“Spectacular”, “heart-warming,” “unforgettable” and “impactful” are just a few of the words used by guests to describe One Eleuthera Foundation’s recent 10th Anniversary celebrations. OEF management and staff, stakeholders, board members, community partners, donors and supporters gathered at the Rock Sound campus on Friday, April 22nd and Saturday, April 23rd to commemorate the organization’s historic milestone and celebrate a decade of sustainable local development and community impact across Eleuthera.
The two-day event which included a Friday evening celebration and a ‘special edition’ community farmers’ and artisans’ market on Saturday was hosted on the organization’s campus, giving visitors a first-hand view of the new farming innovations, recent construction projects and latest campus developments underway.
Friday, April 22nd (Earth Day) marked OEF’s official anniversary and the start of the festivities with a poolside, island-style soiree under the stars at the Retreat Hotel. Themed ‘The Journey of a Vision’, the event featured a captivating video highlighting the organization’s humble beginnings, early pivotal partnerships, and the visionary quest to acquire and transform the once dilapidated former Rock Sound Club & Hotel property into what now exists as the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) campus.
Guests attending the Friday night celebration enjoyed the opportunity to ‘mix and mingle’ in a relaxed, beautifully accentuated tropical setting with complimentary hors d’oeuvres, live music by the Rum Runners band and memorable performances by the Rock Sound Primary School Choir and Micquel Cartwright, a senior at Preston Albury High School.
During the night’s program moving personal tributes were shared by a large cross section of the community, including CTI students-turned-employees, parents of CTI graduates, Hurricane Dorian evacuees, as well as local business owners who received grants and financial assistance from One Eleuthera Foundation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each personally attested to the critical and far-reaching impact of the assistance they received from the organization and the value of its ‘people-centered’ approach over the past decade.
“I like to say that OEF has heart,” explained Shaun Ingraham, President and CEO of OEF and CTI. “It all started ten years ago with a Shared Vision and a handful of dedicated supporters. Today the vision has grown exponentially. It continues to change lives, build stronger communities, and inspire innovative solutions, bringing us together to do good. Thanks to the unwavering support of our staff, board of directors, donors and partners we’re increasing employability among the youth through CTI and the CTI-Harbour Island Trade School (CTI-HITS) in the North. We’re investing in people and the local economy. We’re also improving food security on Eleuthera with our revolutionary 1.1-acre retractable roof cooling house. For us, it’s a triple bottom line focused on people, planet and profit, but people always come first.”
Today, CTI operates The Retreat, a quaint 16-room student training hotel and a 23-acre farm both of which are social enterprises delivering experiential learning and hands-on industry training for students. Powered by the One Eleuthera Foundation, CTI is Eleuthera’s premier tertiary technical training and vocational institute offering courses in carpentry, electrical, housekeeping, hospitality, culinary, agriculture and more. Each program incorporates personal development and entrepreneurship skills to empower students.
From inception OEF’s mission has been focused on empowering people and creating synergistic partnerships, programs, and projects to systematically address some of the complex issues faced both locally and nationally. In addition to OEF’s transformative growth into one of the largest nonprofits in the country, it has also become one of the main employers in South Eleuthera offering long term career opportunities for CTI graduates and locals. Some of the organization’s most notable achievements also include:
• the establishment of the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) in 2016 which has seen over 200 local graduates and continues to build capacity and fill skills gaps in Eleuthera.
• the launch of the flagship, “Learn and Earn,” program; a signature technical and vocational training program for students in South Eleuthera to increase their skillset, employability and entrepreneurial opportunities while earning a weekly stipend.
• the 2019 expansion of training courses to North Eleuthera via the Harbour Island Trade School (CTI-HITS) satellite campus which has consistently seen an impressive 90% student graduation rate.
• the 2016 launch of OEF-US, a 501(c) 3 registered organization which has allowed international and US supporters to help further OEF’s mission.
• ongoing strengthening of community partner organizations, such as South Eleuthera Emergency Partners (SEEP) through technical and financial support including the donation of fire trucks, ambulances and life-saving emergency response equipment across Eleuthera.
• ongoing relief and support initiatives for Hurricane Dorian evacuees inclusive of accommodations, food, counseling, relocation support and employment at OEF/CTI
• the construction of a ‘first in the Bahamas’ retractable 1.1-acre Cooling House which will introduce year-round growing of nutritious produce, and support new farming techniques and agricultural courses for local farmers to improve food security.
As One Eleuthera Foundation steps into a new decade of progressive growth and new visionary achievements, its President and CEO is simultaneously building the organization’s internal staffing and capacity. According to Mr. Ingraham, the organization, “has accomplished much in a short span of time, but this is just the beginning of what we plan to achieve.” He is focused on attracting the country’s “best and brightest” to play an integral role in the current and future development of the organization and its various projects and programs.
The recent appointment of Mr. Keyron Smith to the position of Acting Chief Operating Officer at OEF and CTI by Mr. Ingraham, demonstrates his commitment to recruiting and empowering young, exceptional leaders to join the ranks and significantly contribute to the strategic plans established for the next decade and beyond. Mr. Smith has previously served in leadership roles at The University of The Bahamas and holds a Master of Arts degree with distinction in Political Science, and a specialization in Governance and Public Policy (Research) from the University of Manchester (UoM) in the United Kingdom.
“Our scope of work at OEF is very diverse but connects holistically to empower people and communities by strengthening and connecting them to vital resources and training, while planning strategically for the future. As an Eleutheran and advocate for Family Island development, I am honored and excited to play my part and help OEF/CTI fulfill its organizational goals,” explains Mr. Smith. “With the strategic development plans outlined for the CTI campus, the organization is poised and actively working to expand its influence and impact as a leading tertiary training center in Eleuthera and throughout the region.”
The first ten years have laid a solid foundation and framework for OEF and CTI to stand on. The initial research gathered from citizens, entire communities, and stakeholders across the expanse of Eleuthera and incorporated into the organization’s roadmap, “A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera,” remains a relevant underpinning.
It identified a need for entrepreneurial development and the creation of more long-term job opportunities, the incorporation of education and job training into all new initiatives, a return to the land for sustainable farming and reduced food imports, and the development of more small-scale, locally owned sustainable entities rather than exclusive, foreign-owned, large resorts. The work of OEF and CTI continues to address these needs while supporting sustainable development projects and programs assigned to the organization’s “Five Key Areas of Focus: education, economy, environment, health and heritage.”
Over the years, OEF has consistently proven to be a trusted community builder and partner. The organization has played a pivotal role as a pioneer, facilitator, advocate and forerunner in the Third Sector and nonprofit space. Looking to the future, OEF and CTI will continue to play an integral role in supporting and empowering communities in Eleuthera from a local level while evolving to make even greater contributions to address national and regional challenges.
“We are excited to move into the next chapter and decade of OEF’s community impact, accelerated growth and influence. Looking to the future we will continue to create new pathways to empowerment and greater access to vital opportunities for Eleutherans and all those we have the privilege of serving,” says Mr. Ingraham.