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In the Abacos: mixing culture with tourism in a People-to-People program


Local and visiting kid in Beach Buddies program on Abacos

Local and visiting kid in Beach Buddies program on Abacos

DAY 5 — Got your conch shell?  12-year-old Jenna Williams says no kids should leave the Bahamas without one.   “They should get a straw basket that’s made here too,” she said.

Kids visiting the Bahamas should go snorkeling and fishing while they’re here, added 14- year-old Joshua Wong.

“And they shouldn’t be afraid of the fish,” said his younger brother Gabriel,11

Make sure to eat conch fritters, conch salad added Mackennlee Ferguson, 8. “It’s really fun to live here,” she added.

These kids all live in the Bahamas on the Abacos Islands and spend the time they’re not in school or playing sports at the beach.  In fact, Gabriel wouldn’t even share his tip for building great sand castles.

They’re ready to be Bahama Buddies to children staying at the Abacos Beach Resort—a program designed to help visiting kids connect with local kids through beach and cultural activities.  The idea, says resort spokesman Jules McCafferty, is to enable visiting kids to go home with a sense of the culture and customs of the Bahamas —and maybe a new friend, as well as a tan.  The resort charges visiting parents $30 for the three-hour supervised program—a bargain—when you consider the activities are included.

“It’s fun to meet people from other places,” said Jenna Williams.

That’s also the idea behind the Bahamas People to People Program. Visitors are paired with locals of similar interests who might take them to church, running in Nassau, on a boat ride or a kayak in Grand Bahama Island or to dinner at their home.  There is no charge.

We joined the Taylors for dinner in the Abacos Islands.

“I want visitors to see beyond the typical tourist experience,” says Matthew  Taylor, a taxi driver who with his wife Kenya, son Kyro,13, and daughter Malaysia,7, hosted us for a delicious Bahamian meal—fried fish, coleslaw, baked macaroni and cheese and peas and rice. We had a homemade coconut tart for desert.

Meeting locals in the beach to beach programs in the Bahamas

Meeting locals in the beach to beach programs in the Bahamas

They’ve met families from  around the world through this program

One of the young guys in our group showed Kyro the latest apps on his Iphone;   We talked about school uniforms—everyone wears them here and the upcoming big Independence Day Celebration in July.  The Bahamas is celebrating  its 40th anniversary of Independence with celebrations throughout the islands.

They tell us a typical Friday night here at the end of a work week means a  community  fish fry  with “down home” food and a chance for the kids and the grown ups to kick back and see their friends.  “We look forward to it,” says Kenya.

Everyone dresses up for church on Sundays.  “It’s a fashion show,” Kyro says.

It could be a dinner anywhere. The women talk about the difficulty juggling kids and work and diets; the men watch basketball on TV.  Malaysia giggles a lot and her older brother tries to act grown up, though we know he’d probably rather be with his friends.

We’re sorry to see the evening end and hug goodbye.  I feel like we’ve made new friends.

That’s the idea, of course.

 


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