Upon arrival at Falmouth Harbor Marina, we had to make a game plan. As we didn’t expect to be in Antigua, it was a matter of learning about the island and how we could make a positive impact along the way.
Lucky enough, a few of our crew mates had previously spent a considerable amount of time on the island, so we had a smooth transition to life in Antigua.
We quickly learned how both how beautiful and how small the island is, it took just forty minutes to drive from the south coast all the way to the north coast, where Antigua’s capital city, St. John’s, is located. Lucky for us, that meant more time to explore as much of the island as we could. Our dockage, Falmouth Harbor Marina, was located near an UNESCO World Heritage Site and within walking distance of numerous trails and beaches, so we found ourselves enjoying beach barbeques, hanging out at cafes and hiking along mountain ridges. Antigua was officially the first extended stop on our expedition, so we embraced the adventures that awaited. We ran on trails overlooking the Caribbean Sea and roads winding through the mountains, found dive spots along the headlands of the southern coast and explored reefs as we swam with rays, sharks, sea turtles and a number of different fish.
From the very beginning, the aim of the I CAN Foundation has been to encourage, empower and uplift as many lives as possible; S/Y Wisdom is just one of the vessels which enables us the opportunity to do so. We knew we wanted to approachAntigua with the mindset of preparing for the upcoming program of students, but we also wanted to learn about
and give back to the underprivileged communities of the island. Our chef, Robin, started making friends around Antigua and spreading the word of what we hoped to accomplish during our stay. Before we knew it, Robin had built a network of overwhelmingly gracious individuals and organizations. We began by connecting with the women of Meals on Wheels, an organization which delivers homemade meals to an elderly community of the sick and shut-in. Robin cooked stew with peas and rice–an Antiguan favorite–and Monica and Lyndis, the heads of Meals on Wheels, would plan the day and drive us around as we delivered the meals. We also connected with a woman by the name Pastor Mae and began weekly visits to a Sunday School in St. John’s. We organized football matches and made bracelets with the kids, with whom we became quick friends. Thinking back to our time in Antigua, running around and bonding with those we connected with are the sweetest memories.
It’s incredible to build friendships with people from such diverse backgrounds and know that we will return in just a few months to catch up where we left off. Those with different upbringings have so much to teach us and these kids are no exception. Every single individual we connect with has a story and we are so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, that’s my favorite part; learning from everyone and everything, everywhere we go. The more we open our minds to others, the more we have to grow–and that’s something we plan to run with. We also had a new addition to the Wisdom crew and I CAN family, Kylie! She joined us a few weeks into our stay in Antigua and quickly began helping out around Wisdom and implementing a focus on conservation for the upcoming program. Each crewmember spent their days differently while docked. Cesar worked on the maintenance of Wisdom with the help of a couple local Antiguans, Dominic and Marc; Steve tidied and looked after the deck with the help of Alex, Kylie and I; Robin cooked and began the on-the-ground outreach sector of I CAN; I found cultural sites and activities; and Alex worked on setting up Wisdom as a PADI certified dive school. We visited Wallings Nature Reserve and dug out lemongrass to plant trees on Signal Hill with the help of Antiguan trail guides. We learned how detrimental goats are to the flora and fauna of Antigua (and many other Caribbean islands) and discussed ways to try and promote biodiversity in the surrounding parks and coastal waters.
For the crew, Antigua was such an exciting destination, because we were able to envision how our time on the island would translate to the upcoming program. We visited beaches, unique geologic features, went on hikes, snorkeled, went diving, took out the Laser (aka Jupiter, aka our sail dinghy) and went wakeboarding in our free time. We’re so lucky to have the ability to explore new places every day, and have our ‘play’ be a lesson for how we may want to spend our time when we return.
We also had some visitors fly out to Antigua to see what we’ve been up to! Liz Sutherland, an inspiration of the I CAN Foundation and author of No Ordinary Liz, joined us with her partner, Judson, for a week of exploring and planning for the students aging out of foster care. Liz, herself, aged out of the system and has an incredible story of growth and triumph, so it was great to have her on board and discuss ideas for the program. Additionally, we had some friends and members of the
board join us for a short stay on Wisdom: John, Jeremy and Chef Josh, who we showed around the island and with whom we discussed future outreach opportunities. A week before our departure from Antigua, Robin organized a community barbeque inviting all the friends we made during our time on the island. We worked with the women of Meals on Wheels, Pastor Mae, St. Michael’s Anglican Church and all the families we befriended throughout our stay in Antigua. Chef Josh and Monica cooked jerk chicken, peas and rice, collard greens and plantains for everyone that stopped by. With COVID-19 having such an intense impact on local sentiments of community, the barbeque was such a nice way to reignite that connectedness that so many of us have struggled with over the past year. Many families stopped by to say hello and grab lunch, and a few kids stayed and played soccer. We always talk about how important the I CAN family is to those in the foundation, but every individual that’s impacted by our mission is a member of our family. It’s not just the crew, those in land-based offices, nor those spanning oceans–it’s all of us, as a unit. And the barbeque was a reminder that we’re building branches of our family all around the world. We are so grateful for those we met in Antigua and look forward to revisiting in a few short months.
The final barbeque was such a great success and Robin made such an incredible network in Antigua that she will now be working separate from S/Y Wisdom, setting up outreach and “Robin’s Tents” around the Caribbean. Her first stop is in Costa Rica and we are so excited to see how the I CAN Foundation will grow through her work!
The Wisdom crew set sail for our next stop, St. Lucia, on Wednesday, November 3rd and arrived the following day at Rodney Bay Marina.