Anne Jno Baptiste: Everything in Dominica is Precious
SUN'S New Series of Features: Enchanted Island-I came; I saw; I stayed
Co-owner of the Papillote Wilderness Retreat and Nature Sanctuary, Anne Jno Baptiste is passionate about helping to protect and preserve Dominica's natural forests as she believes it is the country's best asset.
Anne was born in New York City and moved to Miami Beach, Florida to attend school there. A few years later, in 1961, she came to Dominica at the age of 31.
She told The Sun: "I was looking for more in life. I came to Dominica on a visit, I stayed six months exploring the island, then I went back for a couple of years then I came to stay and I have been here ever since."
Thousands of Dominicans, and Caribbean nationals, by extension, tend to travel to the United States – and other more developed countries - for what is deemed to be greener pastures and more opportunities. However, Anne has been on the Nature Island for over 50 years, this begs the question; why?
"For one thing, it is exquisitely beautiful. The rainforest is very moving to me, she said. "Dominica was a new, just developing country and I felt I could play a part, and that excited me."
A piece of paradise
This led Anne to purchase a piece of land in the Roseau Valley and establish a restaurant and nightclub called Laye Ca Fete, which closed during the transition years leading to the country's independence in 1978.
"Papillote evolved from thing to thing, as the country did," Jno Baptiste said. "It started off as a training workshop for young people called The Pumpkin Workshop, and we had some German friends who trained young people here, teaching them woodwork and building skills because subsequent to Hurricane David in 1979, Dominica really needed a lot of building skills."
This hotelier has also been keenly observing the island during her stay here and shared her views on how Dominica has evolved over the years.
"It has developed in many ways. It's been through a lot of traumas, a couple of hurricanes which were serious and it is fighting through development. It is a new country and nothing is easy anymore," she said. "I am glad I have been a part of it."
Certainly, Anne made sure to play her part in the country's development. In the post-hurricane David era, she and her husband Cuthbert Jno Baptiste rebuilt Papillote into a seven-room inn and restaurant, the grounds were developed into an ecologically sensitive garden and to date, Papillote Gardens has been recognized as among the best in the Caribbean. Anne also served as President of the Dominica Hotel Association.
Our environment is precious
Papillote Wilderness Retreat is synonymous with the village of Trafalgar and the owners made sure to give back to the community while pursuing their passion for keeping the forest pure, protected, and nurtured.
"We certainly employ people from Trafalgar and have had training programmes all along. We work with young people. We continue to have young people around, we continue fifty years on," Anne said.
This 92-year-old proprietor doesn't know what the future holds for Papillote Wilderness Retreat or the country but she is hopeful that she leaves behind a legacy of protecting the country's forests and unique ecosystem.
"I would like to see it preserved because the gardens are good," she said. "We own 15 acres by the Trafalgar Falls so I'd like to see it protected as an asset to the country and I would like for it to continue (when I am passed)," she said.
Jno Baptiste commends the country on its continuing preservation efforts but pointed out more that could be done to help Dominica maintain its Nature Island status.
"I would like to see more concern over the protection of the environment," she said. "I would like to see it taught in schools. It is important, it is precious. Dominica's forests are precious and they should be protected", she said. "The major thing you have in this country is its beauty and we should protect it forever."