May 9, 2017
By: Peace Corps Jamaica
The Oracabessa Foundation has had an extremely productive relationship with Peace Corps Jamaica. From 2008 to 2014, seven Peace Corps Volunteers contributed full and part-time efforts in the development of key aspects of the Oracabessa Foundation’s mission. They assisted in the development of a sustainable fish sanctuary, and made contributions to its sports and education programs that operate in surrounding schools and communities.
The first environmental Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), Daniel McDonald, came to the Foundation in 2010. He was assigned to work on the embryonic Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary project. He did yeoman’s work in establishing the sanctuary as a legitimate entity. Daniel played a key role in generating wide-spread knowledge of the sanctuary and support from local residents.
Daniel also played a key role in the sanctuary’s first grant seeking activities. His efforts led to securing funding that helped to:
- Purchase a warden patrol boat and motor
- Clear 1300 sq. meters of turtle nesting habitat
- Plant 2,000 pieces of coral
In the same year, Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Jill Inderstrodt, contributed her talents to the Foundation’s female sports programme, by helping shape the organizational structure of the Netball segment.
PCV Patrick Oldmixon began service with the Foundation in 2012. He arrived with extensive experience as a former business owner. He set up procedures and business systems necessary to operate the sanctuary more efficiently. He wrote a grant that helped Oracabessa hire its first Jamaican Manager of the Fish Sanctuary. Patrick shifted into a mentoring role to the newly hired manager, as he “worked himself out of the job.” Patrick’s work prior to the hiring of the manager put him in an excellent position to be a credible and useful trainer.
From its inception to the present, the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary has created a 1700% increase in fish bio-mass, 153% increase in coral coverage, and 47% reduction in Algae. As a result of the foregoing success, the Fish Sanctuary is now one of the leading marine protected areas in the Caribbean. It routinely hosts new staff from other sanctuaries in Jamaica, who come for on-the-job exposure and orientation on the operation of a successful and sustainable fish sanctuary. The attention has served as the basis of the establishment a small, but growing consultancy business which helps other communities and fisher groups emulate the ‘Oracabessa Model’ pioneered by the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary.
Other volunteers working with the Foundation served in the youth, education and health sectors:
- Taylor Moss helped organize primary school sports leagues and improved the service provision of the Foundation’s “Swim Jamaica” program.
- Virginia McConnell mentored the coordinator of the Foundation’s youth-at-risk vocational training initiative and also taught students math and computer literacy.
- Deb and Jeff Schulz were instrumental in establishing a prostate screening project in conjunction with the Foundation’s annual Canoe Boat Marlin Tournament. They doubled the amount of men who received screening in the Parish of St. Mary for that year. Deb and Jeff also initiated the Foundation’s “Get Fit/Stay Well” senior citizen activity program which continues to this day.
Peace Corps’ influence on the Oracabessa community is deep. Jon Gosse, who has served as Executive Director of the Foundation since 2001, is a Jamaica Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Group 65 1995-97). Through his efforts, and that of the Peace Corps Volunteers who served under and with him and the community, real and sustainable positive changes that work have occurred, thus serving as a model for other communities in Jamaica.
- The name Oracabessa is a combination of the Spanish words for ‘golden’ and ‘head’;
- Oracabessa’s produce market was the first established by freed slaves in Jamaica;
- Oracabessa is the home of GoldenEye Resort where Ian Fleming wrote all the James Bond novels.
- The Oracabessa Foundation was established in 1995 by Chris Blackwell, Founder of Island Records, Goldeneye Resorts, Blackwell [Rum] and other local entities;
- The Foundation has three main objectives: 1) More People Working; 2) A Healthy Bay; 3) Positive & Engaged Youth
Jonathan Gosse RPCV
Jonathan came to Jamaica in April, 1995 as part of Peace Corps Group 65. Working in the small business sector he helped a women’s organic farming collective in rural St. Ann sell their produce to hotels along the North Coast. After leaving Peace Corps in June 1997 he decided to stay in Jamaica and organized basketball leagues and community events. He became a Jamaican citizen in 2001 and later that year began work with the Oracabessa Foundation. He has a Bachelors in Business Administration from Gustavus Adolphus College and an M.A. in International Development and Social Change from Clark University. He lives in Ocho Rios with his wife Tyherrona and 5 year old daughter Abigail.