What makes you so passionate about helping the people of Roatán?
My connection to the people of the Caribbean began in the early 1980s when I would regularly visit family in St. Thomas. I enjoyed exploring the island and loved the laid-back pace, but I began to notice a common thread. The locals were generally happy people, but they were not happy with the tourist population and foreigners taking over their island. As it was explained to me, “Mr. Dachner, these people were never invited to St. Thomas. They came and changed our life and our history here. With all their purchases, our land has been swallowed up and sold off, leaving us with nothing but a higher cost of living. Our culture has been changed. We can’t go back, and we never had a say-so.”
I’ve recognized the same cultural squeeze in Roatán for many years with the locals, Spanish mainlanders and tourists. The local people largely aren’t considered and are often left behind in the name of “progress”. I consider it important to not let the same things happen in Roatán that happened in St. Thomas.
How are you using your experiences and talents to further the organization’s mission?
Some of the gifts I’ve been given are being a visionary and a frontiersman. I can see the future of Roatán with support, and I can see its’ future if no one steps up to do the long-term work. To see change we have to set the pace for innovation.
As a frontiersman, I’m not afraid to step out into new territory others might be afraid of trying. Our affordable housing project, Los Sueños, is the first Master Planned Affordable Housing project on Roatán. No one’s seen anything like it in the islands. There are organizations providing free homes, but the Abundant Life Foundation believes there are hard-working people who want the dignity of earning their own home. We offer people a hand up, not a hand out. Making the homes affordable involves a slew of complications, with the government, the banks, red tape, etc. We’re forging new territory, and through trial-and-error, we’re developing a replicable, sustainable model for the Bay Islands. That’s exciting!
I’m very invested in education as a way of raising up the next generation of leaders on Roatán. And finally Conservation is a big focus. Whether it’s a new waste water treatment plant, or ending apathy on the decay of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, I know the draw of tourism will end if the land and sea are not protected.
What motivates you on a daily basis to continue these efforts for Roatán?
My foundation is my Christian faith that motivates me to be the hands and feet creating opportunities for others to have an abundant life they deserve. I have been blessed and received deep love from my faith and want to pass on the blessing; it’s about giving. I want to leave a positive footprint wherever I go and a legacy where lives are changed and improved, families have a better life, and communities are strengthened.
We came to Roatán with the intention of relaxing and enjoying ourselves, while giving back. Our main focus shifted to staying and helping. Locals were at first unsure what to think of us. I knew our intentions were understood when a local woman remarked, “Over all these years I have met many Americans who came to the island, but you’re the first one who came with an effort to stay…and help. Thank you!”
What do you see for the future of ALF and Roatán?
In our hearts we are committed to Roatán and the people of the Bay Islands. With the rapidly changing economic and social changes taking place in Roatán, we see tremendous opportunity to make a difference. We want to become a model organization and forge new ground with relevant programs in Education, Community Development, and Conservation. I encourage our supporters to join us as we build vibrant futures in Roatán.