Andrew Simmons spearheaded a community-based environmental movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation in the Eastern Caribbean. In the 1970s, when local unemployment was high, residents began to exploit the nearby Kings Hill Forest Reserve, one of the oldest reserves in the world. Simmons, then a teacher and the only employed teenager in his community, responded to this destruction by establishing JEMS Progressive Community Organization in 1978. Through festivals, plays and music, Simmons fully involved residents of four local villages, especially the youth, in identifying solutions to specific conservation and development needs in the area. As a result, the local people have successfully protected Kings Hill Forest Reserve, guarding it against further destruction and developing an ecotourism project in the reserve. This first successful battle inspired Simmons to continue to organize his community.
Through community participation in local decision-making, Simmons has helped implement water projects and a number of other activities. Children are taught about conservation in a day-care center. Hundreds of students have been involved in clean-up campaigns and leadership training. The entire community is now committed to ensuring that only environmentally sound development projects be located in the area, and it has organized against destructive projects such as sand mining.
In addition to being an initiator of JEMS, Simmons founded the Caribbean Youth Environment Network and has worked as Director of Community Services for St. Vincent. Through the United Nations Environment Program, Simmons has advised on the development of similar youth programs in other countries. Simmons is currently employed as Chief Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, England. He works with 54 countries in Asia, the Pacific, Caribbean and African region on the development of programs in the areas of youth policies, human resources development and youth empowerment.
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