August 03, 2017
Ten participants and four unit leaders in the Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA) are having an amazing summer experience. While exploring biodiversity deep within Guyana’s rarest and most remote rain forest, they are discovering flora and fauna unique to the area, investigating indigenous tribes and traversing the Guyana Brazil Border.
The Bahamas contingent to the Caribbean Award Sub-Regional Council (CASC) 2017, left the capital on Friday, July 21, and will return on Tuesday, August 8. Included in the group are representatives from New Providence, Grand Bahama and Andros.
CASC is a grouping of the Caribbean nations involved in the world’s leading youth achievement programme, the Duke of Edinburgh’s (D of E) Award. CASC affords member countries an opportunity to work together. Through the annual adventurous journey (hiking expedition), gold level participants are able to complete a qualifying hike and residential project (community service away from home).
The Award itself is a three-tier programme (Bronze, Silver or Gold) for participants age 14 to 24, who have completed time requirements in volunteering, physical activities, learning a skill, and a residential project.
This year’s CASC brings together 150 Gold and Silver participants, unit leaders and designated staff. The expedition portions kicks off Wednesday, July 26. It wraps up on Monday, July 31.
The Bahamian delegation will study the conservation work done at the Iwokrama Rainforest. One of the four last pristine tropical forests in the world, it contains some animals that are threatened or near extinction, such as the giant anteater. Home to deer, sloths and several species of monkeys, it’s also said the forest is the best place to possibly spot a jaguar.
The prospect of getting up close and personal with Guyana’s wildlife and navigating the country’s rugged landscape with its mountains and rivers made 18-year-old Royal Bahamas Defence Force Ranger, O’Tynesia Lunn nervous and excited.
“We don’t know the terrain or the challenges that may come. Their animals are different from ours so we have to be cautious,” she said. “Still, I feel our training has prepared us for whatever comes. It’s all a mental state of mind. You can’t give up in your mind. You have to want to finish. I’m looking forward to taking in new surroundings and meeting new people.”
During the adventurous journey the group will also explore Moco Moca and Kuma Falls and investigate the indigenous tribes that inhabit North Rupununi.
“This expedition will push you to your limit. The Governor General’s Youth Award helps you to push your limit,” said 2017 St Anne’s High School graduate, Vanneisha Mackey. “A normal teenager won’t want to hike 63 miles on a regular day. This makes you push yourself to see how far you can go. It makes you want to strive to reach your goals.”
Self-development and the opportunity for cultural exchange are reasons why many, including Joseph Smith Jr., have joined GGYA.
“I want to explore different avenues of life and this programme does that a lot, whether we are traveling throughout The Bahamas or within the Caribbean,” says the rising twelfth grader at R M Bailey Senior High School.
On this trip, in particular, there are a number of activities before and after the expeditions which allow for networking and cultural exchanges by CASC attendees, including a state reception, a movie night, a treasure hunt, a fun day and cultural presentations.
Four unit leaders and leaders in training will participate in a Jungle Orientation Training exercise led by highly certified and experienced guides. Within that difficult and unpredictable terrain they will learn how to live and maneuver within a tropical rain forest. The training exercise will also focus on first aid, land navigation, emergency care and rescue, how to find food and water and build shelters.
“This is different from the expeditions we are accustomed to in The Bahamas,” said Kirkland Charles, unit leader for A F Adderley Junior High School.
There is always an adjustment period for any GGYA contingent attending CASC, said Clifton Francis, contingent leader and member of Grand Bahama’s Adventurous Journey Panel. He has participated in CASC before, in Dominica and Grenada.
“Just knowing that there are other members in your party experiencing the same mixed emotions, help persons to adjust quickly. You feed off each other,” he said. “Participants and leaders in training realize that this is an amazing opportunity that GGYA has afforded them.”
GGYA’s CASC participants and leaders.
Denise Barr, RBDF Rangers, 2017 graduate, R M Bailey
Kirkland Charles, unit leader, A F Adderley
Sanj’e Christie, 2017 graduate Government High
Clifton Francis, contingent leader, GB Adventurous Journey Panel member
Sabrina Hanna, unit leader, University of The Bahamas
O’Tynesia Lunn, RDF Rangers, 2017 graduate, St Anne’s
Vanneisha Mackey, Government High unit, 2017 St Anne’s
Terrann Rolle, RBDF Rangers, 2015 graduate, R M Bailey
Joseph Smith Jr., RBDF Rangers, rising twelfth grader, R M Bailey
Rudy Stubbs, RBDF Rangers, 2017 graduate, C R Walker
Ebonique Taylor, 2017 graduate, Government High
Recardo Williams, rising twelfth grader, GB, Bishop Michael Eldon
Deon Williams, unit leader, North Andros High