‘Roots en Route’: Why making the trail with a donkey Marie-Louise

‘Roots en Route’: Why making the trail with a donkey Marie-Louise

By Foresee Foundation

When Foresee Foundation started discussing the creation of “Roots en Route” with our local stakeholders, one of the questions that popped up was “Why walk with a donkey?” and the answer was “Tjerk has done this before travelling with his donkey Lodewijk from France to the Netherlands and it creates to chance to dialogue.”

Tjerk Ridder is a theatre-maker from Utrecht, who along with St. Maarten-based counterparts Sjorensly Valies and Darin “King Vers” Hodge and St. Maarten-based donkey, Marie-Louise, have taken up the challenge of Foresee Foundation and Stichting St. Maarten Utrecht (SMU) to help create the Caribbean part of the already established European walking trail (St. Martin of Tours Route). The island’s trail will connect to the European Path of Saint Martin.

Roots en Route, funded by Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie and Prins Bernard Culture Fund Caribbean, is a project aimed at sharing our communities’ identities, commonalities, and differences while fostering understanding and respect. It seeks to celebrate our shared past, present, and future in a unique and meaningful manner. Roots en Route builds a tangible bridge between St. Maarten/St. Martin and Europe – a bridge built not just of physical trails but shared stories and cultural understanding.

A key component is connecting and facilitating an exchange of ideas, cultures, perspectives, commonalities and differences, while fostering understanding and respect. This is easiest done through dialogue. According to Tjerk, who has already completed 1234 kilometres of the St. Martin of Tours Trail from France to the Netherlands, people are immediately drawn to the humble attitude of a donkey. “They don’t throw up barriers, and people often see them as kindness on four legs,” Tjerk explained, adding that on many occasions, Marie-Louise has already created moments of positive interaction with the public. “If someone sees two guys with a guitar walking, that is normal; but with Marie-Louise, people are curious and open to having a conversation.”

Keeping Marie-Louise safe: The planning team has extensively discussed the donkey’s safety and has an established protocol in place to keep her happy. According to the Director of Foresee Foundation, “Marie-Louise is on vacation, on day-two of the 14-day trail creation, she decided she wanted to go to the beach.” The team had to adjust the hike around her decision to head to Indigo Beach for a roll in the sand. “We are extremely happy that we also collaborate with Seaside Nature Park and have access to Roderick Halley’s expertise in handling horses – and in our case, Marie-Louise.” Seaside Nature Park has committed to providing logistic and technical support for this project.

Other partners in this project are Seagrape Tours and the nature and environmental organization EPIC, which created the route for the hiking trail that will become the path of Saint Martin on the island of Saint Martin. The National Institute of Arts (NIA) is also a partner in the establishment of this connection. The “Roots en Route” journey can be followed via www.facebook.com/foreseefoundation.

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