THE Bahamas National Trust is celebrating ten years of facilitating a nature and environmental awareness camp for local youth.
In a press release, the BNT revealed that in the span of one decade, 300 teenagers have partaken in Eco Camp – an annual summer expedition hosted by the non-profit organization.
Eco Camp launched in 2008 when 30 Bahamian teens from various islands in the country “embarked on a journey to Andros”.
Since then, the camp has brought 40 children between the ages of 13 and 17 to that island to immerse them in “a transformational environmental experience”.
Each participant is sponsored and applicants must go through a “competitive application process” that is ran between teens from 14 islands, as well as teens “occasionally outside of the country.”
At the camp, the children are taught leadership and survival skills among other life lessons.
In a statement BNT explained: “Participants from the Family Islands travel to New Providence, and after an overnight stay travel to Andros via Bahamas Ferries – a key partner of EcoCamp annually.
“Another important partner, International Field Studies hosts the campers for the week at the Forfar Field Station, which is base camp for the journey of long days, learning, exploring and moving through the vast environment, culture and history of Andros.”
Activities include daily morning exercise, national park trips, boat rides, and community work, geared towards “pushing participants to their full potential”, while “challenging them to be their best selves.”
This is done with the intention of the teens using their “newfound skills” to improve their home communities.
Portia Sweeting, BNT director of education, said: “The inseparable bonds that are quickly formed between islands and participants have been remarkable over the years. The change that we see from day one to the last day of camp however has been a true highlight for us.
“Some of our EcoCampers arrived at camp afraid of the water and take a 15-foot plunge into Captain Bill’s Blue hole – hundreds of feet deep – days into the experience,” she added.
The BNT reported that while they are grateful to celebrate their ten-year milestone, they are still aware of “the challenge of providing the experience free for all campers across the Bahamas.”
“Eco Camp is offered to the kids at no charge to them; it is an expensive undertaking. The cost of air travel, food, accommodations, supplies and equipment for these 40 young people are all covered by the BNT. It adds up to about $50,000 per camp”, the statement read.
BNT said it is grateful for the support of partners like Aliv which has offered a three year, $25,000 per annum commitment to the initiative.
Bianca Bethel-Sawyer, ALIV events, marketing and sponsorship manager, said: “Aliv is committed to investing in the next generation of environmental leaders in the Bahamas and to the environment in which we live. We affirm this commitment by partnering with leading organisations like the Bahamas National Trust.”
This year’s Eco Camp began July 6 and runs until July 13 and the expedition can be tracked on the Facebook page: BNT EcoCamp.