A hurricane ravaged building which the Rotary Club of Freeport rebuilt using monies from the Robbins Fund hosted an educational summer program this year.

The Young Mans Training Centre (YMTA) was all but wiped out after Hurricane Wilma unleashed her storm surge in 2005. The Rotary Club of Freeport injected club funds to get the building sealed up and then applied successfully for a grant from the Robbins Fund and finished the building and installed a learning library and computer centre. 

The club then recruited student teachers to run a very successful summer education program. Here is their story:


  The exciting journey started for Colleen Irving and Sara Pancio last January when two seniors from St. Bonaventure University, New York were selected to complete their 7 week student teaching practicum at Mary Star of the Sea and St. Vincent De Paul Primary School. Throughout their challenging, but exciting 7 weeks on the island the two along side with three other student teachers also conducted an after school program at the YMTA building in Hunters.

The after school program was held three days out of the week, the five student teachers served as mentors, tutors, and supervisors for the local youth. Due to the impact that the children had made on the student teachers, two of the student teachers had high hopes of coming back in the summer time to continue their teaching by carrying out a Summer Camp at the YMTA building.

Their biggest goal was to provide a safe, educational, and enjoyable facility for the children. This vision became a reality with the help of the Rotary Club of Freeport, whom became a large factor in providing resources needed to get the student teachers back down and the camp running. The club paid the expenses for the trio to travel back to Freeport including on-island housing and transportation, as well as funding field trip transportation and lunch for the kids. This was also possible thanks to the generous community leaders in Hunters who allowed us the opportunity of using their YMTA building.

On June 25th, the two girls along with another St. Bonaventure student, Bethany Ryan, began week one of their six week summer camp. The first few days students were sparse, but soon rapidly increased, reaching numbers over fifty. The girls quickly began to organize many different educational and recreational activities for the large age range of campers. Activities included math and writing exercises, science experiments, computer training, character education, and the Rotary four-way test.

The girls' primary focus was preparing the campers for their upcoming school year which was the focus for the first hour and a half of camp. Students then engaged in activities such as basketball, relay races, scavenger hunts, water activities, and various outdoor games. Students were also given the opportunity to experience what it is like to run a small business; "Operation Lemonade." A short session on business concepts was introduced to the campers as they split up in to groups to create their very own lemonade stand. They created a poster advertising their business, came up with a slogan to help sell their product, and decided on a price. The campers then ventured out into their community to sell. The project was a huge success, as the students profit doubled what they had invested.

Along side of scheduled activities, several field trips were planned to help educate the campers about their community and possible opportunities for their future. Students were brought to Xanadu beach to complete their required community service beach clean up. This was a huge success and the campers were able to collect eight large garbage bags.

The girls strongly encouraged their campers to give back to their community and set up a community service day every Friday.  The students were also given the opportunity to listen to speakers which included a nurse, members of local Junkanoo, and community workers.

The summer camp was a great success and changed the lives of each individual camper. It's safe to say that the three ladies from St. Bonaventure University are going to truly miss the smiling faces running through the doors each and every day. Thanks to the Rotary Club of Freeport for their continuing encouragement and financial support, the girls have learned the true intentions of  Rotary and helping the community in which they live in.  If you have any questions, you can contact the camp directors at panciosm@sbu.edu, ryanbn@sbu.edu, and irvingcm@sbu.edu.

The next project the Rotary Club of Freeport is undertaking in the community is the completion of the six acre sports field behind the centre, the land has been cleared, and the club now seeks partners to help fund the completion of the playing field. This will become the only playing field for youths to utilize in the area. For information on how to help with this life changing project please contact the club's President Mike Stafford at bahamapro@hotmail.com Learn more about the YMTA and other projects on the club's website http://www.rotaryfreeport.com/