Discussing membership opportunities at OEF
Reviewing membership and volunteer opportunities at OEF with Tempess Johnson.

(Eleuthera, Bahamas) – It was one of those beautiful blue sky days, made even more special by the strong spirit of community as families and friends visited the campus of the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) in Rock Sound on May 25, 2019 for an open house hosted by the One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF).

The post-Earth Day open house was timed to honor the 7th anniversary of OEF which was founded on Earth Day, 2012. In addition, the celebration recognized the 9th year of progress towards the ideals expressed by residents for the development of Eleuthera. These ideals were documented in the 2010 publication, A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera.

The event presented an opportunity to experience firsthand the work of OEF and its strategic partners such as CTI, The South Eleuthera Mission, One Eleuthera Cooperative Credit Union Ltd, South Eleuthera Emergency Partners and Artist Oasis Bahamas. Strategic partners work collaboratively with OEF in the pursuit of sustainable social and economic development that is rooted in five key areas. These five pillars are identified as critical for the sustainable development of Eleuthera; they include health and wellness, economic development, culture and heritage, education and the environment.

Historic Mother Bethel Church Group Tours CTI with Tempess Johnson
Members of the Historic Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Savannah Sound tour the CTI Campus with Tempess Johnson.

The Centre for Training and Innovation, which offers vocational training and professional development programmes and entrepreneurship training, also encompasses a training hotel, restaurant and farm. This model mirrors an approach offered in A Shared Vision…, page 20, to renew the land, “We need creative education, conservation in education…vegetables can be grown in school. All of the schools should have environmental education and training for entrepreneurs.”

Guests were treated to an extensive tour of the campus and administration building. Many reminisced on their past experiences at the property in its former days as the Rock Sound Club. Others enjoyed learning about the rich history of the site (which dates back to the late 1940s) and the outstanding botanical specimens including various species of palms, a large Blue Agave succulent (the plant that tequila is made from), Silk Cotton trees and Cuban Royal Palms, some of which are estimated to be more than 60 years old.

A highlight of the day were the farm tours with native teas, expertly prepared the old-fashioned way by resident farmer, Colette Butterfield. Delicious fevergrass, mint, mango, guava and soursop leaf teas delighted even the children. Colette embraced the opportunity to practice re-using by ensuring that everyone saved their tea cups for re-use as seedling planters; illustrating a simple way to limit consumption of resources, reduce waste to landfills and tread just a bit more gently on the earth.

Native tea tasting
The Carey family enjoying native teas prepared by CTI farmer, Colette Butterfield, during their tour of the farm at CTI.

Children could be seen with their parents, picking mulberries, examining pineapples in various stages of growth and interacting with the goats in the livestock enclosure. The recently constructed plant nursery was also a favourite, with many guests expressing their interest in purchasing seedlings and plants for home gardens. Passersby will soon be able to stop at the new farm stand along Queen’s Highway, to purchase fresh farm produce and seedlings from the nursery. This focus on farming and a return to the land, says OEF organizers, embraces the idea that “Local sustainable agriculture and gardening programs can foster stronger community values and provide skills to children and young adults.” A Shared Vision…, page 20.

Improvements at The Retreat Hotel at CTI were said to have been well received. Several individuals complimented the beautiful restoration work done by students in CTI’s Learn & Earn programme. In some cottages the original ceilings were restored, while original tiles were maintained in the administration offices and The Tea Room restaurant. The skill of CTI’s students was also showcased in the construction and restoration of furniture and the construction of the new carpentry building. A building remnant dating back to the Rock Sound Club era was incorporated into the design and construction of the carpentry building.

Solar installation on the roof of the water cistern at CTI.

Recent solar installations were visible on the roof of The Tea Room and the water cistern. The installations are set to power The Retreat Hotel as well as the irrigation system for the farm, as OEF embraces renewable energy to reduce the dependence on expensive imported fuel, and reduce operating expenses, saying it is a more environmentally friendly option than fossil fuels.

Artist Oasis Bahamas
Shorlette Francis, of Artist Oasis Bahamas, explains the process of recycling glass into art.

Also present at the open house was local artist Shorlette Francis, of Artist Oasis Bahamas, who dazzled visitors with the array and beauty of artistic creations possible using crushed glass. She talked visitors through the various stages from trash to treasures, including sorting, crushing, filtering to size and coloring crushed glass. A diverse range of byproducts were available, from polished concrete countertops and vanity samples to jewelry, mosaics and acrylic coasters.

Several settlement leaders noted that waste management is a critical health and environmental issue in Eleuthera (A Shared Vision…, page 24); the recycling project, which attracts many local and visiting volunteers, is an example of integrating education, environmental protection, job creation and artistic expression. The recycling plant and glass crushing operation is a project overseen by CTI. The plant operates at the South Eleuthera Emergency Partners (SEEP), Tarpum Bay Emergency Operation Centre.

The Board of Directors of OEF joined in on site tours and lunch at The Tea Room while interacting with visitors including Steven Bellot of Roots Landscape and Maintenance and his family. Steven, an OEF volunteer, donated his expertise and 1,000 hours of his time to direct the landscape beautification project at the CTI Campus. Visiting guest chef, Owen Bain of Cassava Grille, and CTI’s culinary instructor Mrs. Tamika Rahming, served delicious grilled food and vegetables at the restaurant.

The Bellot Family
The Bellot family, with CTI’s Colette Butterfield, touring the farm at CTI.

Visitors had the opportunity to learn more about the mission and impact of the organizations as well as sign up to volunteer. As nonprofit organizations, OEF and partners depend heavily on the support of donors and volunteers. Shaun Ingraham, CEO of OEF, expressed the critical nature of community support, “OEF could not have had the impact it has had in Eleuthera, without the support of the community and without engaged donors and volunteers. We want people to know that their skills, talents and resources are essential components in creating the communities we want to live in, work in, and ultimately leave to our children.”

The sharing of knowledge, tales of the past and plans for the future made for an enriching experience, said OEF open house organizers. “It is through our partnerships and collaboration that we are empowered to pursue our mission of ‘strengthening, connecting and planning’.  As we maintain a focus on improving the social and economic conditions in Eleuthera, we encourage others to join us as we continue implementing strategies and working towards ideals expressed in A Shared Vision.”

To volunteer or donate to OEF,  call (242) 334-4700 or email info@oneeleuthera.org.

One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) is a nonprofit development organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It was founded to identify, invest in and strengthen unique, high-quality projects that improve Eleuthera’s communities and further the economic, environmental and social development of the island. OEF invests in organizations that focus on one or more of our five programmatic areas – health and wellness, economic development, environment, culture and heritage, and education. One Eleuthera Foundation represents professionals and organizations that share a commitment to a future built on the responsible development of our island’s many assets and its people.  For more information, call Tempess Johnson at 334-4700 or email tempessjohnson@oneeleuthera.org.


Written by One Eleuthera Foundation.  Photos by One Eleuthera Foundation.