April 30 was a proud and exciting day for The Friends of the Environment as they welcomed guests to the opening celebration of The Frank Kenyon Research Centre. Approximately 100 people attended the opening including students, scientists, donors, partners and government officials.
The ceremony was opened in prayer by Pastor Earlyn Baillou who asked a dedicatory blessing on the building and all who will work there. Wynsome Ferguson, President of the Board of FRIENDS, in her address of welcome, noted that Pastor Baillou was one of the persons who helped turn the dream into reality.
“Discussions were begun several years ago about opening such a centre and a number of trailers were sought. They did not materialize but as a result we now have the beautiful building and first-class learning centre you see here today. Local and visiting researchers and schools will now be able to come here for study.”
She stated that the Friends of the Environment was formed in 1988 in Hope Town by Frank Kenyon after whom the centre is named. In 2003 it moved to Marsh Harbour and since 2006 has provided a myriad of environmental experiences for students. She praised Kristin Williams who joined as Executive Director in 2008 for bringing the organisation to a whole new level.
Ms. Williams gave a brief project overview stating that the centre has three components: research, education and conservation and will work through partnerships with other entities.
“There will always be interesting people here researching and our first scientist is coming to stay tomorrow. The researchers will help fund courses for students from all over the Bahamas which is all very exciting. One of our most important partnerships is with schools and three of Abaco’s eco-schools are participating here today.” Ms. Williams thanked everybody for their support.
The Honourable V. Alfred Gray, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, stated that he would say just a few words from the heart. He congratulated FRIENDS for their foresight and wisdom to establish the centre for research of the best kind with affordable accommodation.
“There are thousands of researchers every year wanting to do research in The Bahamas and we expect researchers here to partner with BAMSI and leave part of their findings here in our research centres. The researchers will leave our natural resources unspoiled,” he stated.
The keynote address was given by Minister of Education, Science and Technology, the Honourable Jerome Fitzgerald who began by stating that one of the key reasons research is so important is that it assists in forming policy and that his ministry is delighted to partner with FRIENDS and the Frank Kenyon Centre. He informed that a $14 million loan from the Inter Development Bank has been procured to improve every science lab in the Bahamas and will include the restructuring of the curriculum and retraining of teachers.
“Possibilities are endless for this facility and it will expose students to career opportunities in environmental work. They will have chance to explore ecosystems on Abaco and to participate in conservation initiatives. This country is facing a myriad of environmental concerns. Land, sky and sea must be protected for health and economic well-being of all citizens. I hope work here will start at the primary level as this will help students take charge of the environment. I extend congratulations to Frank Kenyon for his passion for the environment and that after 30 years this organisation is still going from strength to strength. It is my honour to declare the Frank Kenyon Centre officially open.”
Cha Boyce, daughter of Frank Kenyon and a former president of FRIENDS, was praised for the huge part she played in bringing this research centre to fruition through her organizational skills and fundraising efforts. In her vote of thanks, Boyce thanked everyone for showing support and sharing in their pride.
“Our vision is that many students will pass through the centre, will form their own visions and carry them on into the future,” stated.
Students of three of Abaco’s eco schools, namely Forest Heights Academy, Every Child Counts and Hope Town School, took part in the ceremony by providing musical selections.
Following the ribbon cutting attendees were invited to take a tour of the Kenyon Centre. This very impressive building provides accommodation for 28 persons in rooms containing four bunk beds. There is also a spacious kitchen and sitting area and a well-equipped lab. All of the utilities installed and materials used are eco-friendly and provided by local businesses.
These include solar split AC units, LED lighting, sustainably harvested Abaco pine deck planking, a deep well injection for waste management, low VOC paints and high efficiency insulation to manage the building’s temperature and reduce energy consumption.