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Caribbean Ocean Heroes Network

One Caribbean, One Sea

Leesa Carter-Jones
Captain Planet Foundation/Ocean Heroes Network

Leesa Carter-Jones

President, Captain Planet Foundation, Co-founder, Ocean Heroes Network.

Youth are the superpower in demanding change and shifting policy. At the Caribbean Ocean Heroes Regional Bootcamp, the conversations were interesting. 

I discovered that it is not culturally common for young people to question an adult’s decisions. This is important for policy change. So, the question was “How do you interact with adults and get them to listen?” There was a lot of discussion around that. At the camp, we focused on building the confidence of young people so they can approach adults. We will also connect them with other Ocean Heroes across the world who have been successful in doing just that. 

And, there is the reality of how much comes into the islands packaged. What do you do with the packaging? We need creative thinking and entrepreneurialism for reclaimed and recovered plastic. It is more urgent in the Caribbean. Some Ocean Heroes have created companies to do just that. 

We offer training and can help connect them globally. The Ocean Heroes share best practices, strategies and documents so that they do not have to start from zero. For example, a young woman removed five million straws from 128 schools in one school year in California. The students put their straws on a food tray everyday which she collected. Ocean Heroes worked with this young woman to develop a strategy toolkit on how to get started and make it work and, how to get adults to listen. This toolkit is available to all Ocean Heroes. 

We found straws was a great tool for focus training because most young people use them. They then expand into preserving ocean health and reefs. We are working with the United Nations Environmental Programme to do a bootcamp in Africa and Asia next year. We are also doing one with the surfing community. And the next one in the Caribbean will be November next year. 

The program was really conceived to shorten the time for a young person to activate themselves and put together a campaign, to understand how much power they have and how to do it. This training is useful in other aspects of their lives. 

The Caribbean has some determined young people who can articulate and are ready to make a change.

OHBC Caribbean 2020 1

Ocean Heroes Network Bootcamp

One Caribbean
One Sea

In December 2020, 110 youth from 19 Caribbean nations and territories came together virtually at the Ocean Heroes Network Bootcamp to learn how to develop campaigns to eliminate single-use plastics, protect and preserve biodiversity and create deeper connections. 

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In December 2020, Ocean Heroes Network (OHN) launched its first-ever regional bootcamp for young ocean activists in the Caribbean. It was held virtually under the theme, ‘One Caribbean, One Sea’ on December 6 and 11 – 13, 2020, hosted by Plastic Free Cayman and Protect Our Future in partnership with local youth and NGOs in the Cayman Islands. 

Ocean Heroes Network and Bootcamp

 In 2015, a video of scientists removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nostril went viral, prompting young people to want to take action. They contacted the organisation to find out what they could do. 

By 2017, Ocean Heroes Network was conceived and co-founded by Captain Planet Foundation and Lonely Whale in the USA. Captain Planet Foundation has spent almost thirty years engaging and empowering people to protect the planet. Lonely Whale conducts impact and education programs around ocean plastics. 

OHN runs successful programs and helps young Ocean Heroes entrepreneurs connect globally and shares best practices and strategies to give them a headstart when starting their businesses. 

One of its award-winning programs trains and empowers ocean activists to develop successful campaigns to remove single-use plastic from circulation and preserve ocean health. To date, almost 1,500 young people have been trained to understand the structure of change, exert influence on policy and leverage supply-side and demand-side levers.

In 2018, OHN held its first Ocean Heroes Network bootcamp in New Orleans followed by another in Vancouver in 2019. OHN funds the participation of nonprofits and any child wishing to attend the bootcamps. 

This year, due to COVID-19, OHN decided to hold a virtual bootcamp, reaching many more young people than that the physical event. This first global Ocean Heroes Virtual Bootcamp was held in June 2020 engaging 400 youth from thirty-six countries. 

Caribbean Ocean Heroes Regional Bootcamp 

The Caribbean Ocean Heroes Regional Bootcamp (OHrBC) developed, organised and led by local youth including Ocean Heroes Dejea Lyons, Steff McDermot and Ben Somerville. The event was hosted by two youth organisations in the Cayman Islands – Plastic Free Cayman and Protect Our Future. 

Steff McDermott of Plastic Free Cayman, a 20-year old environmental activist who had attended the first two OHN bootcamps, wanted to conduct one in the Cayman-based on the Vancouver OHN model. She wrote to Ocean Heroes Network who was interested. They partnered with Plastic Free Cayman as the host organisation. 

Steff, the Caribbean Bootcamp Coordinator with Dejea Lyons and Ben Somerville of Protect Our Future, the OHrBC Planners, framed the bootcamp around the idea – One Caribbean, One Sea. They believe that the Caribbean nations must unite to successfully tackle environmental issues as we ‘share similar environmental problems but lack the connection’. They wanted to engender collaboration among Caribbean youth to create campaigns across the islands, taking into account the issues unique to each country and those common to them. 

Youth aged 11 – 18 living in thirty-six Caribbean nations were invited to participate. About 114 young people from 19 countries registered and participated in the virtual bootcamp. During the four-day event, they explored and discussed pressures and challenges facing the health of the Caribbean Sea and our shared ocean. 

The young activists got a chance to collaborate with youth leaders, NGOs, scientists and policymakers in the Caribbean to learn critical campaigning skills and develop their individual and collective campaigns and action plans. The three core areas of focus or tracks for the bootcamp were:

  • Plastic Pollution led by Plastic Free Cayman
  • Ocean connection through awareness and engagement run by Fish ‘n’ Fins from Montserrat
  • Biodiversity and marine conservation by Guardians of the Reef in Bermuda.

The agenda included:

  • Cross-country bonding
  • Mentorship through Squad Leader meetings and office hours with experts and other youth
  • Campaign development through virtual panels
  • Keynote speaker sessions.

Before the bootcamp, participants were paired with one of twenty ‘Squad Leader’, from eight islands. These Squad Leaders who had demonstrated success in launching and running a transformative campaign were trained for two months to ensure they could mentor the participants assigned to them. Upon completion, the participants join the global Ocean Heroes Network of 1,500 young people in 50 nations.

For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.

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ApaNa Magazine Issue 4 – One Caribbean, One Sea

Issue 4 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including Nature Fun Ranch in Barbados, Ocean Heroes Network in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance in the Caribbean region. 

Subscribe to our magazine and support us in elevating and sustaining the good works of nonprofits, people and businesses in the Caribbean.  Please click here for more information.

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