It was a side of The Bahamas many of them had never seen before, a trio of amazing destinations hidden in plain sight, each with its own unique vibe so different from their hometown as to seem light years away. A trip to Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador might not sound especially thrilling, but for 39 participants in the Governor General’s Youth Award it shook up their routine, providing adventures in unexpected places. “Visiting these Family Islands opened my eyes. There is so much more to The Bahamas than just New Providence,” said 17-year-old,Donnique Cooper, fresh off a Bahamas Award Super Expedition (BASE) trip. A 10-day event, the adventurous journey and camp out experience created an opportunity for this group of domestic travelers hailing from five Bahama islands to discover interesting sites without setting a foot outside the country.
“I believe we need to go out and explore The Bahamas more. There are many things that might shock you about the different island of The Bahamas. It was a great learning experience for me. After visiting my very first blue hole, Dean’s, it’s a dream of mine to visit all the blue holes in The Bahamas,” said the 2019 Queen’s College graduate.
Accompanying Cooper on her journey were young people from Andros, Eleuthera, Berry Islands, Grand Bahama and New Providence.Traveling aboard the KCT Mailboat, the group departed Nassau on Tuesday, June 25, from Potter’s Cay Dock, returning to the capital on Friday, July 5. The contingent spent most of Wednesday, June 26, on Long Island familiarizing themselves with the destination. It was a most memorable visit for Bronze participant Christopher Roberts. “Going into Dean’s Blue Hole was an amazing experience,” the South Andros native recalled. “It was challenging because it was deep.
I never thought I would do something like that. It was a once in a lifetime experience.” Just as surprising as the hidden attractions to be found, so too were the startling realizations some participants made. “It felt like I saw five people on the whole island of Rum Cay,” said Jubilee Roger, a student of Eleuthera’s Preston Albury High. With a population of only 75 people residing in the Port Nelson settlement, Rum Cay was easy to navigate. “The visit made me think, ‘Why would someone live there?’” 15-year-old Roger recalled. “My second thought was, ‘New Providence is over-populated.’” GGYA’s entourage spent a few hours on Thursday, June 27, getting the lay of the land in Rum Cay before moving on to San Salvador for their opening ceremony and the official start of their expeditions and explorations. The latter places more of an emphasis on the discovery element than the journey, thus reducing the hiking time to 10 hours minimum. Those who undertook the exploration, studied the effects of beach pollution on San Salvador – ropes and crates discarded on otherwise pristine sand and bottles left bobbing in the water. The trip might not have been glamorous, but it was certainly enriching for participants who came face-to-face with the realities of life on far-flung Family Islands.
“It was an eye-opening experience visiting Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador,” said 14-year-old Arvin Greene, a student of Anatol Rodgers High. “It made me realized other islands do not have as much as we have here in New Providence. It gave me a greater sense of appreciation.”
It was an observation shared by many, including Silver participant Delvontae Roberts. “When I first saw Rum Cay, I was surprised by how little residents had. I thought to myself I have so much to be thankful for when I return home,” said the 15-year-old student of Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy. The idea behind BASE is to remove youths from their comfort zone, allowing them to experience life on a different island. Unfamiliar territory encourages participants to bond faster, working together to achieve a common goal. All participants must plan and prepare for BASE, a trip where they will have to fit everything they need for an expedition into a rucksack as they journey in groups of four to seven persons to achieve their respective Award. For this trip, 17 were in pursuit of Bronze, 12 were attempting to obtain Silver and 10 were going for Gold. An affiliate of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, GGYA challenges young people to unlock their potential.
The Award is designed to provide a balanced programme of personal development to individuals between 14 and 24 years old. Comprised of four sections – service, skills, physical recreation and adventurous journey – each level requires a minimum amount of time. As one progresses in the Award, so too does the duration of the expedition. It increases from a two- day/one-night expedition for a Bronze Award to five days and four nights for Gold. The highest award also has a residential project component, that is, a community service away from home. On this trip, participants cleaned up the site of Farquharson Plantation ruins in San Salvador as well as the trails leading to it on Thursday, July 4. That’s not to say the trip was all work.
Participants showed of their talent in a variety show on Wednesday, July 3, capping off the night with a party. Through developing skills, increasing their fitness levels, volunteering in their communities and cultivating a sense of adventure, the internationally recognized Award programme helps young people find their purpose, passion and place in the world. “It’s a great thing to be a part of GGYA. I got to meet a lot of new people, learn a lot of new things and travel across The Bahamas,” said Marcus Demeritte, a 16-year-old student of Freeport’s St George’s High. “BASE 2019 was uplifting. When you walk up to Dixon Lighthouse in San Salvador and look at the sunset, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life.”