By FELICITY DARVILLE
MILLIONS of people around the world visit The Bahamas and end up falling in love with this country and its people. Many are repeat visitors, captivated by these balmy isles. Some have decided to take up permanent residence and call this place home. But few are the people who come and take a special interest in making a difference in the lives of the Bahamian children who may need their help the most – those in the inner city.
Robin Prest is doing just that. She is the outreach coordinator of the I CAN Foundation, a non-profit organization determined to create “infinite ripples of possibility” around the world.
Yachting is in Robin’s blood. It’s what first brought her to The Bahamas. She was a professional chief stewardess, highly skilled in five-star hospitality, responsible for guest satisfaction onboard, anticipating the yacht owner’s needs and exceeding their expectations. Robin, who has a degree in marketing and advertising, was involved in yachting as a chief stewardess for four years. Her yachting travels brought her to the shores of The Bahamas several times. Her travels in the Caribbean and around the world allowed her to see first hand the needs of the people, especially since the onset of the pandemic.
In her last yachting position, Robin worked on I CAN’s sailboat “Wisdom”. This 100ft vessel takes young adults from the foster care system on a 90-day trip around the Caribbean. They are taught valuable life skills, they get PADI certified and they have an opportunity to volunteer and give to others at I CAN events.
This job sparked Robin’s interest in doing even more to help kids in need. She became fully involved with the I CAN Foundation and was appointed the outreach coordinator. In this position,
Robin really came alive. She created “Robin’s Tents”, a safe space for kids to have a hot, balanced meal, a great pep talk and lots of laughs.
“Robin’s Tents were born through the outreach that I was able to accomplish with the help of the crew on sailing yacht Wisdom,” Robin explains.
“When I was in Antigua, I had the opportunity to arrange a lot of outreach efforts with local programmes, such as foster homes.
“The week before we left for our next destination, I threw a barbecue with all of the people we had reached out to. We had over 100 people come by. I thought, ‘Why does this need to end now that we are leaving?’ So, I continued to make the event happen every Saturday in Antigua through local volunteers, and then proceeded to move on to other countries to start the same trend. Through this, I created the mentorship programme. Our next step is to give the children of our Robin’s Tents the opportunity to learn a new skill, which we will be integrating into our tents and foundation this year.”
I CAN and Robin’s Tent are making ripples all over the world: in South Africa, they feed over 100 children every week; in Costa Rica, they feed over 100 children every week and teach English, swimming and soccer; in Antigua, they feed over 350 children every week and they have a thriving mentorship programme. I CAN has now set up Robin’s tent at McPherson Park, Hay Street. They started two weeks ago, and in that time, they have fed just over 200 children and their parents in the area. I CAN will be serving the community indefinitely, and there are plans to expand the programme and even take it to the Family Islands.
“For me, it’s not just a job; it’s my passion,” said Robin.
“Being able to be a part of this foundation… it’s a dream job. Being able to see these children and the families that come out to these events; being able to be on the ground making them happen is a gift in itself to me. It’s extremely cool, it’s really amazing. I love seeing people just wanting to volunteer their time and help these families who, in some cases, have nothing. I am so happy to make these events happen, not only in The Bahamas, but around the world. I am working, finding out what each island’s needs are, to keep it going forward, wherever we take this.”
Robin, a native of Toronto, is no stranger to philanthropy. She was involved in non-profit work from a young age.
“When I was 16, my mom took me on a trip to South Africa where I saw the most extreme poverty,” she said.
“After this trip, my life forever changed. I became very much involved in non-profit work and travelled throughout Ontario in my teen years talking about leadership and the importance of giving back.
“I have always had a passion for philanthropic work. I love to travel and be immersed in local culture.
“Because of this, I have been able to be exposed to many different cultures and see the need for help. While I was in Antigua, I was able to really get to know the locals and see how much need there is on the islands.
“Through my platform with the I CAN Foundation, I felt the need to bring this to life.
“Being able to use our platform to give back to so many people, especially children, in need is truly the greatest gift to me and I can’t wait for Robin’s Tents to continue to grow into providing lessons and onto other islands and around the world.”
The I CAN Foundation seeks to provide young adults with the “tools, confidence and support to create any future they can possibly imagine”.
The founder, Jeffry Wisdom, has always had a passion for helping others through charity work. When he told the other founder Sean Ives that he wanted to empower underprivileged children, they got together and discussed unique new ways to do so. With Sean having an extensive sailing background, he personally knew the lessons sailing can teach, such as self confidence, self worth, values and so much more. Robin should know.
She considers her yachting career an “amazing experience” that inevitably launched her into her new profession as I CAN’s outreach coordinator.
“The Bahamas feels like a second home to me,” Robin said.
“From the first time I came here, I fell in love with the islands of The Bahamas and the people. I am thankful to have been fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time here through my yachting career.”
Since Jeffrey and Sean created I CAN about a year ago, the foundation has grown its programmes with Robin’s Tent - always with the same mindset of empowering underprivileged youth.
In addition to serving the people at McPherson Park, I CAN has worked with the Ranfurly Home for Children and the Red Cross Society.
Every Saturday between 1 and 4pm, I CAN will be at McPherson’s Park to feed those in need in the community.
The foundation is seeking sponsors, mentors and more volunteers.
Those interested in being a part of the foundation are invited to come out to the park and see them in action. You can also visit www.i-can-foundation.org, or WhatsApp: 954-310-1594.