Sure, St Helena is a place with stunning microclimates and fascinating, well-preserved history. It’s a place with a unique whale shark population and a paradise for hikers. It’s a place with an unforgettable charm and a make-you-forget-about-it Tungi Liquor.
But St Helena is also a place where the minimum wage is £2.95 and an avocado is £2.40, where the Government employs over 50 percent of the population and where Freedom of Speech and Data Protection legislation do not exist.
It’s a place well over 1,000 miles from any continent; with the population of a small village but the governance of a country. A place where imports and expatriate workers take up almost the entire annual budget.
Clearly, St Helena Island isn’t interesting solely because of the few things the international media keeps repeating. Like any place, St Helena isn’t solely interesting because of its positive aspects.
What really makes the island interesting, can’t be experienced in a week-long, helicopter-journalism visit: So SAMS aims to provide the world something it can’t get anywhere else; a complete, honest view into life on our lushious, stony-faced dot in ocean.
The British Overseas Territory of St Helena relies almost entirely on funding from the UK Government. The UK Gov. opened the St Helena Airport in hopes of boosting the island’s economy, and planned to take away funding aid.
And the Government still plans to decrease funding, despite the fact that tourist projections for the St Helena Airport were thousands of tourists per year off the mark.
The island’s infrastructure, which was already struggling, is now suffering even more as a result. St Helena’s economy is steadily declining after years of waiting for an Airport that cannot yet bring in greater tourist numbers than the RMS St Helena did.
Whatever tourism the island can get, is now more crucial than ever.
St Helena’s clocks, which were essentially stuck a few decades back, are suddenly jerked forward by the Airport’s opening: And to facilitate the modern tourism brought in by the Airport, the island needs to constantly make significant headway improving its abilities and facilities.
Being honest to ourselves and to tourists about our island and our capabilities is vital, and this is what SAMS aims to do.
South Atlantic Media Services, Ltd. (SAMS) is one of the only two established media organisations on the remote St Helena Island, South Atlantic Ocean.
The other (Saint FM/The Independent) is solely funded by British Conservative Lord Ashcroft.
We, SAMS, run the weekly Sentinel newspaper and operate SAMS Radio 1 and Radio 2.
We have a small, young team and are essentially the only training facility for print journalism, videography, photography, radio, interviewing, social media and design within well over a thousand miles in each direction.
SAMS was established in 2011, and used to be mainly government-funded; many on the island still perceive it as such.
But the new, small team at SAMS is establishing new funding and taking the organisation in a new, more modern direction.
What SAMS does, is vital to the democracy and survival of the island’s small community. It’s vital for those on-island, and also for the international perception of the island.
It’s said to be ingrained in the Saint culture that people won’t speak up; they’re scared of backlash from the Government.
“Don’t ask me lovey, they’ll slay me.”
“I ain’t speaking, they’ll force me out of my job.”
And because of lack of Freedom of Information and pure power, the Government is unwilling to disclose much of anything.
Getting stories on this island, isn’t easy. But in the spirit of true community journalism, SAMS works its hardest to give voice to the voiceless.
And the story of this island, in this period of time, is an astounding story in and of itself. With the opening of its first-and-only airport, the remote island is suddenly cliff-diving into a new era. The unique culture and environment are worthy of a feature film as this changeover occurs, buts it going relatively unnoticed.
Right now, St Helena is one of the most interesting but least-documented places in modern history: Come with us to explore the secrets of the South Atlantic.