Community event planned on the waterfront February 27; Food, music, prizes, organizers hope to raise $10,000.
A fundraising campaign has been launched in Grand Cayman to help finance and sustain a major reef restoration project currently being done by volunteer divers supported by local dive operators, and overseen by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. During the past five months, volunteers have donated hundreds of man-hours to repair the devastating damage caused when a cruise ship dragged its anchor across a dive site in August. Diving from shore and on weekend boat trips donated by Red Sail Sports, Divetech and other operators, the volunteers have removed tons of rubble and salvaged pieces of live coral to be replanted in the restoration process. Now they’re fanning out into the community to help raise money to keep going.
“Everyone’s been giving of themselves to the project, so we have decided to have a fundraiser to recoup some expenses, buy supplies and go forward,” said Keith Sahm, General Manager for Sunset House and co-coordinator of the project. “The goal is to raise $10,000 and we’ve got the Cayman government’s full backing.”
Sahm says marine science experts have suggested capping the scarred area on the reef base with concrete to keep the particles and silt from floating around and affecting nearby live corals, so bags of cement are needed for that phase of the project. A special marine epoxy to reattach live corals to the base must also be ordered. Some live corals have already been reattached in the surrounding reefs and they are doing well according to project co-coordinator Lois Hatcher of Ocean Frontiers, who is experienced with this coral restoration technique.
“It’s amazing! The ones we replanted look really good,” she says, giving credit to the whole team of volunteer divers who are a part of this daunting project, expected to take a year to complete. “We’re lucky to have a good strong core of volunteers who care deeply and are dedicated to the effort. Everyone is working well together.”
“We are headed there slowly,” added Keith Sahm.
The volunteers are now knocking on doors in Cayman’s business community soliciting donations for the cause. A fundraising event is also planned for Friday, February 27 at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal on the waterfront in George Town. The fundraising festivities will be held in the late afternoon after the cruise ship traffic has cleared. Organizers are lining up music, sponsors and prizes for a silent auction and drawings. T-shirts are also being printed for the cause and will be available for purchase.
Donations for the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project can also be made online with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. Online contributions must be designated for the Environmental Programs listed on the giving page: www.nationaltrust.org.ky
The response so far from Cayman’s community is generous says Hatcher, adding that some people have come forward to donate supplies without being asked. Renowned sculptor Simon Morris created “Amphitrite” the mermaid at Sunset House, “The Guardian of the Reef” at Divetech Lighthouse Point dive site, and “Tradition” the sculpture of the man and boy in Heroes Square in Georgetown is also pitching in to help the cause. He’s donating 40% of the proceeds from the sale of any bronze sculpture in the current inventory to the restoration project.
“The tireless and generous efforts of all the volunteer divers and companies donating support in cash and kind to restore the terrible reef damage prove once again that Grand Cayman has true spirit and many heroes,” he said. “Every time I visit I am overwhelmed at the treatment I receive. My art is all about our need to love and protect our marine environment and if it can be used to help in any way to assist in the efforts to repair the reef, I’ll be grateful for the opportunity.”
Divers planning to visit Cayman on vacation are also offering to get involved with the project during their stay. Organizers say they can use all the help they can get. As they reach out to the community, the volunteers are spreading the message that keeps them going and working for a successful fundraising campaign.
“We’re working to save Cayman’s marine environment for the future, so we can’t afford for it not to be a success,” said Lois Hatcher.
For more information on the fundraising campaign for the Magic Reef Restoration Project contact Keith Sahm at [email protected] or Lois Hatcher at [email protected]. You can also visit the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project Facebook Page @Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project.