Recently, Collette Foundation volunteers spent time in Miami, FL to give back at the Tourism Cares for Miami event. There were over 300 volunteers in total from throughout the travel industry who took on three different projects: clearing debris from the presently closed Miami Marine Stadium, planting trees at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, and planting sea grass at North Point.
It is always a unique and rewarding experience to join together with colleagues and other tourism professionals in rejuvenating tourism sites in need. Helping to protect the environment and wildlife along the way provides tremendous satisfaction in the work we do. These are the projects:
Miami Marine Stadium: The stadium opened in 1963 and was once a venue for boat races and concerts until 1992, when Hurricane Andrew caused damage. As a result, the venue was considered condemned and has been closed ever since. Over the 20 years of abandonment, trash and debris had accumulated. In one day, the Tourism Cares Volunteers cleared away 6 large dumpsters of trash to begin the restoration and eventual reopening of the site.
Virginia Key Beach Park: In 1945 Miami-Dade County opened Virginia Key Beach as its “colored only” beach. It was closed in the early 1980’s and, after being closed for 26 years, was reopened to the public in 2008. This historic park has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The trust that now runs the park has worked over the past several years to restore the ecosystem that was damaged over the many years of neglect. Tourism Cares Volunteers were tasked to plant over 800 trees in hopes of returning indigenous vegetation to the property to assist birds in their yearly migration.
North Point: This important part of the key had begun to erode. As part of the ecological efforts on the key, the beach needed stabilizing. A dune was built, but grass needed to be planted to reinforce the sand. Tourism Cares Volunteers planted over 10,000 sea grass plants along the dune to help secure the dune from erosion.
This is my 10th year participating in Tourism Cares’ give back events and this one was the best one yet. Yes, it was hard work, and seemed to be a daunting task in the morning. But it turned out to be a tremendous success in the end, and all three groups finished their tasks.
Tourism is in our hearts, and it gives us a warm feeling knowing that we have done our part to give back. We all went home with new friends and an unmeasurable sense of accomplishment, ready to do it again. When saying our goodbyes, we would all say to each other…“See you at the next one!”
Author: Cassie Stetkiewicz
The guide gives a general tour of the park and speaks about the ecology of the park and the projects that are supported by the Collette Foundation. The feedback from travelers has been that they loved the enthusiasm and commentary the SPES staff shared with them.
The Collette Foundation is so excited to partner with SPES to promote nature education and conservation in Stanley Park. SPES hosts thousands of school children and other groups in the park for eco adventures which examine the principles of ecology in a most hands-on way. With the assistance of the foundation, SPES has been able to reduce or eliminate the fees for all of Public Education programs. Specialized projects combining nature and the arts, have been created to connect children to nature in non-traditional ways.
The school was hit very hard by a tornado last year and it is a dangerous area for the children to go everyday but they don’t have anywhere else to go. Here, there is just a small area to eat, not a lot of food, and hardly any school materials. The clothing the children wear are mostly hand-me-downs-many of the children were wearing outfits that were too big or too small them as a result.
Last year, the Collette Foundation donated $2,500 to buy Christmas gifts for the children, school materials as well as food.
When Danny and I went, we took 35 backpacks with notebooks, pencils, crayons, ruler, erasers, pencil sharpeners, folders, socks, a pair of sneakers for each child and a box for the whole school with markers, glues, pens, first aid kits, as well as many books with Spanish-English to help them learn English. They all want to learn English very much.
Each sneaker that was given to each child was recycled from Danskin water bottles and all the Crayola crayons we took were made by solar power and for every one used a tree was planted. The Collette Foundation not only put beautiful, huge smiles in these kids’ faces but also helped the environment by buying recycled materials.
The children at Escuela Ujarras were so excited to see us! It really made our hearts swell to have such a genuinely warm welcome. They were waiting by the gates and couldn’t wait to say “Hola!” and show us their classroom and even sing to us. When we delivered the backpacks, they didn’t know what to do – they were so very excited. They couldn’t stop smiling and their hands were just itching to open the backpack to see what presents lay inside.
Danny and I also presented a check to Ofelia, the director at the school for $5,000 to support some much-needed school repairs.
It was so hard to leave the school and the children. They were so sweet.
My trip to Costa Rica really was life-changing. I’ve been so committed to these projects without ever really knowing how much it meant to the people receiving our support. Now, I can picture so many innocent faces smiling with excitement and gratefulness. I can hear their voices singing, feel their arms around me, hugging me and showing me how happy they were for my visit and for our continued support.
In a sentence – I’m more motivated than ever to make the lives of these children better. It’s such an honor to be a part of this mission.
I am the ambassador for the Collette Foundation’s Costa Rica projects. What are we doing in Costa Rica? The Collette Foundation has been working with two schools in Costa Rica now though a foundation there called Hijos del Campo:
One of these schools is called the Escuela Jaime Braun in Tierras Morejas. There are about 80 students from kindergarten to 6th grade; the school has just two small classrooms.
The Collette Foundation is helping build a sports multi-court (gymnasium) for the school and also the community. Here, the children can play soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and they’ll also have a stage for plays and changing rooms. This will be the only entertainment this school and community has ever had that is safe and fun.
