAD Warriors and fashion show by Empress Verda. 

“Earth Day Fest highlights local environmental projects, offers partnership opportunities and showcases future plans for Eleuthera where economic and environmental sustainability go hand-in-hand”, said Nicholette Duncombe, leader of Institutional & Organizational Strengthening for One Eleuthera Foundation.

For instance, OEF’s recently launched CTI was spotlighted. 

“CTI is a driver of innovation and a creator of economic opportunities and social entrepreneurship that incorporates ‘learn to earn’ programs through apprenticeships and serves as a model of environmental and economic sustainability”, she continued.

Under the theme “Trees for the Earth and Eleuthera”, the event promoted environmental sustainability, Bahamian culture, partnership, economic development and community oneness. This was made prevalent through booths and demonstrations covering things like recycling, lionfish invasion, conch conservation, aquaponics, plastic pollution, produce and preserves, native plants, and art and craft made using natural and recyclable materials.

Why you should care

Earth Day is an initiative celebrated by over one billion people in 192 countries. This year’s global Earth Day theme, Trees for the Earth, is especially relevant to The Bahamas given our susceptibility to climate change. With more than 80% of the country’s land mass less than three feet above sea level, climate change and its resulting sea level rise and severe storms will have a devastating impact on our island chain. This could cause The Bahamas to cease to exist.

Anyone knowing the affects that their actions to the survival of their home, their lives, should have no problem with making changes to limit these affects.

What you can do to make a difference

Planting and protecting trees will not only serve to mitigate climate change but also to protect biodiversity and support communities, their health and their livelihoods. This is only one way that Eleutherans and members of the world can make a difference and assist in mitigating climate change. Recycling, using biodegradable or reusable products, limiting use of electricity and water, walking or riding your bike whenever possible and encouraging others to do these same things are just some ways to make a difference!

Celebrating the beginning

Earth Day Fest is not only used as a time to promote environmental sustainability, it also marks the anniversary of One Eleuthera Foundation’s launch 4 years ago. Here is how the organization came to be.

The threat of an out-of-scale development at Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera prompted a few concerned citizens to come together to discuss ways to save such an amazing natural resource. In response to these concerns, Michael Singer & Associates was engaged to develop a plan that would focus on sustainable economic, environmental and social development. With input from grassroots people from North to South Eleuthera, Singer’s efforts blossomed into A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera which details issues Eleutherans face and solutions that could assist in improving their lives. This document lead to the formation and launch of One Eleuthera Foundation in April 2012.

“This is about people who brought into a vision and a dream. They believed that we could change this island. We could change our country by offering an alternate model for development”, said CEO and founder of OEF, Shaun Ingraham.

Since its launch, OEF and its partners have been working diligently to execute the vision outlined in A Shared Vision and have been adapting it to include new innovations and advancements based on the five pillars the organization was built upon. For instance, A Shared Vision identifies securing low interest loans and access to capital to start businesses as issues Eleutherans face. One recommendation the report made to tackle this issue was through establishing credit unions. This is something OEF has recently accomplished. On March 2016, the first Annual General Meeting of One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union Limited (OECCU) was held. The public are invited to become members. OECCU is expected to be fully functional by July 1st, 2016 with its main office at The South Eleuthera Mission building in Rock Sound, Eleuthera. 

Get involved

During Earth Day Fest’s opening ceremony, OEF’s CEO Shaun Ingraham’s passion for seeing Eleutheran’s involved in their own success was prominent.

“We as a people of South Eleuthera can help to define our own destination.”

He noted the importance of partnership and collaboration, emphasizing the need for organizations and people from throughout the island to get involved.

“All of you gathered here today, I want you to join us in One Eleuthera. We want to go to Central and North Eleuthera, but we cannot do this without your help.

There are several ways to get involved with the work of One Eleuthera Foundation and its partners are doing.  Support can be given through becoming a member of OEF, volunteering, donating, partnering on projects in your area or simply attending events.

For more information on this and other One Eleuthera projects and events, visit www.oneeleuthera.org.

For photos from Earth Day Fest 2016 click here.