Christmas came a little early for 200 local children who participated in The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA) 23 rd Annual Holiday Gift Project. Held on Thursday, December 5 at The Freeport Harbour, the gift-giving event saw representatives from Carnival Cruise Lines and the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (MOTA) welcome students and teachers for a celebration filled with food, music, and holiday cheer.
Each year, the holiday initiative impacts some 40 destinations across the Caribbean; thanks to eight FCCA member cruise lines. On Grand Bahama, the Carnival Liberty took up the mantle of bringing in hundreds of gifts for the students. Crew members dressed up as Santa Claus and his helpers, distributed gifts, posed for photos and even had a dance party with the children.
Karl Hallberg, hotel director for Carnival Liberty, said it was a pleasure to assist in the holiday gift initiative because The Bahamas has become a second home for many crew members.
“The islands are absolutely spectacular. We have 3,800 passengers, almost every single cruise, who come to enjoy your beautiful islands and it’s a true blessing to come over and over,” Hallberg said. “We just thought as a token of appreciation, we’d come out and join you here today and give a little bit of what we can offer from the Carnival organisation.”
The event celebrated students from The Beacon School, Lewis Yard Primary School, Walter Parker Primary School, West End Primary School, Freeport Primary School and Hampton Academy. Teachers in attendance commended organisers for hosting the Holiday Gift Project, noting that students eagerly anticipate the event each year. “The children look forward to this day, so I just appreciate the organisation for being consistent with this event,” said Krishanta Butcher, teacher at The Beacon School. “Sometimes this might be the only gift these children receive. They always give good gifts. So, I appreciate the effort and the money they put into it. I want to thank all of the powers that be that make these children’s day.”
Freeport Primary School Teacher Schnora Gardiner said this year’s event was particularly necessary to bring a little more joy to children who have experienced challenges in the past few months. “A lot of the children who we are encountering are trying to get back to normalcy and this is one of those ways of knowing that Christmas is still here, and people are still in the mood for giving,” Gardiner said. “It puts a smile on their faces to know that after what they just came out of, especially those in Central Freeport and the Eastern district, that people still care.”
MOTA G.M for Grand Bahama Steven Johnson acknowledged the significance the initiative holds for children and said the local tourism office takes seriously its role in coordinating the event. “This event is very important here in Grand Bahama,” Johnson said. “A lot of these kids have been devastated by Hurricane Dorian, and by putting this event on, we’re hoping they can put Dorian behind them and move forward. We’re looking for these kids to continue to do well in their studies and do well at home and that’s all we’re asking for them.” MOTA is a proud partner of the FCCA Holiday Gift Project and looks forward to making next year even more special for students.