In the early stages of the program, we are focusing our efforts in the island of St. Lucia. Over the long term, we are working to develop a replicable model that can be expanded to other islands in the Caribbean.
St. Lucia is a small volcanic island in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. It is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide. St. Lucia is lush with mountains, rainforest, waterfalls, sulphur springs, wildlife, and of course, beaches.
The original inhabitants of the island were the Amerindians -- the Ciboney, Caribs, and Arawaks. The Europeans arrived in the late 1500's and for over 150 years during the 17th and 18th centuries, the British and French fought for possession of the island. Throughout this period of European rule, St. Lucia's history is a familiar tale of colonisation: obliteration of the natives, importation of slaves, establishment of plantations, eventual emancipation and finally national independence. In 1979, St. Lucia became an independent member of the Commonwealth and today St. Lucians practice a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy.
In the past decade, the population of St. Lucia has exploded to over 166,000. The population of St. Lucia is 90% black, 6% mixed, 3% East Indian, and 1% white. St. Lucians are also 90% Roman Catholic, 7% Protestant, and 3% Angilcan. Though English is the official language for the country, a widely spoken Patois catalogues the history of St. Lucia's occupation with a blend of African, English, and French dialects.
Tourism is a mainstay of the economy while agricultural exports such as bananas struggle to hold ground in the international market. Industries include: clothing, assembly of electronic components, corrugated cardboard boxes, coconut processing, among others. According to World Bank documents, St. Lucia's GDP account balance hovers around US$-12.1 billion while St. Lucia's external debt of US$241 million increases yearly (data estimates from the year 2000).
The first case of HIV was recorded in St. Lucia in 1985 and the disease has spread quickly throughout the region. While AIDS statistics specific to St. Lucia are not widely available, a University of the West Indies study has estimated that 5-6% of the region's GDP will be lost as a result of AIDS by the year 2010, numbers with devastating social and economic consequences. The Caribbean now has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate outside of sub-Saharan Africa.