Ritz programme supports Blues

A global Ritz-Carlton programme offers travellers the chance to volunteer their time to local groups, and in the case of Grand Cayman to donate time to the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.

Guests at The Ritz-Carlton Hotels around the world can volunteer their time to improve and assist the local community where they are vacationing, explained a press release. The programme, called ‘Give Back Getaways’ offers guests a variety of opportunities from helping to protect endangered sea turtles in Cancun, Mexico to helping with renovations and landscaping at the Children- Hospice SONNENHOF, which offers support for children with critical illnesses in Berlin.

The employees at each Ritz-Carlton hotel were challenged to identify an organization or cause in need of support in their community in January 2008. In Grand Cayman, the ladies and gentlemen unanimously chose the Blue Iguana Recovery program, knowing that guests would be enthralled with efforts to save the fascinating, pre-historic looking ‘blue dragon’ that is found no where else on Earth, said the press release.

Led by the Ambassadors of the Environment by Jean-Michel Cousteau naturalists, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman teamed up with The National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program to assist in its breeding program at The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

The Ambassadors naturalists worked with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme designing a Give Back Getaway program for several months at the beginning of the year, planning for a May launch. However, the tragic and brutal slaughtering of seven of the iguanas in the breeding facility on 2 May caused the Ambassadors team to quickly shift focus. They went to the breeding facility to assist with food collection so the BIRP staff could focus on the recovery of injured iguanas and ensuing police investigation. The Ritz-Carlton Community Footprints leader Kurt Christian, Ambassadors of the Environment by Jean-Michel Cousteau manager Sarah Agnolin and others immediately mobilized volunteers from the resort to support the efforts of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands in raising money for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. Foster’s and Hurley’s generously allowed volunteers from the resort to set up donation tables with information about the Blue Iguanas. In just three days, the island’s residents donated an extraordinary US $15,000 to support the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme in its time of crisis.

Now the Give Back Getaways team is redoubling efforts to sustain energetic volunteer efforts with the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.

‘We are so grateful to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program Director Fred Burton and Iguana Warden John Marotta for allowing us to custom design this volunteer opportunity for our guests,’ said Ms Agnolin, who has been a longtime volunteer with the blues and was instrumental in designing the resort’s Giveback Getaway programme. ‘The passion that island residents have for these amazing creatures and the efforts to save them from extinction was so clearly manifested after the tragedy. We are confident we can inspire that same passion into our hotel guests who are some of the wealthiest travellers in the world and can bring a whole new dimension of support to the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.’

The Give Back Getaway program at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman will be offered every Friday morning. To provide assistance in preparing the blue iguanas in the breeding programme for an ultimate successful release into the wild, volunteers will help gather fresh food and feed the iguanas a diet consisting of the endemic vegetative materials found in their natural woodland habitat. Afterwards they will assist the Blue Iguana wardens to track free roaming iguanas using binoculars and GPS systems.

All proceeds from the Give Back Giveaway program go directly to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. Ladies and gentlemen from the resort will also volunteer their time on their days off and work alongside the guests.

As part of the ongoing relationship with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, the ladies and gentlemen of the resort have also sponsored one of the blues, named Zarco, a seven-year-old male and one of the most active breeders in the park.

‘Give Back Getaways’ is the most recent opportunity to volunteer under Community Footprints, The Ritz-Carlton social and environmental responsibility program. ‘We have come to recognize the interest many of our guests have in becoming more involved in the region where they are spending their vacation. Many of them are active volunteers in worthwhile activities at home, and want to continue this spirit of giving when they visit other parts of the world,’ explained Simon F. Cooper, president and chief operating officer.

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