History aficionado, teacher, tour guide, and author
A man of many talents, Leonard Stapleton wears numerous hats in his day-to-day life – from educator and historian, to accountant and tour guide. While it may be hard to predict what he will be doing from one day to the next, odds are that it will be related to one of his main passions – learning about and sharing the natural, cultural, and historic heritage of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Growing up in a family of fishers and farmers in the culturally rich village of Brick Kiln in Nevis, Leonard became intrigued by the islands’ natural and cultural heritage from a very young age. Over the years, Leonard’s love of heritage has only grown. After a 15 year teaching career that included heading up the Geography and Social Studies Department of the Verchilds High School, Leonard took a job at Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He also served on the board of the St. Christopher National Trust, a local NGO committed to preserving and promoting St. Kitts’ heritage.
Most recently, Leonard researched the islands’ black history and wrote the book, Places of Memory, which was published by UNESCO earlier this year. Places of Memory features 33 sites related to the enslaved Africans on St. Kitts and Nevis and will eventually be used in high schools as part of the local history curriculum.
According to Leonard, tourism is one of the greatest opportunities to raise awareness of St. Kitts’ past and traditions. He believes it all starts with educating the local people who work in the tourism industry and growing their own cultural pride.
And it’s not just talk – Leonard is constantly putting his words into practice. If he’s not out researching history, he’s sharing it with others. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to have Leonard as their tour guide can attest to this and will probably be able to share a historic fact or two to prove it. Leonard also helps to raise awareness within the industry itself and collaborates with the Tourism Authority to educate taxi drivers, tour operators, and hotel and restaurant employees about the local history. In addition, Leonard publishes Spectacular Views, an innovative travel guide that goes beyond the typical sun, sea, and sand experiences to capture the true cultural essence of the islands.
On top of all this, Leonard still finds time to serve on the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council (SDC). He sees this as just one more way to protect the people, places, and traditions that he cares about.
Leonard has also upped his own commitment to sustainability because of his involvement in the SDC. He’s started making small changes here and there – like installing water efficient appliances in his house and planting fruit trees for people around town. He also tries to pass along what he’s learned with others however he can. In June, Leonard led over 90 participants on the Heart of St. Kitts Foundation’s Enviro-Walk, sharing facts about St. Kitts’ environment and history all along the way.
Leonard looks forward to seeing more progress and is optimistic about the future of the SDC and tourism in St. Kitts. For Leonard, coming together to work towards a more sustainable destination is not an option. As he says, “The future depends on it.”
This post is part of the “Getting to Know the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council” blog series. View the series here to learn about some of the other members of the SDC.