EXUMA, Bahamas – Officials from across the public and private sectors in New Providence and Exuma joined forces on Christmas Day to provide 60 children from four Children’s Homes in New Providence with the ultimate Christmas Gift - an all-expenses paid fly-out to the beautiful island of Exuma.
The fly-out marked the first time more than half of the 60 children – selected from the Ranfurly Home for Children, the Children’s Emergency Hostel, the Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home and the Bilney Lane Children’s Home – had either been to the Lynden Pindling International Airport, or had taken a plane ride.
The partnership has committed to taking a larger amount of children on the Christmas Day, 2020, Fly-out based on the success of the 2019 event.
The children were treated to breakfast at the Castaways Restaurant before embarking on an island-wide tour that covered many of Exuma’s historic sites. They were then treated to lunch at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort during which time each child received a gift.
The collaboration took place between partners from the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, and the Department of Social Services, which has carriage of the four Children’s Homes whose residents benefitted from the experience, the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the National Flag Carrier, Bahamasair, the Ministry of Education, Jet Aviation, Sandals, Emerald Bay Resort, Exuma; Castaways, Exuma; the Kiwanis Club of Exuma and its Aktion Club, the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, and Exuma Markets.
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, applauded the collaboration between the various groupings while also commending the many individuals who helped make it happen for their “kindness and selflessness”.
“It tells me that the true spirit of Christmas is still alive,” Minister Campbell said. “I want to thank all of the corporate partners who helped to make this event the tremendous success that it was for their efforts. I also want to thank all of the persons on the ground in Exuma who played key roles in its success, and also all of those individuals and employees who placed their own Christmas celebrations on hold to make the day even more special for the children. It was heart-warming and encouraging.
“These are children who, for the first time in many instances, are realizing that The Bahamas is more than just New Providence. There is no better geography and/or history lesson a child can receive than to get on a plane and travel to the various island destinations of The Bahamas. There is no better geography or history lesson a child can receive than when he or she can say I have been there; that I saw that. We have sixteen island-destinations that the Ministry of Tourism promotes and markets around the world. If we can arrange similar trips in the future for them travel to some of the other destinations throughout The Bahamas, it will be an excellent opportunity to broaden their horizons. I can’t imagine the positive impact that this opportunity will have on them for the remainder of their lives,” Minister Campbell added.
Bahamasair Chairman, Mr. O.A. “Tommy” Turnquest, said management and staff at the National Flag Carrier were “more than happy” to facilitate the fly-out. The majority of the Bahamasair staff involved in organizing the logistics of the fly-out also delayed their Christmas day celebrations.
Mr. Turnquest applauded the corporate partners, organizations and individuals who assisted in making the event a success, adding that the National Flag Carrier would be willing to provide jet service during the 2020 Fly-out to accommodate additional children.
“We will be more than pleased to provide jet service to accommodate even more children in 2020 (as) the difference we would have to raise to accomplish that goal is not that great,” Mr. Turnquest said. “We are delighted to be able to make the plane, our crew, our staff, available to accommodate this fly-out at this special time of the year.”
(Fuel for the Christmas Day Fly-out, was provided by Mr. Alphonso Bowe and Jet Aviation.)
Mr. Jeremy Mutton, General Manager of Sandals Emerald Bay Golf, Tennis and Spa Resort said the Fly-out was the “best example of great public/private partnerships.”
“This is the third year that we have been doing this and each year it gets even more and more special. Many of the staff you see here were scheduled to be off (but) they left their families just to be here with the kids. The looks on the kids’ faces indicated that they had a fun-filled time being here and so the day was just very special to us.”
Mr. Mutton and the staff at Sandals Emerald Bay turned the couples-only resort into a children’s haven for the day.
“Which is quite unusual for a couple’s only resort. We actually told our guests what we were doing and the guests came and volunteered. We spoke to guests who are here from England, guests who are here from the United States and for them to be here, to take time out of their holiday time just to come and help out and volunteer, that to me was also very, very special,” Mr. Mutton added.
Ms. Krivoy Smith, a School Teacher/School Administrator on Exuma, was also a key member of the partnership.
“Children are my life, my calling, and so I look at it as ministry and also as an opportunity to give back,” Ms. Smith said. “We have been blessed with so much and Christmas has become so commercialized that we forget what the gift really is and what the real meaning of Christmas is – which is a time of love and sharing and giving, rather than just receiving. In giving, we are also receiving from them.”