Yes, ‘Sir’! ELC honors visionary Branson at 30th gala

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, knighted at Buckingham Palace in March 2000 for his service to entrepreneurship and the environment, has a new trophy to add to his collection. Branson sent his personal emissaries from the British Virgin Islands to accept the Environmental Learning Center’s very first Environmental Visionary in Action Award at the ELC’s 30th Anniversary Gala last Saturday at the Bent Pine Golf Club.

The honor is given to an individual doing outstanding work that focuses on enabling humans to live in a positive way with the rest of nature. Allington “Gumption” Creque from Virgin Gorda and Angela Burnett Penn from Tortola addressed the audience of 150 with a message of hope and resilience.

“It is with great honor that we accept this award for Sir Richard Branson,” said Penn, an Environmental Officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour. “As you know, we were hit by Hurricane Irma last year and the Category 5 hurricane decimated much of our island. But nature is an unstoppable force and we are recovering. We are experiencing climate change challenges that need to be addressed with innovative experimental programs and it is up to every one of us to act as stewards of our environment.”

She added that after touring the ELC, they were “overwhelmingly impressed with the passion and respect that this community has for nature.”

Creque related that after multiple banks had turned down his loan request to begin an educational boat business, he was working at a resort when he first met Branson.

“I told him about my dream of protecting our environment through education. I wanted to buy a glass-bottom boat and take people out to see the life beneath the water’s surface,” said Creque. “He believed in me, loaned me $50,000 through Branson’s Centre of Entrepreneur Caribbean, and gave me 13 tips to follow. Three of those were trust, communication and fun.”

Creque said he followed them all and was able to repay the loan in six months. “Sir Richard is a man who continually works with businesses around the world to solve problems related to pollution and sustainability. He is truly honored and deserving of this award.”

In addition to mingling, bidding on auction items, dinner and dancing, guests at the event discussed ELC expansion plans.

“We have a 10-year build-out plan which will include new buildings, boardwalks, butterfly gardens, touch tanks, educational facilities and nature trails” said Tim Buhl, event co-chair. “Our 64-acre campus gives us plenty of room to expand and update our center with the purpose of connecting people with nature.”

The Environmental Learning Center offers adults and children a retreat from the digital world of smartphones and computers through its guided canoe and walking tours, educational lectures and programs.  Summer day camps offer children fun-filled days where they can learn about nature and our environment.

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Article by: Kerry Firth, correspondent

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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