Andrew Simmons
Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons

1994 Goldman Prize Recipient
Islands and Island Nations

  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Oceans & Coasts

Andrew Simmons created JEMS, a volunteer community development organization that uses literacy and skills programs to motivate communities to protect the islands’ natural resources.

Andrew Simmons spearheaded a community-based environmental movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation in the Eastern Caribbean. In the 1970s, when local unemployment was high, residents began to exploit the nearby Kings Hill Forest Reserve, one of the oldest reserves in the world. Simmons, then a teacher and the only employed teenager in his community, responded to this destruction by establishing JEMS Progressive Community Organization in 1978.

Through festivals, plays and music, Simmons fully involved residents of four local villages, especially the youth, in identifying solutions to specific conservation and development needs in the area. As a result, the local people successfully protected Kings Hill Forest Reserve, guarding it against further destruction and developing an ecotourism project in the reserve. This first successful battle inspired Simmons to continue to organize his community.

Through community participation in local decision-making, Simmons has helped implement water projects and a number of other activities. Children are taught about conservation in a day-care center. Hundreds of students have been involved in clean-up campaigns and leadership training. The entire community is now committed to ensuring that only environmentally sound development projects be located in the area, and it has organized against destructive projects such as sand mining.

In addition to being an initiator of JEMS, Simmons founded the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) and has worked as Director of Community Services for St. Vincent. Through the United Nations Environment Program, Simmons has advised on the development of similar youth programs in other countries. Simmons has also worked as Chief Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, England, where he works with 54 countries in Asia, the Pacific, Caribbean and African region on the development of programs in the areas of youth policies, human resources development and youth empowerment.

Simmons is currently working on a program that encourages youth and community members to take action against climate change; the biggest threat facing their island nation. Activities include a national week of climate action which took place in October 2015. This program is being supported by the Jewish Community Foundation and the Goldman Environmental Foundation.

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