In Brief:

Stedson Stroud, Barry Francis, Robin Benjamin
July 13, 2017 By Emma Weaver
Stedson Stroud
Photo by Emma Weaver

St. Helenian Stedson Stroud has gained international attention for his endemic plant discoveries and rediscoveries, and for his conservation efforts, on the South Atlantic islands.

Stroud grew up on St. Helena before leaving to travel the world. His childhood on St Helena led him to be a conservationist.

“Having been brought up using the land as you needed, not taking too much from it, but putting more into the land than what you take from it[…] that led me on to be a conservationist,” he said.

After travelling the world and leading conservation efforts on Ascension Island, Stroud has returned to the St. Helena to live and farm.

Including his rediscovery of the endemic St. Helena Boxwood in 1998, Stroud has had a huge impact on endemic plant life on both St. Helena and Ascension Island. He is intrigued by the unique environments and species on the South Atlantic islands, which he believes deserve as much publicity for the endemism as the Galapagos.

“I got well into the endemic plant life of St. Helena,” he said. “Although I was into all the endemism like the Wirebird, the invertebrates, the plant life sort of interests me most. I got really interested in plants that were sort of clinging on to life in areas where you think, ‘how on earth would a plant grow out here in these rocks and cliffs?’ And some of those endemic plants were on the brink of extinction.”

Stroud grew up in the Horse Pasture area of the island.

“The Stroud family is the oldest family that lives at Horse Pasture and we go back a few generations,” he said. “My great-great-great grandfather came here during the imprisonment of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He came down as a guard, but he was a carpenter before he joined the military.”

Photo by Emma Weaver
Barry Francis

“I don’t think there’s anyone really in the South Atlantic Ocean doing this yet,” Barry Francis said. “It’s a first, I think.”

Francis, a 35-year-old St. Helenian who spent most of his life on Ascension, has returned to St Helena to start a business venture.

Sonnyboy’s Geek Boutique, next to Mylyn’s Cuisine in Jamestown, is a video gaming shop for the youth of the island.

While New Horizons provides sports activities for kids, Francis said, few other places on the island facilitate youth culture and interaction – especially for those kids not interested in sports. Geek Boutique hopes to fill a gap in the market and community by offering a safe environment for kids to interact and work together through video games.

The bullied befriend the bullies in Francis’ shop: His gaming place has allowed kids to find more in common with each other. He now hopes to expand his business to sell comic books and other items which aren’t found elsewhere on the island – or in the South Atlantic.

“I’ve been, obviously, to St. Helena and I grew up on Ascension – and I’ve been to the Falklands and I’ve never seen a comic book store or a video games arcade in any of those three places,” Francis said. “And I’m pretty sure there’s none on Tristan de Cunha, so I think for this segment of the South Atlantic Ocean, I think I’m the first true nerd king.”

Francis balances his six-day work weeks at Geek Boutique with his IT business, as well as with his involvement as the drummer of local band Island Politics.

Robin Benjamin

After moving from St. Helena to the Falklands when he was seven, St Helenian Robin Benjamin is now an e-commerce specialist in the UK.

“Basically I work online managing the eBay, Amazon and Web stores for a company here in the UK,” he said. “I also run my own online business from home.”

Benjamin, age 31, is the son of Wendy Benjamin (the hairdresser) and Geoff Benjamin (who works in the hospital lab).

Benjamin has returned to the island for holidays throughout his life, as he misses aspects of the island when abroad.

Photo provided by Robin Benjamin

“The main thing I miss from the island is my family,” he said. “Especially my nephews. I wouldn't say there's much I enjoy from the UK, but it's where I've made my life, so I have great friends here.”

Benjamin is currently on honeymoon in Venice, but hopes to return to St. Helena soon with new wife, Karen Benjamin (the couple married July 8).

“I hope to come back soon - within the next year or so for a holiday only,” he said. “In an ideal world, I would love to come back to live, but it's just not practical at the moment.”

Benjamin said he had fond childhood memories of the island, which had a hand in drawing him home both for holidays and to live.

“My favourite memories of St. Helena include growing up in our old family home - Number 1 Main Street – and needing to see the fish in the ponds opposite before going to sleep,” he said. “I always remember Christmas' at home watching the get-togethers on the bridge.”

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