Monday January 18, 2010

Mr. Geoff Holt, the first quadriplegic, transatlantic solo sailor and family were granted Honorary Belongership in the Virgin Islands at a reception hosted by His Excellency the Governor Mr. David Pearey

Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE, who is also the minister with responsibility for immigration, conferred upon Mr. Holt and his family honorary belonger status on January 15 at a short ceremony held at Government House.

The Governor speaking at the ceremony said, “I was deeply pleased and honoured when the Premier shared with me that he wanted to do something special for Geoff and was gratified to accept willingly the Premier’s suggestion.”

The Premier thanked the Governor for agreeing to share his farewell reception with him to have the ceremony for Mr. Holt.

The Premier shared that when the matter was put to Cabinet all members unanimously agreed that the bestowing of honorary belongership on Mr. Holt and his family was an excellent idea.

During his presentation the Premier said, “We feel that the memory of this should be engraved in our minds and in our history. The Government decided to bestow Honorary Belongership on Geoff, his wife Elaine and his son Mark and I am happy to ask Mr. and Mrs. Holt if they would kindly agree to receive certificates of honorary belongership.”

The Premier said, “It is a prize that is given out sparingly. We think it is something that should be given to persons who have done so much to assist us here and especially in your situation. He added, “What you have done for this Territory is worth billions of dollars in advertisement and we are grateful.”

Mr. Holt in his response said, “I don’t think I could bring into words how grateful I am for the honour you have just bestowed upon us. I am under no illusion just how special it is and we will treasure them very much and will use them as an excuse to come back more often.”

The Governor described Mr. Holt as an extraordinary individual who exudes energy, power, enthusiasm and high spirit. “It is truly an honour and privilege to be here for such a special occasion.

I have been in the Virgin Islands for the best part of four years and during that time I have been involved in many eventful and momentous occasions.

I have not experienced anything quite as thrilling, unusual or heart-warming as the events of the last week surrounding Geoff’s arrival here across the Atlantic, and all the events that have followed in the subsequent seven days,” the governor added.

Mr. Holt shared that his accident occurred in Cane Garden Bay 25 years ago and persons would think, “Coming back 25 years later would be putting some ghosts to rest. I am not going to pretend that it is easy being in a wheelchair but I am certainly never one to look backwards.”

He added, “If not for my accident I would not have met my wife. In the mid-nineties the daughter of the Queen, Princess Anne personally asked me to help set-up a national charity to help other disabled people go sailing.

At that time in the United Kingdom (UK) there were 20 to 30 disabled people who we knew of with three to four sailing clubs. Last year, 22,000 disabled people went sailing and currently there are 150 sailing clubs in the UK.”

“One thing I have learned about being disabled is it is pointless looking backwards; it is all about looking forward and following your dreams,” Mr. Holt shared.

While in the Territory, Mr. Holt visited a number of schools on Virgin Gorda and Tortola and during his visit to the Eselyn Henley Richez Learning Centre on Tortola he left these words of encouragement for the children, “Be good to yourself, true to yourself and if you have dreams, follow them, dare to dream and dare to follow them because look where it got me.”

Mr. Holt arrived in the Territory on January 7 and was greeted in Cane Garden Bay by more than 100 well wishers and supporters.

Honorary Belonger Status is an award granted by the Cabinet to those persons who the Cabinet agrees has made significant contribution to the Territory.