Cayman’s star marathon runner Derek Haines jetted off to Guatemala Thursday to take on his next athletic feat for charity, after a proper send-off from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and Governor Helen Kilpatrick at Government House.
Mr. Haines, 68, has taken on five challenges, including running three marathons and climbing two volcanoes, to raise $50,000 for CCMI’s education initiative, Reefs-Go-Live. The program will enable scientists to broadcast live from Little Cayman’s ocean floor to classrooms across the islands.
“It’s fantastic because it really involves youngsters in what is really important in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Haines said during Wednesday evening’s reception. “The ocean is so important to the Cayman Islands, from the fisheries to the tourism. It’s all about preservation, learning and making sure what we have that makes the Cayman Islands great is maintained.”
The Rotarian has already completed one of the five fundraising challenges, Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan marathon, which is considered one of the most difficult races in the world. With a time of 5 hours, 10 minutes, he took second place in his age group in the April 30 race.
His next two challenges in Guatemala will take him to the top of the active Fuego volcano, where he hopes to steal a view of its molten lava, and the Acatenango volcano.
CCMI Director Carrie Manfrino said the Reefs-Go-Live program aims to expand the institute’s experiential education capabilities by transporting students to a virtual, interactive classroom.
“We think that by having virtual learning where students can see underneath the sea and see people working and talking under the sea, they might be more interested in going into the ocean themselves,” Ms. Manfrino said.
“So the Reefs-Go-Live program will allow us to bring the ocean to them in their classroom. The interaction that comes with the scientist is really positive and reinforcing, and helps them feel like they can do it as well.”
Despite Cayman’s proximity to the ocean, Ms. Manfrino said many local children have not had the opportunity to get out into the water and snorkel.
CCMI tries to bridge the gap by bringing students to explore the ocean at its facility in Little Cayman. Limited capacity means not all Caymanian students are able to visit the facility, however.
“What we’ve found is it’s very difficult to reach all of the children across the islands. So we’re going to launch a program where we can broadcast live from the ocean to classrooms across Cayman and also into museums, the gallery and many other places,” Ms. Manfrino said.
Governor Kilpatrick said the program should benefit both public education and tourism.
“Being able to show children what it’s like under the ocean and what scientists really do in terms of researching, it is going to be great for the children of Cayman,” Ms. Kilpatrick said.
“But the idea that they are going to be able to broadcast it all around the world as well is just fantastic. Not only will it educate children all around the world about the ocean, but probably get some more tourists here as well.”
So far Mr. Haines has raised $20,000 for the project.