Generating Excitement and Enthusiasm Around Destination Stewardship through the ‘Heart of St. Kitts Week’
From protecting the nesting habitats of endangered sea turtles to preserving cherished cultural heritage sites, travel philanthropy funds such as the Heart of St. Kitts Foundation have the power to create real, tangible impact at the local level. But this progress doesn’t just happen on its own or because of the isolated efforts of a few people. The potential of travel philanthropy funds to make a difference instead relies on the support and participation of the local community as a whole. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a hotel owner, tour guide, environmental specialist, government official, school student, or artist – each and every destination resident can play a role in growing this collective impact.
To recognize the one year anniversary of its founding and build up a network of advocates, the Foundation organized an eventful week-long celebration from February 25 to March 5. The campaign – aptly dubbed the “Heart of St. Kitts Week” – was packed full of community awareness-raising activities and events that highlighted the Foundation’s efforts and drew in local involvement. Residents of all ages and varied backgrounds took part in the week’s activities – learning about the issues that are impacting their jobs, families, and natural and cultural surroundings, as well as pitching in on hands-on sustainability projects.
Throughout the week, Foundation representatives took the opportunity to get out and about across St. Kitts, conducting outreach around sustainability issues and sharing details about the Foundation’s projects. Cruise passengers and residents passing through Port Zante were greeted by a cheerful group of volunteers ready to answer questions and talk about coastal ecosystem conservation, waste management, cultural site preservation, and community tourism development. The campaign was even showcased on local television screens and radio stations, which featured interviews with Heart of St. Kitts representatives.
Nearly 20 local businesses participated in the week, providing in-kind donations, hosting customer promotions, sponsoring events, and making monetary contributions. A local art exhibition and auction, hosted by iFlamboyant, kicked off the week. Eleven artists donated handmade pieces for the event which raised both funds and awareness. In addition, each day of the week featured a promotional offer from a different restaurant partner. To redeem, customers first had to ask about ways that they could support local sustainability projects. The week also included a sunset wildlife-watching catamaran cruise provided courtesy of Blue Water Safaris. Over 30 community members attended, with all ticket sale proceeds directly supporting the Foundation’s projects. Attendees not only watched for whales and other wildlife, but also learned about local marine ecosystems and native turtle species.
The week also gave community members a chance to lend a hand in destination stewardship. Over 50 enthusiastic participants showed up at the crack of dawn, ready to participate in a beach clean up at Cockleshell Bay, one of the island’s most popular beaches. Volunteers included local school students as well as representatives from community organizations such as the Parks and Beaches Unit, St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network, and the St. Kitts Sustainable Development Council. The group spent two hours cleaning the area, collecting over 45 bags of trash. Participants also learned about the importance of keeping the beach clean to protect the sea turtle nesting habits and discussed how they could lessen the harmful impacts of waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Over the course of the week, new volunteers were recruited for future events and over $3,300 in donations were collected to support the Foundation’s sustainability projects. Since the campaign, calls and messages from interested stakeholders have continued and recognition of Foundation grows stronger every day. We can’t wait to see the strides the Foundation makes in the coming year to celebrate during the 2018 second annual Heart of St. Kitts Week.
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