August 23, 2022
Marine Park Camp is Coming!
This is the time of year when parents are wondering what to do with the children while they’re out of school. Often, summer camp is the answer but it’s not easy finding one that makes everybody happy. It has to be affordable and enjoyable, safe and convenient. It’s also nice if it teaches children a new skill or develops an existing one.
The Marine Park Trust’s summer camp will be starting shortly, and it’s designed to meet all the requirements. There will be three one-week sessions, starting on July 10, 17 and 24. The first two sessions are open to all children between 6 and 12. The last is specially tailored for teenagers. The camp’s headquarters will be the Trust’s offices at Pier 1, and water activities will take place at Old Hospital Beach. Thanks to a generous group of sponsors, principally the Australian High Commission, we have been able to reduce the cost (including a camp T-shirt and daily lunch) to $6,000 per child.
The camp is part of the Trust’s Reef Guardians program . Reef Guardians started with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia in 2003, and came to the Caribbean (via Grenada) in 2013. The program is based on the idea that community stewardship works better than government administration. Locally, it aims to form working partnerships with communities and businesses using Montego Bay’s reefs and watersheds, to preserve and improve the health of the reefs.
The best place to start is with children. Once they embrace the idea of caring for their environment, they will take the message to their families, their friends and their neighbours. In the last two years, more than 30,000 children and their teachers in the Montego Bay area have been exposed to presentations by the Marine Park Trust and Jamaica Environment Trust.
The camp program is much more hands-on. Words, used too often, lose their meaning. We forget that “the environment” is where we live, and “pollution” is anything that’s where it shouldn’t be and could do harm. These ideas get real in a hurry when there’s a stinking pile of garbage on the beach where you want to swim.
A quick reality check will be social surveys. Older groups will ask visitors and local businesses how they feel about the Marine Park and what it’s worth the preserve the reefs. Younger ones will look for more signatures on the petition to do away with Styrofoam containers. (This campaign is going well. So far 2,150 people have signed the petition, and at least one popular local eatery has traded its foam containers for cardboard.)
Campers will learn about the reefs – where they are in the Bay, how they protect the beaches and shoreline, what they’re made of and what lives there. After learning to identify the most common types of coral, fish and other sea life, campers will go to see them first-hand and possibly up close. This year there will be a strong emphasis on water skills – daily swimming, and learning to snorkel and free-dive safely.
According to the Trust’s Outreach Officer Joshua Bailey, “We want them to be comfortable in the water so they can be good observers. Also, it gives them a taste of what the Park Rangers and science people do. Maybe they’ll want jobs at the Marine Park in a few years.”
In the classroom, on the street and in the water, safety is paramount. There is at least one Counsellor on hand for every four campers, to keep track of everybody and offer help if it’s needed. “What we want”, says Bailey, “is for every camper to go home every night smiling and talking a blue streak about what he learned that day.”
• Water activities will continue to take place at the Old Hospital Beach
• This year our donor funds will be used to offset some of our expenses. Our donors are: Half Moon, Jamaica Energy Partners and Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ)
• Camp this year is not part of the Reef Guardian Program
• In the fourth paragraph, where it was mentioned the number of persons exposed to our presentations, we can safely say that for the past 2 years more than 6000 persons have directly been exposed to our presentations at the park's office and at public events. We cannot speak to the numbers impacted by Jamaica Environment Trust
• Please remove paragraph 6 regarding 'Survey'
• In paragraph 7, we will not be offering free dives