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TCI’s Gabriel Saunders and Team Win University-Wide Social Entrepreneurship Competition



#Providenciales, 24 December, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – Gabriel Saunders, a 23-year-old Turks and Caicos Islander, recently won the University of Waterloo’s Hult Prize Finals, as part of Team “Decomp”. On Tuesday, December 3rd, the University of Waterloo Hult Prize Finals was hosted at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. Eight teams pitched their ventures that aligned with this year’s social challenge – “Building Start-ups That Have A Positive Impact On Our Planet With Every Dollar Earned.”

The judges heard pitches on ideas, such as leatherless “leather” created through using bacteria, artificial intelligence sorting bins, as well as re-useable and antimicrobial menstrual pads.

Decomp, which is comprised of four members who have specialized in different areas – Gabriel Saunders (Marketing), Alison Purdon (Global Development), Caleb Turpin-Quaye (Finance), and Samuel Abdelshahid (Engineering) – pitched their solution to combat global plastic pollution.

Since 1950, humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic – of which most becomes waste. Plastic waste takes 400-1,000 years to degrade and while sitting in landfills, it emits harmful greenhouse gases.

Decomp identified microbes – both fungi and bacteria – that are able to consume different types of plastics in 6-8 weeks. The group will be utilizing bioreactor technology to control temperature, pH, and humidity levels to optimize the growing conditions of the microbes. Plastics will be sorted, shredded, and placed into the bioreactors to be degraded by the microbes.

Decomp was awarded the first place prize – winning $3,000 for research and development, as well as having their travel expenses to the regional round covered.

“We’re extremely proud to have won the Hult Prize at University of Waterloo Finals, but this is just the beginning,” said Saunders. “Teams from University of Waterloo have done extremely well at this competition. In the past three years, two teams from our university have made it to the finals. We want to be the first University of Waterloo team to win it all,” added Saunders.

As a result of winning their On-Campus Hult Prize Finals, Decomp has a guaranteed spot at the Regional Summit of their choice. The Top 50 teams from the Regional Summits will spend six weeks at the Hult Prize Accelerator in Boston to learn from a global ecosystem of business leaders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners. Following this, six teams will be chosen to pitch their social ventures at the Hult Prize Finals, which will be hosted at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York City.

The Hult Prize is the largest student entrepreneurship competition in the world. Each September, Former President Bill Clinton announces a social challenge topic. Thousands of post-secondary students from universities around the world form teams and create social enterprises to tackle the challenge and compete for the grand prize of $1 million USD in start-up funding.

Gabriel Saunders is a Master of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MBET) student at the University of Waterloo, as well as a Student Entrepreneurship Coach for Concept – the university’s pre-incubator program. Gabriel attended The Ashcroft School (now The International School of the Turks and Caicos Islands) and British West Indies Collegiate (BWIC) in Providenciales, and graduated from Trinity College School in Port Hope, Canada. He is the proud son of E. Jay and Drani Saunders.

You can watch Decomp’s pitch at the Hult Prize at University of Waterloo Finals at the following link –

Release: Gabriel Saunders

Photo Caption: Team Decomp (Left to Right) Samuel Abdelshahid, Alison Purdon, Caleb Turpin-Quaye, & Gabriel Saunders

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Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.


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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  



By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.

Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.

“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”

Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.

Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.

She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.

There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.

Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.

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