Despite the hurdles caused by Hurricane Ivan, a local environmental youth club has remained active supporting projects in the Cayman Islands and abroad.
Members of the John Gray Recyclers have been busy raising funds and participating in projects ranging from caring for plants and trees damaged by the storm to helping conserve island habitats and culture internationally, said a GIS press release.
‘Our students have kept their focus and have continued working on projects, including a new Seacology project in Micronesia,’ said John Gray Recyclers co-ordinator Christine Whitehead.
‘At the moment we are raising money from family members and friends because we know that things are very hard in Cayman since Ivan. We have recently sent US$500 towards our Micronesia project and have another US$3,000 to raise.’
Seacology (www.seacology.org) is an environmental foundation based in California that supports projects worldwide under the slogan ‘Saving the World, One Island at a Time.’
Aiming to conserve island habitats and cultures, Seacology funds the construction of community centres, kindergartens or schools in exchange for the establishment of marine protected areas, forest reserves and other conservation projects. In 2003, Seacology helped fund the construction of a youth centre in George Town in exchange for establishing the seven-acre Agape Urban Park.
For the United Nations Environment Programme World Environment Day held 5 June, JGR promoted the theme Green Cities – Plan for the Planet at the Agape Park. Students have tended the park’s endemic plants, many of which were damaged during Ivan and were surprised to find samples of two rare plants – Snake Wood (Colubrina Aborescens) and Trichilia Havanensis. After some research they found that Snake Wood is now an endangered species in Florida. They are now busy identifying the trees in the park, helped by Carla Reid of the Cayman Islands National Trust.
Shortly after World Environment Day, JGR were delighted to receive a thank-you message on their website from Ms Guilbaud-Cox, who heads the Outreach and Special Events Division of Communications and Public Information division of UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya. She wrote: ‘We at the UNEP thank John Gray Recyclers for commemorating World Environment Day in such a significant way. We take this opportunity to congratulate you for the excellent work you are doing to protect the environment in your country.’
JGR members Kimone Chambers, Keelia Scott, and GraceAnn White said: ‘We were very honoured to receive such an encouraging comment from Ms Guilbaud-Cox in our Guest Book, and we are now even more determined to help protect our local environment as well as working overseas to help others preserve theirs.’
The latest project for JGR is in Micronesia, on the island of Pohnpei where they are raising money to provide cement water catchments, two kayaks for monitoring turtle nesting areas and new batteries for solar power units in exchange for the establishment of three protected nesting sites for turtles and approximately 100 acres of surrounding marine areas, also to be protected.
In 2004, JGR donated funds to Seacology for the construction of a new kindergarten and dispensary for Naikorokoro Village, Fiji in exchange for the creation of a 10,800-acre marine reserve. Members of the club visited the village last year and saw the benefits of their fundraising efforts.
World Ocean Day
Mrs. Whitehead said that JGR celebrated World Ocean Day, on 8 June by creating a page on the website that brings the public’s attention to the importance of global marine parks and preservation of the world’s coral reefs.
‘World Ocean Day was created in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It gives us an opportunity each year to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea,’ she said.
The club is also busy collecting plastic six pack holders to recycle through Bodden Beverages to help protect Cayman’s turtles.
John Gray Recyclers recently updated it website at www.johngrayrecyclers.org. It boasts more than 2,000 visitors a month and is linked with major environmental websites.
Rare trees found in park
Two rare trees have been discovered at the Agape Urban Park: Trichilia Havensis and Snake Wood (Colubrina Arborescens).
Trichilia Havensis is one of Cayman’s rarest trees which only flowers when under stress. John Gray Recyclers, Pastor Al Ebanks and Carla Reid from the National Trust were surprised to find the Trichilia flowering – with just one flower.
Native to Cuba and Jamaica this tree is now nearly extinct from Grand Cayman and cannot be found in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.
Snake Wood (Colubrina Arborescens) is a very rare tree in the Cayman Islands with only a few scattered on Grand Cayman and is not found on the Sister Islands.
Research conducted by the students found that this tree is also an endangered species in Florida.