A passion comes to reality." Those were the first thoughts of Kenny Benjamin, executive chairman of the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation, as he addressed stakeholders and media personnel at Flow's press briefing at the 'Treehouse' on the grounds of a rejuvenated Hope Zoo recently.
The press briefing was held to publicise Flow's $25-million donation in cash and services to support the restoration efforts going on at the historical zoo.
Michele English, president and chief operating officer of Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited — operators of Flow, stated that the company is committed to having the zoo give free access to schoolchildren for learning tours.
Flow also pledged to power an educational programme at the zoo, with a Learning and Resource Centre, below the Treehouse, which will provide high speed internet and digital cable television service in creating a multimedia learning experience for this and following generations.
In a news release, English was quoted as saying: "The Hope Zoo remains one of the most stunning green spaces in Kingston. Its potential as a family destination where children can learn about and interact with animals, and where we can all appreciate the importance of conservation, is unquestionable".
The learning and resource centre is supposed to be partnered with the Ministry of Education to help students enhance their science knowledge by learning about the zoo, nature as well as preservation and conservation of the environment.
In an interview with TEENage, Kenny Benjamin stated that he was initially approached to help with the zoo by the Nature Preservation Foundation, which had done work on the surrounding Hope Gardens, and coming from the experience with his Guardsman Serenity Park wildlife sanctuary, he jumped at the opportunity.
The process of rebuilding has not been easy, however, as Benjamin said he initially had to clean debris from the 1988 hurricane Gilbert.
Benjamin also told TEENage that "I haven't had this passion in a long time". His passion can almost be tangibly seen in the way the Hope Zoo has enlivened, however, they are not finished yet as the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation hopes to have lions, zebras, camels, monkeys and other animals before long.
The day didn't end with just the launch, as 200 children from places of safety and children's homes in Kingston and St Catherine, were feted, courtesy of Flow, Hope Zoo, Burger King, and Wisynco.
The wards were treated to fun, food and games and the movie The Avengers along with a tour of the zoo where they were able to interact with several animals including the once-thought extinct Jamaican Iguana. The zoo facilitated the repopulation of the species which were thought to be extinct and to this day have released over 200 babies into the wild.
With the commitment of Flow, the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation and other stakeholders to the already enlivened zoo, a trip to the Jamaican landmark, characterised as the 'newest, wildest venue in town' would not go amiss.