Exchange program provides mutual benefits

Exchange program provides mutual benefits

University of Vermont students engage in developmental projects in Saint Lucia.

The Department of Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs earlier this year hosted a contingent of 20 students and two professors from the University of Vermont (UVM).

This is the 30th year the department has hosted students from the university, as part of a Mutual Development Exchange Program.

The students engaged in developmental projects in the areas of school kitchen gardening; the HIV/AIDS soccer program that demystifies the stigma that HIV can be contracted through physical contact; and a consumer survey on cable and internet services.

The kitchen garden projects were undertaken at the River Doree Anglican Combined School, and the Lady Gordon Opportunity Center; the soccer project was held at the Dennery Primary School; and consumer surveys were conducted in Rodney Bay, Castries, Vieux Fort and Soufriere.

For the first time, two of the university’s communications students, Molly O-Shea and Stuart Laperle, interviewed two past project partners, John Joseph and Augustine Dominique, in an effort to document the benefits that have been derived from the bilateral exchange program.

Mr. Joseph, Director of the Latille Waterfalls and Gardens said one of the projects undertaken eight years ago, was to install a micro-hydro and solar panel unit.

“With the fluctuating oil prices this initiative has had quite an impact. People still come to ask me about water and electricity usage. I’m the only place on the island which uses micro-hydro for energy.”

Augustine Dominique of the Piton Management Area (PMA) was excited that his 3-year quest to partner with UVM had finally borne fruit.

“This year’s collaboration will provide an opportunity for measuring the success of awareness and conservation activities over the last two years, and will also establish a framework for more in-depth research into areas like carrying capacity, economic benefits and livelihoods within the PMA,” Dominique said.

Kevin Stapleton, UVM lecturer and project instructor said: “What really makes this course unique is the relationship UVM has formed with the Saint Lucian government and community partners. For more than a decade we have worked side by side to create meaningful experiences for our students that provide benefits for the people of Saint Lucia as well.”

Staff of the department also benefitted from training workshops delivered by the professors in the areas of Research Methods and Techniques, and Communications and the Lemon Law, which deals specifically with motor vehicles.

At the final presentation, held at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort on January 13, all the projects were lauded by the participants. It is expected that the findings of the consumer survey will be brought to the attention of cable and internet service providers with a view to addressing consumers’ queries and concerns.

The program was held in Saint Lucia from January 4 – 17.

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