People-to-People Makes Visitor’s Birthday Memorable
When 80-year-old Rasheeda Ali-Seck arrived at Prince George Wharf on September 9, she had no idea what special surprises were in store.
The Cincinnati, Ohio native always dreamed of coming to The Bahamas to celebrate her birthday.
But what she didn’t expect was to have a full-on welcome ceremony complete with a special performance from Bahamian cultural icon John ‘Chippie’ Chipman and others playing ‘Happy Birthday.’
Later, she and her family were treated to a special luncheon at Lady Igrid Darling’s home.
Lady Darling is the widow of the late Sir Clifford Darling, a former Governor General of The Bahamas.
There, the family enjoyed Bahamian favorites like peas and rice, baked chicken, stew conch, fried fish, cole slaw, baked macaroni and cheese, guava duff, pineapple and coconut darts and potato bread.
To wash it all down, guests had choices of Goombay Punch, homemade lemonade and Vitamalt.
They also saw some Bahamian arts and craft on display.
Describing the experience, Mrs. Ali-Seck said it was a dream come true.
“ I have always read and saw pictures of the beautiful scenery of Nassau so I told my family, ‘I want to spend my 80th birthday there because it is paradise,” she said.
“I was not expecting any of this. I thought at best I would be able to get off the ship and shop but nothing like this. This is beyond my wildest dreams and I will never forget it.”
The experience was part of the Ministry of Tourism’s People-to-People programme.
Now in its 40th year, the People-to-People programme matches interested tourists based on their personality and interests with Bahamian ambassadors, who welcome them into their home to share a meal and other authentic Bahamian experiences.
Lady Darling, who has been involved with the programme for almost three decades, says it’s important to the local tourism industry.
“It’s important because they get to be in our homes and they interact with us. I know people who have from People-to-People gone into the United States and made friends and their children have made friends and so that’s how I think the experience has enhanced tourism,” she said.
Also in attendance at the luncheon was Lady Beverly Wallace-Whitfield, the widow of Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, another former governor general.
Lady Wallace-Whitfield has been an ambassador since its inception.
“The variety of people that I have met… are still in my life today,” she said. “ We have also taken students for a time as adopted children. With connecting with locals, we can take the visitors to places that they might not ordinarily see and this broadens their experience; makes the visit much more enjoyable and memorable. They will want to come back and do more things.”
For Mrs. Ali-Seck, returning to Nassau and bringing others along are top priorities on her list.
“I think that this programme should be advertised more in the United States and all around the world because there are many people who don’t get farther than right off the ship and to the shopping area. They don’t get to experience Bahamian culture, their food and tastes and all of the wonderful things Bahamians are known for,” she said.
“I can’t wait to get back home to tell my friends about it. I belong to a synchronized swimming group so it would be my dream to bring all 30 of them here.”
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