Delegate Donna Christensen announced Thursday in a press conference that the Department of Interior awarded nearly $300,000 in technical assistance grants to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The grants will fund nonprofit groups in environmental health, cultural tourism development, and anti-gang projects.
The University of the Virgin Islands was awarded funding for two projects: one a research study entitled Environmental Health Gap in the Industrial Zone of St. Croix, which received $72,904; and the other, Heritage Tourism in the U.S.Virgin Islands, which received $58,203.
The health study is aimed at seeking out and collecting empirical evidence in relation to the belief that living in certain areas of St. Croix contributes to the prevalence of health risk factors, particularly cancer.
“The first priority for me was to work with UVI to serve our islands and see where cancers are, what kind of cancers we have, and how they are distributed,” Christensen said. “In essence [the study] would map out St. Croix to see what relationship they might have related to industrial pollution.”
Christensen also noted that the study would plan to use St. Thomas and St. John as control groups for the health assessment. Additionally, she has requested assistance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the study.
The heritage tourism project will focus on gathering information that can lead to a development of alternative forms of tourism in the territory. The project stems from legislation that was introduced four years ago to develop heritage tourism in St. Croix.
“This can be a real boon to the economy of St. Croix, quite in line with the division of tourism,” Christensen said. “We are going to try to bring different sectors of St. Croix in an uncommon effort to help define what our vision is for the island.”
A joint project between the St. Croix Environmental Association and St. Croix United for Community, Culture, Environment and Economic Development, Inc. (SUCCEED) also received nearly $150,000 in technical grant assistance.
The project will address community economic development by the furtherance of a “smart growth” agenda for St. Croix by improving and expanding V.I. tourism products for a strong position in the geo-tourism market.”
The St. Thomas Reformed Church’s My Brother’s Workshop was also funded with $18,500 to support their efforts at developing and implementing a community-wide anti-gang strategy.
“This organization helps take in young men who are unemployed and have nothing or nowhere to go except to languish in the streets,” Christensen said. “In many instances when they are finished working with My Brother’s Workshop, they are placed in permanent jobs.”
Christensen said there were several other strong projects under consideration, and she wished that there was enough funding for everyone. She said she would continue to seek alternate sources of funding for other worthy projects.