When we visited the school, we were welcomed with the kindest, happiest children! Their faces were beaming with joy just to have visitors. They danced for us and we danced with them and played with kites with them and ran around and talked with each student. They wouldn’t let go of our hands; they kept saying “thank you” over and over again for supporting them with school materials and mostly helping them build a gymnasium.
We were there all day. The parents cooked lunch for us and we ate with them and had a tour of the school and the small areas in the community. They didn’t want to see our time together end; they wanted us to stay there and sleep at their home and they wanted to show us so much more but our day had to end.
As I left, my sense of commitment to this charming school intensified. They still need so much. They have so little food and materials. They have no idea what the outside world is like but they are so happy, so kind, and so grateful for what they have. They have dreams of becoming doctors, singers, actors, teachers and hope that one day they’ll be the change in their community.
To read part II of our Costa Rica adventure – click here.
There are some exciting things happening in the island paradise of Fiji! Before I get to that, let me refresh a couple of things!
A little project background:
Koroipita is a settlement established by Peter Drysdale in 1999, outside of Lautoka in Fiji. It is made up of low income earners who have in the past been homeless. Using Tourism and other Partners Koroipita has been able to eliminate unbearable living conditions by building “model townships” that provide residents a home with all the other essentials to provide a safe environment for families. In the past 10 years the project has provided 84 homes. The community also has provided the villagers with a Day-Care Center, Bakery, Children’s parks , Arts and Craft Centre, grade school, vegetable gardens, town hall, and sewing rooms. Great progress has been made so far.
What We’re Doing
This past year we have been there for the organization to support emergency relief while they were waiting on funds. We have helped complete 5 more homes by funding the toilet, shower and kitchen units and the building of an additional unit. In total we have helped with four houses and funding five more.
Customers Get Involved
This past year we had our first group visit to the site. We heard great things! Construction on The Great Hall is being completed. The launch of the hall, which is going to be the community center for the village, is going to be this month. One of our houses is actually right next to the hall.
Stay tuned for what’s next. This project is thankfully moving along quickly, helping one family at a time find the way to a better life.
The Collette Foundation’s 2nd project in Tibet included the development of a new kindergarten room for the young children. We received this update from Brian McClatchy, President of the Jatson Chumig Educational Corporation:
Work was slow because of heavy rains during the month of August 2010 and everything had to begin on the roof. Trees from behind the building had to be cleared, and special permits needed to be obtained in order to cut down trees. The trees are on the property next to Jatson Chumig but the branches hung over the roof and were a source of water leaks. Once the trees were cut, the roof was repaired and finally in September, the interior of the second floor began being renovated.
What was once a storage area, and then a classroom with mold growing on the walls and ceiling, was completely gutted. Concrete was blasted and new walls, ceiling, lights were installed. Once that was completed, interior painting began along with the new outside window grates to prevent the young children from sliding open a window and falling out/down from the second floor room.
With a new roof, ceiling, lighting, and walls the final stages of new carpeting and shelving were installed in September 2010. Another week of decorating, cleaning and preparation took place and the new Kindergarten teacher, who has been a Jatson Chumig student for the past 15 years, and who now is finishing her college teaching courses was preparing both the room and herself as Jatson Chumig’s first kindergarten teacher.
On October 12, 2010 – The New Collette Foundation/Jatson Kindergarten Room officially opened!
Eight young children attended opening day, however this room will accommodate more students. This specially designated room is expressly dedicated for those in kindergarten / pre-school. The grade system is quite different than in the USA and students are not determined by any specific age for a grade but rather it is their ability and processing/learning speed. It is quite possible that some children may remain in this learning classroom for a few years before entering Class I in The Jatson Chumig Primary School (Class I through Class VI). So the room is both new, clean and can expand to accommodate more children for years to come. Extra space will be used for learning, playing and even napping.
The final part of the project included repainting the exterior of the building. This was done to set it apart from every other building at Jatson Chumig. It is new, it has a name; Jatson Tashi, which translates to GOOD.
This new Collette/Jatson Kindergarten room is beautiful and we on the Collette Foundation Tibet team are proud to have been able to assist these wonderful children!
Jambo! Hello! I’m back from my trip to Kenya! To meet Margaret was a great honor for me. She started Tenderfeet on her own and she is the reason the school is what it is today. She is truly an amazing woman!
Seeing the school and meeting the staff and children was a dream come true for me! What an experience! Even though I know the impact the Collette Foundation has had on Tenderfeet, seeing it for myself I can truly appreciate the magnitude of what the Foundation has done. These children are getting an opportunity that only three short years ago was Margaret’s dream.
That dream—building a foundation for a better life—would not be possible for some of the children now attending Tenderfeet without the building that was funded by the Collette Foundation. Margaret would only have 20 students not the 80 that currently attend.
I can’t describe how moving our visit with the children was especially when they sang for our group; some even included coordinated hand movements to their song. Once we visited all the classes, it was time for us to get down to work.
Using the brand new stove installed in the kitchen, we helped prepare and serve lunch. Margaret and the rest of the kitchen staff are very grateful for the new coal stove that the Foundation had just recently funded. It makes the preparation of much quicker now. One thing we all noticed was how well mannered the children are, they all waited quietly as their classmates were served. It was only when everyone had been served their food that they said a prayer and dug in.
The visit went by quickly but the memories I have are priceless and I will treasure them forever. Here is some video from my visit. Enjoy!