When you mention the Caribbean, Jamaica, Bonaire or any other resort destination, most people think of sun, sea and sand.They visualize relaxing on soft sandy beaches, swimming in the crystal clear sea and bathing in the sensual soothing sun, an experience one will remember for years to come. This may be true, but on the other side of the island, life isn’t glamorous at all. In fact, a large number of natives struggle to obtain bare necessities: clean drinking water, wholesome food, clothing and in many cases a safe place to call home. Tourists rarely get to see the depression, devastation and hardship these people face. Most American tourists go to the “all-inclusives,” separating them from the daily realities of the inhabitants who reside there and camouflaging the dichotomy.
Isolation breeds complacency
Orlando Patterson, a Professor of Sociology at Harvard University stated, “The general stability of the Caribbean and the isolation of tourists from its social problems has generated complacency in American policy circles. Much more needs to be done to promote development in this region.”
According to the World Tourism Organization, some 700 million people leave for foreign lands. They spend more than $575 billion making tourism the world’s leading item of foreign trade. Fifteen million of those travelers, mainly from North America, head for the Caribbean, which is by far the most tourist dependent region of the world.
Divers reaching out
The Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers Organization (WCSDO) is one group doing something about the problem. Since 2009 members began traveling to various islands with two goals in mind: to minister to those in need and to dive and experience God’s great underwater creation. Headquartered in Key Largo, Florida (the dive capital of the world), WCSDO members have committed their energy to being of service to indigent communities. They have established local chapters throughout the country with the goal to help those in need locally. Comprised of Christians from different backgrounds, they use their God-given talents to build or renovate churches and houses and provide food, reading glasses, Bibles, shoes, school supplies and virtually anything that would foster the improvement of the quality of life for islanders.
“Working with a local church or organization to indentify the needs of that community is the first step in providing aid,” said Jim Mustoe, founder and director of WCSDO. “It is exhilarating to witness the joy and gratitude expressed by the locals wherever we travel to,” Mustoe added.
There is so much that needs to be done, and one organization cannot do it all, but progress is being made. Healing, hope and brighter days are on the horizon thanks to organizations like WCSDO. Their next mission trip is scheduled for February 2015 to the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean. Working in collaboration with the International Bible Church of Bonaire, WCSDO’s primary purpose is to minister to the locals while exploring God’s creation. They will then travel to Roatan, Honduras in June 2015 for the second time. Previous trips have included Cozumel, Mexico and Nassau, Bahamas.
Key Largo dive event
WCSDO is holding Operation Dive 24, an event to raise awareness and funds for indigent communities in the Caribbean, from noon on Saturday, December 27 through noon on Sunday, December 28 at Jules’ Undersea Lodge, 51 Shoreland Dr., Key Largo, the Dive Capital of the World.
Operation Dive 24 is a fundraising event for the group in which a tag team of divers will remain underwater for 24 hours in order to draw attention to the needs of Caribbean communities and to raise funds for their missions. A variety of activities are planned which include water sports, arts & crafts, games for kids and loads of fun for the entire family.
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the first underwater hotel, actually began its existence as La Chalupa research laboratory, an underwater habitat used to explore the continental shelf off the coast of Puerto Rico. Just to enter the Lodge, one must actually scuba dive 21 feet beneath the surface of the sea. Jules’ really is underwater. Diving through the tropical mangrove habitat of the Emerald Lagoon and approaching the world’s only underwater hotel is quite an experience. The hotel features pizza lunch delivery for visitors and breakfast for guests who stay overnight, as well as cozy beds, hot showers and a well stocked kitchen.
All of the proceeds from Operation Dive 24 will fund ministry on the islands as divers pay their own expenses for travel, room and board, as well as diving. For more information contact Tea Rajic at 610-996-9968, send an email to [email protected] or visit the website at www.scubamissions.com.