Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons led a community-based environmental movement on the island of St. Vincent in the eastern Caribbean.

Leader in the preservation of the Caribbean and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ natural resources.

Andrew Simmons is a native of the multi-island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, located in the southeastern part of the Lesser Antilles. His leadership was a vital part of the effort to preserve one of the oldest forest reserves in the world. Designated as the “King’s Hill Forest” in 1791 by the British Crown, the site suffered from timber cutting by nearby residents during the 1970s. Due to the oil crisis, unemployment on the Caribbean island rose and people had no other means to support themselves.

In 1978, Simmons was a young schoolteacher and was concerned about the deforestation. He helped found the Progressive Community Organization, better known as JEMS, a community-based organization aimed at education about the management of resources and the environment. It focused on youths in the communities and identified successful strategies and measures for protecting resources and the environment in the community while stimulating sustainable economic development. This group is an example of how community-based organizations and movements can be effective in protecting environmental and natural resources.

Through community participation in decision-making, Simmons has helped implement many education and resource conservation projects. A daycare center was established for children to teach them from a communal and collaborative perspective friendly to the environment. Hundreds of students have been involved in cleanup campaigns and the entire community has been involved in self-sufficiency projects and has organized in opposition to destructive mining projects on the islands.

Other projects have carried on the success of his initiatives. Based on the work and organization of JEMS, water conservation programs, cleanup campaigns and the development of youth training and leadership programs were created. The success of the initiative created and led by Simmons soon spread and evolved to a higher level, such as the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, one of the most important non-governmental organizations aimed at the environment in the Caribbean. It consists of and is led by youths. These experiences and initiatives earned Simmons the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 1994 and he was recently selected from among more than 150 winners of the prize to be part of a documentary film celebrating the 20th anniversary of the prize.

Simmons’ vast and distinguished efforts led to his appointment as Deputy Director of the Youth Program at the Secretariat of British Commonwealth Nations Affairs in London from 1997 to 2006. Currently, Simmons is Director of Community Services in St. Vincent and has worked with the United Nations Environmental Program to develop and implement similar youth initiatives in more than 50 countries.

 

Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: June 06, 2012.

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