Internationally acclaimed St Lucia photographer Kirk Elliott was invited earlier this month by the Piton Management Area (PMA) to address the residents of Fond Gens Libres at the base of Gros Piton in Soufriere. Many of the tour guides for the Gros Piton Nature Trail hail from that community and Elliott was invited to address them on account of his St Lucia Photo Tour’s recent TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award.
The theme of Elliott’s address was “Exploring Linkages Between Sustainable Tourism Activities & Economic Gain For Local Entrepreneurs”.
Elliott shared some of the tourism best practices he uses in business to achieve the ultimate visitor experience recounted on TripAdvisor in reviews from his ecstatic clients. More than one visitor has decided on a Saint Lucia vacation over other destinations, just so they could take the St Lucia Photo Safari excursion based solely on Kirk’s online reputation.
He also explored challenges and opportunities with residents and was particularly moved by the input of Mr. Francis Alexander who spoke about wanting to see a scholarship fund created for the children of Fond Gens Libres. Being a strong advocate of education as a vital key to capacity building, poverty reduction and wealth creation, Elliott immediately pledged money towards the best performing student from the community who had passed the recent Common Entrance exam.
Young Tamie Alexander was the only child from the community who sat Common Entrance this year and she now proudly attends the Choiseul Secondary School. In a simple community ceremony, Elliott presented a cheque for $600 to Tamie and her mother, Marie Williams, and encouraged Tamie to be the best that she can be, pointing out that she will reap the rewards of her efforts in years to come.
As further encouragement to perform, Elliott then took Tamie, accompanied by her tour guide sister, Ms Marvel Charles, to the Fond St. Jacques Co-operative Credit Union where he opened an account for her and encouraged her to let this be the start of her nurturing and growth of money just like a prized fruit tree that is watered and cared for. Ms Victoria Hippolyte of the Fond St. Jacques Co-operative Credit Union thanked Kirk for his generosity.
“I was 12 years old, just like you, when I received $5 as a birthday gift from my ‘St. Lucia mom’ – Ms Rety Graham of Rety’s Place outside GFL Charles Airport,” Elliott told Tamie. “I opened a bank account with the money and have kept a savings account since that day and I hope this seed money will be the catalyst that inspires you, Tamie, just like I was inspired back then.”
Marie Williams, Tamie’s mother, thanked Kirk Elliott Photography for the gift of education for her daughter, saying she will help Tamie make the best of this opportunity “even if it means taking her tablet away from her!”
Elliott promised to follow up on how Tamie performs in school and has pledged to continue the $500 annual bursary as long as she maintains an annual class average of at least 75%.
Kirk Elliott presents a cheque to Taime Alexander, accompanied by her mother Marie Williams, to encourage her to continue working hard at school and to value money.