Whether on the water tracking down polluters, in courtrooms enforcing environmental laws, advocating in town meetings, or teaching in classrooms, the global organization, Waterkeepers Alliance, has developed a reputation for speaking for the waters they defend. Here at home, local Waterkeepers have made responsible water usage, and the protection and maintenance of local beaches a top priority. With programs catering to Bahamians at all age levels, the group has also attracted the attention of other international organizations, the most recent being the Florida-based Piper’s Angels Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis. Widely known for its efforts to support and improve the lives of families in the cystic fibrosis community, the group is also equally well known for its annual 80-mile paddle challenge, dubbed ‘The Crossing’, which sees scores of participants navigate waters from the island of Bimini to the Florida coastline. Named after the founder’s now 13-year-old daughter, the annual event was conceived as a way to raise awareness about Cystic Fibrosis.
This year, the group that came over to Bimini included nearly 200 paddlers, safety crew, family members, and coordinators connected to the Piper’s Angels Foundation, the nonprofit organization responsible for hosting the annual event. The group of individual and relay paddlers left Bimini on Sunday morning along with their respective safety crews, crossing the Gulf Stream to Fort Lauderdale. “For us, it was all about making a positive impact in the Bimini community, which is the home away from home for the Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis,” says Vanessa Calas, Director of Sustainability.
“We are so grateful to be able to partner with Waterkeepers Bahamas and 4Ocean to bring together our cross-Atlantic community in a way that allows us to educate people about water quality and to take action toward clean water for everyone.”
On Friday, June 25, Waterkeepers Bahamas joined forces with Save The Bays to host a team of Piper’s Angels to highlight ongoing water quality monitoring assessments on Grand Bahama, New Providence, and Bimini.
“This was a great partnership opportunity to share information about the historic and ongoing water monitoring efforts with the Piper’s Angels Foundation’s audience in a way limited by COVID-19 restrictions but interactive enough to convey the message of clean, healthy waters for all” explained Rashema Ingraham, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Bahamas.
“Meeting the mandates of the new normal has pushed us to become more creative about how we execute our plans.”
Those plans which included a trip to Radio Beach – a popular spot for tourists and locals alike – provided the ideal opportunity for the organizations to advocate for clean waters and promote the health of area residents and the ecosystems which help sustain them. “We planned and executed a socially distanced beach cleanup which included teams from Pipers Angels, Waterkeepers Bahamas, Save The Bays, and 4Ocean,” says Ingraham.
Using reusable clean-up bags and trash pickers, donated by 4Ocean, and First Onsite Restoration, the teams were able to collect 536 pounds of trash during the 1-hour clean-up event on Radio Beach. “The rally of hundreds of participants and volunteers coming together with a unified vision is what defines grassroots success,” said Piper’s Angels Founder and Executive Director Travis Suit. “The collective impact of the organizations that formed this beautiful collaboration for our sustainability initiative in Bimini was the epitome of the leadership excellence necessary to achieve this outcome.”
The groups’ environmental stewardship did not end with cleanup efforts however, following the day-long event leaders from 4Ocean, Waterkeepers Bahamas, and Piper’s Angels gifted the reusable bags and other supplies to the nearby Louise McDonald high school who, according to Principal Demetrius Wildgoose, will now be able to continue the cleanup efforts started through this initiative. “We are so grateful for this generous donation. Protecting the environment is everyone’s business and thanks to this gift, our staff and students are better equipped to do our part in doing just that.”