There are many ways to enjoy a vacation in the Bahamas, but few provide as much cultural enrichment as the People-to-People program.
A free cultural exchange program sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, People-to-People lets you experience Bahamian hospitality in a genuine and informal way, as if you were visiting a friend.
During my recent trip to Nassau, I was matched with a local volunteer and given a sample of authentic Bahamian life. My generous host, Mrs. Patricia Bazard, opened her home to me, fed me delicious meals and gave me views of the island I would not have otherwise seen. I cannot recommend this program enough.
People-to-People has grown steadily for more than 40 years and boasts more than 500 volunteers throughout the islands of New Providence (Nassau), Grand Bahama Island (Freeport), Eleuthra, Exuma, Abaco, North Andros, Harbor Island, Cat Island, Bimini and San Salvador. The volunteer residents (who all undergo careful eligibility screening prior to enrollment) come from all walks of life and are matched with visitors of similar age groups, interests and professions. Teachers are matched with teachers, for instance.
Although the program did not include rooming — you have to make your own boarding arrangements — Mrs. Bazard did treat me to an absolute feast when dinner time arrived. The buffet-style meal was prepared and served in her home with the assistance of volunteers Sharlene Newbold and Marilyn Johnson. Joining us were Debra Pinder, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism communications manager, and Bernardette Bastian, senior manager of People-to-People.
We ate delicious crab soup, tossed salad, peas and rice, fried snapper, baked Cornish hens and lamb chops. For dessert we had benny cake, guava duff and coconut tarts.
Before dinner was served, we were treated to incredible singing by some of the students of the Bahamas National Children’s Choir, for which Mrs. Bazard serves as director. I was treated like an honored guest and it was a truly unforgettable experience.
People-to-People has several additional programs to promote goodwill and hospitality. Home-Away-From-Home is an exchange student program in which volunteer hosts become foster parents to foreign students attending colleges in the Bahamas. The Pen Pal Program is a letter or email exchange in which individuals ages 13 or older can develop friendships and heighten their global understanding.
There also is the Spouse Program, in which the spouses of visiting delegates who are attending conventions can get out of their hotels and engage in a list of activities with locals and other spouses. On the last Friday of every month, the wife of the Governor-General of the Bahamas hosts a monthly Tea Party at Government House in Nassau, which is open to 200 guests.
We get the most from life when we try new things and adopt new perspectives. People-to-People allowed me to do both in an experience I’ll never forget.
For more information, visit www.Bahamas.com/people-to-people.