San Ignacio, Belize, June 24th 2014 Larry Waight Reporting: In this post, I interview Joe Awe, the president of the Cayo Tour Guide Association (CTGA) about their upcoming tourism eco summer camp.
Larry Waight: Why did the Cayo Tour Guide Association decide to invest energy into this first ever Tourism Eco Summer Camp?
Joe Awe: Legacy.
What good is a great organization, whether for profit or not, if it does not invest in a social option which not only will help and engage the future of this country but also allow guides to celebrate their decisions to become guides in the first place.
This is an opportunity that will give the young dreams and make our guides give of their time and passions.
Larry Waight: An endeavor such as a summer camp takes some investment. What kind of investments have been and are being injected into this camp and how is the CTGA raising the funds necessary for this project to succeed?
Joe Awe: This question is perhaps one of the best questions to be highlighted in this interview. Sustainability as you know requires four major roots, if you may. Political, environmental, social and economic strands need to be well organized to make anything sustainable. In the case of our summer camp, the history of it starts in late March 2012. We pushed hard to get all of the planning and organizing together before the close of the school year but it was not to be. The then government of the CTGA was replaced and two years later the not much energy was given to it. This new administration came into office in December 2013 and we decided to move to create the environment to make this camp fruitful.
The first injection we made was a review of the camp plans we had organized 2 years prior to this year. We realized that we needed a minimum of BZ$19,000.00 to make our camp work. So the first order of business was to create a committee to oversee this camp. Our camp committee was organized and it is lead by Patrick Bradley and deputizing him are Ms. Alba Tut and her husband Eric. Some other members are Giselle Rodriguez, Mario Castellanos, Quely Grajalez, Jorge De Leon, Cruz Cambranes, and Salim Floresto name a few (because its an open door option – any of our members can come in and input into the planning and organizing).
The second investment was our economic opportunity. The committee decided to ask the hotel stakeholders to offer a prize for us to raffle of a stay for 4 people for 2 nights at their respective hotels. The first two hotels our committee contacted replied affirmatively within the first 24 hours. This was magic! Turtle Inn and Blancaneux Lodge opted in. The second two hotels we asked for the same prize answered us within the first 24 hours also. This time Cahal Pech Village and Banyan Bay decided this would be a great investment and so, we had our tools to develop the money we needed for the success of the camp. We cannot express enough how grateful we are for these hotels and their investment to our first ever Tourism Eco Camp.
Most camps are managed isolated from traveling outside of the campsite. We decided that we would be different and we would organize a moving camp, so to speak. We contacted some hotels on the Macal River and incredibly we felt as if they were waiting for us to come so that they could celebrate the summer camp with us. Black Rock Lodge, DuPlooys Lodge and Botanical Garden, Nabitunich Resort and Crystal Paradise Resort all fell in to complement the endeavors of the CTGA. They are not only offering us space but they are also covering some of the meals and offering educational tours of their many different facilities they have onsite. These stakeholders are making the management of the camp so much more achievable and we are nothing short of grateful!
The majority of the general population of the CTGA was convinced that this type of investment was worth the selling of raffle booklets. Every member of the association is responsible for selling a booklet of each prize to help with the economic option. June 30th the second prize will be raffled and a second winner will be announced. Our budgeting team is busy presently adding, subtracting and dividing to make certain we are ready to go come July 27th, 2014. The camp ends on August 2nd, 2014.
Larry Waight: What are the activities kids should be looking forward to at this very special summer camp?
Joe Awe: Within the camp itself there are two educational streams happening within every given day. The CTGA acquired the services of professional camp counselors (who have great experience in summer camps) and they have organized rich educational activities for the kids. On the other hand we have the expertise of the guides who specialize in caving, botany, horses, hiking, bird watching, canoeing, and archaeology, to name a few. The kids who will be at this first camp may also get the chance, if the planning goes as we wish it to go, through Dr. Jaime Awe and guides Gonzalo Pleitez and Rafael Guerra (the latter two are higher education students in archaeology), a spin off will occur in attempting to get these first kids and later kids to fall in love with archaeology, as there is ongoing planning to get the kids feet wet in an archaeological dig. This is unprecedented!
The kids will have for the most part activities organized by the camp counselors such as games and drama and projects designed for small groups. Guides will organize all the tours to Maya sites, caves, botanical options, archaeological opportunities, transportation and logistics. Everyone presently is excited – after all, we are all attending a summer camp.
Larry Waight: How did you recruit the kids for this first camp?
The committee had long discussions on how to create opportunities for the kids between the ages of 12 – 14. In the end two things were agreed upon. 1.) The first ever Tourism Eco Camp was going to be marketed to high schools (1st and 2nd forms) and, 2.) The schools targeted would all be in the Cayo district.
This was a difficult call but it was important to start getting applications to the camp. Students were to write us a letter with answers to four major questions: 1. How tourism helps the Belizean economy, 2. How does tourism help to protect the environment, 3. What do you think it’s like being a tour guide and 4. Why should we choose you to participate in this camp? The letters were very special. Many of them were deep and some surpassed persuasion. Kids are biting at the bit out there to jump into summer activities – another reason we decided in 2012 that we had to become a part of the lives of the children of Belize, as an association in tourism.
Mr. Joe Awe is the President of the Cayo Tour Guide Association (This is his 8th term he is serving as President). He is one of Belize’s stellar archaeology and culture guides and he has a long resume on community service that he brings to empower the CTGA. It is also important to note that Mr. Awe sits on the licensing of both the tour operators and tour guides licensing committee for over six years and also teaches tour guides at the Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio for over seven years. Mr. Awe is also currently the Vice Chairman of theBelize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) Cayo Chapter. He is also currently a full time teacher of the humanities at Sacred Heart Junior College and impressively, is the Chief Cultural Evangelist at his own company Nine Ecocultural Tours (www.ninebelize.com).
Talks are already under way to see if next summer a second summer camp can be added for kids between the ages of 15-17. This is outstanding and progressive and certainly an opportunity for more stakeholders in the tourism industry to make this camp theirs too. This is what the CTGA looks forward to – to share the camp with the entire Tourism industry.
We want to wish the CTGA luck and we hope to get a reporter at the camp to report on it live as it enriches the lives of the children who will participate in the camp.
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