By Elesha George
In the presence of family and supporters,Refica Attwood, the Executive Director of the Wallings Nature Reserve, graciously received the Commonwealth Points of Light award – a symbol of her hard work and dedication towards preserving part of Antigua and Barbuda.
The 33-year-old created the first community-managed national park in the twin island state. Her journey began with a grant of $50,000 in 2016 which she used to regenerate the 1,680 acres of rainforest.
The idea to preserve the area stemmed from the countless treks she took with her father from the age of four and witnessing the decline of that environment over time.
Today, many locals and guests to Antigua enjoy tours in the area, which just a few years ago was littered with garbage and overrun by goats.
In recognition of her accomplishment, on Wednesday morning, Governor Sir Rodney Williams presented Attwood with a Points of Light award, which celebrate acts of charity across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackle social challenges.
The awards are a mark of appreciation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth.
As her local representative, Sir Rodney presented the award, announcing, “I am delighted to present the 226th Commonwealth Points of Light Award signed by the Majesty Her Queen to Ms Refica Attwood.”
The award is administered by the UK’s Department of Culture on behalf of the Queen.
Lindsy Thompson, Resident British Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, was also present at the ceremony and explained why Attwood was chosen.
“When we were approached to find someone from this great nation to nominate for this award today, my mind went back to a breakfast meeting that we’d hosted on International Women’s Day back in March,” she said.
“Ms Attwood’s enthusiasm, her energy, her drive for her cause stuck in our minds and stuck in our memories and so when we were approached, she naturally was the person we suggested,” Thompson said.
Attwood told media it had not been an easy journey to develop the nature reserve.
“I get up every day and think ‘I started, I have to finish’- that’s my mantra. The worst I can hear is ‘no’, and so far we’ve been going well, with other countries now trying to replicate what we have,” she explained.
On the sidelines of the ceremony, she said she was glad she never gave up doing voluntary work, which she undertakes in addition to her role at the reserve, and was happy for the support of her colleagues who encouraged her to keep going.
“I love it. It’s eye-opening to see others outside of Antigua and Barbuda recognise the work that is being done,” she remarked, as she encouraged others to continuing their volunteer work.