July 25, 2003 – While the 16 students spending a week at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) on St. John already had a strong interest in the environment, their visits provide opportunities to further open their eyes.
"I hope to learn a little bit about the difference between real nature and the nature that is polluted, and how to prevent pollution," said Kasper Beut, a 14-year-old from St. Maarten.
Kasper and his 15 colleagues from Aruba, Barbados, St. Maarten, the Turks and Caicos, and Trinidad were at VIERS as guests of the Caribbean Hotel Association. They arrived July 23 and will depart July 30.
This is the fifth year that the association's environmental arm, Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, has brought kids from around the Caribbean together to further their environmental studies.
The young people were chosen for the program by their home hotel association in a variety of ways. Some completed essays; others had extensive involvement in the environment.
"These kids are really outstanding," said Randy Brown who, as director of Clean Islands International, heads activities at VIERS. He said the program's goal was to keep the kids interested in exploring the environment.
While much of the program focuses on fun — swimming and hiking, for example — each activity provides a chance for the VIERS staff to emphasize the environment.
Roydoya Robinson, 16, of the Turks and Caicos, said that she plans to study environmental science in college, and already works part time with her country's Department of Environment and Conservation.
"This really gets me in touch with nature," she said as the students gathered in VIERS yard on Friday for their morning meeting.
The Friday meeting focused on recycling, as VIERS operations manager Scott McCoy explained what VIERS does to help the environment through conservation. "Turn the fan and lights off when you're not in the building," he said, ticking off a list of things that included flushing only solids, taking one three-minute shower a day and putting fruit and vegetable scraps in the appropriate bucket for composting.
Christopher Ramsay, 13, of Barbados, said Barbados has far fewer trees than St. John because it is more developed. "I've never been so close to nature," he said.
An acute observer of the differences and similarities between the two islands, Christopher said that Barbados' monkey population is being eradicated because the monkeys destroy crops. He likened it to the V.I. National Park's quest to get rid of wild pigs because they destroy vegetation.
While the kids had mostly good things to say about their experiences so far, Darryl York, 12, of St. Maarten said he found some of the day just a tiny bit boring. "There's nothing to do during free time," he said.
He was glad he came, however. "I wanted to get away from home and I wanted to learn more about nature," he said.
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