Renowned St Lucia Photographer Kirk Elliott recently earned certification in NGO Professional Management from the University of the West Indies Open Campus.
For the past four (4) years Elliott has been mentoring the Fond Gens Libre Development Committee as it seeks to both develop and enhance the community’s tourism product. Fond Gens Libre is a community at the base of Gros Piton comprising of 109 residents living in 42 households. Residents are reputed to be descendants of Saint Lucia’s Freedom Fighters who rejected slavery hundreds of years ago and in the process established this strategic stronghold. Today many of these residents earn a living as tour guides accompanying hikers up the Gros Piton. Gros Piton is the larger and taller of Saint Lucia’s iconic Pitons which form part of the Piton Management Area (PMA). The PMA was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 2004.
Elliott has helped the community establish an executive arm which was registered with the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports and Local Government as a Community Based Organization in 2017. This paved the way for the community to receive a Planning Grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environmental Fund’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) to assist with its sustainable community based tourism initiative.
“Because NGO Management is outside my area of expertise I jumped at the opportunity to pursue this course of study when Mr. Giles Romulus, Saint Lucia National Coordinator for UNDP circulated a request for applications to SGP grantees.” explained Elliott when asked how as a photographer he came to pursue this course. The course introduced Elliott to the history of Caribbean NGOs as well as the unique challenges they face. The course which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) was open to persons across the Caribbean working with NGOs.
The course entailed significant collaborative work similar to what obtains in Caribbean NGOs and introduced Elliott to Caribbean NGO best practices as well a cohort of NGO Management professionals across the Caribbean.
Commenting on Elliott’s decision to hone his community mentoring skills Romulus opined: “To be successful today, you must be a perpetual learner, even after attaining your goals. If a person stops learning, they will stagnate and diminish in many ways.”
When asked his thoughts on Elliott’s commitment to Fond Gens Libre as evidenced by his undertaking this course, Fond Gens Libre Development Committee President, Francis Alexander expressed high praise for Elliott, stating: “Kirk Congratulations on your latest achievement. You are everything we could wish for in a mentor and you truly inspire us to be the very best we can be.”
Having recently received the Baseline Studies Report and recommendations coming out of the UNDP Planning Grant the Fond Gens Libre Development Committee looks forward to receiving a Full Grant from UNDP, GEF, SGP in the new year to assist with capacity building and product development. Elliott looks forward to continuing his work with the community with a view to helping it develop its tourism product into an international benchmark of sustainable community based tourism within a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Kirk Elliott is a St Lucia Photographer and Sustainable Tourism Entrepreneur committed to the promotion of Community Based Tourism that leads to capacity building and poverty alleviation leading to grassroots economic development with Empowerment through Education as its overarching stimulus.