Each year 16 students and professors from the University of New England, which is located in Maine USA, visit Dominica. The program leader Prof. Thomas Klak has visited Dominica 17 times over the last decade. The Students come to study and experience Dominica’s rich culture and natural wonders, and also to support villages and community groups committed to sustainable development.
Prior to this year’s trip the students have engaged in an innovative “100 Mile Bike-a-Thon for 100 Dominican students” fundraising campaign to purchase supplies for the Grand Fond Pre & Primary schools and the Morne Jaune Primary schools. Friends and well-wishers were asked to pledge an amount per mile and the students took turns riding a stationary bike to accumulate 100 miles in one day. The group also sold smoothies, baked goods, and donated pieces of art during a craft show at the University of New England. To date the University of New England students have raised more than US$1000 to purchase much needed supplies the three Dominican schools. The schools’ priorities include laptop computers, security fencing, and scholarship support for preschool children from families unable to afford costs.
Since 2005, Prof. Klak has brought more than 150 US university students and professors to Dominica. He explains that, “Dominicans are generous and hard-working people who take pride in their beautiful island. American students have much to learn from Dominicans about living close to the land and not over-exploiting it. If we can help Dominican teachers, farmers, fishermen, and ecotourism guides keep doing what they are good at and what they love, we feel we can make a positive contribution during our island visit.”
Sam Raphael, owner of Jungle Bay and Hummingbird Air believes that this type of student tourism is a major potential niche market for Dominica.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of Universities that take students on annual enrichment trips to Dominica. In addition to the donations and money they spend on accommodations, food, ground transportation and other essentials, these students go back to their communities as enthusiastic un-paid ambassadors to our island. Dr. Klak and the growing list of visiting professors should be commended for making a huge contribution to the sustainable development of our island,” he remarked.