Several youngsters from the Nature Fun Ranch (NFR) had the opportunity to get on a plane and experience snow for the first time when they were rewarded recently with a trip to Canada.
Financed mainly through their own fund-raising efforts and that of the charitable organization, the 10-day trip gave the group of once at-risk-youth the chance to explore opportunities outside of their home country.
Founder and Chief of the NFR Corey Lane told Barbados TODAY the trip formed part of the charity’s 20th anniversary celebrations, adding that the board and management decided it was appropriate after they experienced “an epic 2018” with the young people who continued to show tremendous promise.
“The board and management of Nature Fun Ranch decided to do an exploratory/training trip/retreat. These are boys and girls who would have been reformed over the years and worked very hard,” Lane said, as he spoke to Barbados TODAY outside the arrivals lounge at the Grantley Adams International Airport on Wednesday as the group of 12 returned home.
“We are very quick to punish for negative things, but what about rewarding good? They would have done really well in school, really well at home, really well on the ranch and really well in their community. So we took this opportunity really to say a big ‘thank you’ by deploying this trip, dubbed by them ‘snow between your toes’,” said an elated Lane.
He said besides the opportunity for them to experience a plane ride, which many of them thought would never have happened, the trip resulted in them obtaining important documents including their birth certificates and passports.
The boys and girls were overcome with excitement for a few days when they took part in some tourist activities. They visited Niagara Falls on New Year’s Eve where they witnessed the fireworks; they also had the opportunity to do a little bit of shopping and sightseeing.
But perhaps the most excitement came for them when they had the opportunity to ride the train and make snow angels for the first time.
“So they had a blast, they had a ball. It really touched my heart to see the glee in their eyes,” said Lane.
However, this trip was not only about fun. It was also about networking and learning new ways of doing things.
“It was also about education and opportunities. A number of them are training to be jockeys and we were able to press the flesh with some members of the consulate at Woodbine and [other] places that they would only otherwise be able to see on YouTube,” said Lane.
“We went to the Barbados consulate… We were able to have some meetings with some key people in the horse racing industry in Canada… We [were] also able to go to the Barbados tourism office. So we were able to make it a business trip as well,” he explained.
“We also met with the lady responsible for job development that brings workers to Canada. Some of the older members were able to meet with her, get her business card and have discussions on future prospects of getting employment in Canada,” he added.
Lane said although financing such a trip was challenging, he was happy it happened, adding that it was his intention to continue to help at-risk-youth, while rewarding them for, and shining a light on their positive developments in whatever way he could.
“It was all expenses paid even with a little bit of spending money. It was really difficult. One of the ways we expect to finish paying for the trip is through the Arts and Sports Promotion Fund,” he added.
Redari McConney, 22, has been with the NFR for the past two years. He said he was excited to have been given the opportunity to experience snow for the first time.
“It was a life experience because I have always wanted to know what snow feels like,” he said, pointing out that his favourite part of the trip was making snow angels.
“I actually [learned about] some job opportunities in Canada. It was very educational and exciting. I got to see places I have never seen before,” added McConney.
Nineteen-year-old Nathan Gill, who has been with the NFR programme for the past six years, said his favourite part of the trip was visiting the zoo and riding on the train.
“It meant a lot because it was my first time travelling. It was a good experience. I did things that I dreamt of and saw things so it was a good trip,” he said.
The St Michael resident is in charge of nature at the St Andrew facility. He said from visiting the zoo in Canada, he was able to harvest some ideas that he would seek to implement at the ranch.
Meanwhile, Jamala Farrell, 17, has been with the organization for the past five years. The aspiring jockey who said he gets a lot of encouragement from his family to pursue his dream, told Barbados TODAY because of the NFR he is now practicing at the Garrison. He said the trip to Canada has strengthened his passion and love for the horses and will help him to focus more on becoming a jockey.
“It is a great experience for me because I have never been to Canada before,” he added.
Lane said he was looking forward to taking a larger group on an overseas trip in June as the NFR ends its 20th anniversary celebrations. (MM)