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Volume XXI Number 11 August 18, 2000

* Snake Handler Bitten By Rattler
* Desiree Jumper, Jo Jo Osceola Millennium Princesses 2000-2001
* Tiffany Doctor: Lady Bull Rider
* Seminole/Bahamian Cultural Exchange
* Seminoles, Eckerd College Announce DNA 2001 Powwow, Festival
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Bahamian Student Cultural Exchange

By Dan McDonald

BIG CYPRESS - The first edition of the cultural exchange program developed between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the people of the Bahamas came ashore Aug. 14, when a group from the island nation landed in Fort Lauderdale.

A party of 45 children and adult chaperones from the Dreams and Visions program have come to visit the Big Cypress Reservation, where they'll tour the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and Billie Swamp Safari.

"This is a dream come true for these children," said Raoul Armbrister, Marketing Manager for Discovery Cruise Line, which operates tours between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas. "Many of these children are from broken families or in situations where they couldn't normally enjoy a vacation.

"By teaming up with several partners, we're able to provide an outing these children might never be able to take. And, the Seminole Tribe deserves credit for helping these children get a trip they'll never forget," said Armbrister who coordinated the travel.

The journey began when the children - aged 7 to 18 - boarded the Discovery Cruise Discovery Sun in Freeport for the five-hour cruise to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Once ashore, several officials, including Sen. Mandy Dawson, Representative Christopher Smith and City Commissioners Ileen Lieberman, Carlton Moore and Cindi Hutchinson met the group.

After visiting Busch Gardens, the group was bused to Big Cypress for a day that also included swamp buggy tours and airboat rides.

"These children really appreciate this opportunity," said Lilian Quant-Forbes, Assistant Director of the Bahamian Department of Social Services. "The children are all from The Village, a group of houses used for protective custody.

"Some of the children are orphans. Others are from abused homes or situations where they needed protection. But, they're good children and they had to work at school and their behavior to earn this trip. It's a wonderful opportunity for the children and we have to thank everyone involved for making it a reality."

The arrangement that began the process was started by Lee Tiger, the Seminole Tribe's tourism consultant and Michele Parker Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Discovery Cruises. The two forged a partnership to develop a cultural exchange program between the Tribe and the Bahamas.

"It's should a natural link between the Seminole Tribe and the people of the Bahamas," said Tiger. "Freeport is only 90 miles off our coast, and it's a great spot to visit and relax. On the other side, they have a lot of people who would want to come to Florida to enjoy the ecotourism that the Seminole Tribe offers."

Parker agrees the partnership is a natural, combining two distinct cultures that are geographical neighbors.

"The Bahamas are only an hour plane flight, or a five hour cruise away from Florida, but it's a different country with an entirely different culture," Parker said. "It's especially good for children. They get a chance to experience a different culture and a different government.

"It's a chance for them to learn about a foreign country and different people. It's a great opportunity. I'm pleased that Discovery can have part in this exchange."

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