Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
On June 3, 2009, the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) bestowed the Honorary Degree Doctor of Humanities and Letters to Theodore Kheel for his many important contributions to the medical school and humanity. The degree is the highest award bestowed by the medical college. Jake Kheel received the degree on his behalf.
Kheel, one of the Founders of PUNTACANA Resort & Club, has had a long and distinguished career in conflict resolution. Over the past two decades, his primary focus has been on addressing what he calls “the most urgent conflict facing humanity today,” the conflict between economic development and environmental protection. The New York Times declared him “the most influential peacemaker in New York City in the last half century,” and Business Week dubbed him “Master Locksmith of Deadlock Bargaining.” He has been called on by presidents, governors, and mayors to act as a mediator or serve on fact-finding boards. Kheel helped found several nonprofits including a 1,500-acre ecological reserve in the Dominican Republic and the Ecological Foundation.
Kheel has helped VCOM arrange a collaborative agreement with the Punta Cana Foundation and Dominican Ministry of Health to establish a permanent medical clinic for over 20,000 immigrant workers without health care in Veron, Dominican Republic. His philanthropic foundations helped to remodel the outdated government clinic where now 4 doctors, nursing staff, HIV/AID staff and VCOM medical students receive 70-90 patients per day. Mr. Kheel has provided guest accommodations at his Punta Cana residence for VCOM faculty and hosted VCOM students on mission trips.
He has catalyzed change in higher education through financial assistance, facilities for international conferences and advocacy for the Global Seminar for Environment and Sustainability, first originating at Cornell University and now affiliated with VCOM. This interactive network of over 50 institutions worldwide recently expanded to medical schools in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras where VCOM has clinics to provide the Global Seminar for Environment and Health.
On May 17, in Florianopolis Brazil, The World Travel & Tourism Council announced that Grupo PUNTACANA, the parent company of the PUNTACANA Resort & Club, located in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, has been selected as the winner of the esteemed 2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Award in the Destination Stewardship category. The honor was granted due to the company's dedication and success in developing a program of commitment for sustainable tourism, economic and social wellbeing for their product and surrounding region. The prestigious accolade recognizes the protection of natural and cultural heritage, social and economic benefits to local people, and environmentally-friendly business practices. Grupo PUNTACANA is the first Caribbean organization to be recognized in this category.
According to Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President & CEO of WTTC, PUNTACANA Resort & Club successfully demonstrates sustainable tourism practices on a daily basis. "We are delighted to present the 2009 Destination Stewardship Award to the Grupo PUNTACANA as a tourism enterprise that has over the years developed exceptional programs in sustainable development. These programs have not only helped the local community by providing jobs but also educational and health resources unmatched by other destinations. Sustainability has been in the Grupo PUNTACANA's DNA since its inception, setting the bar high for other companies conducting business in the region."
"We are honored to receive the 2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Stewardship Award. Grupo PUNTACANA strives to be an example of successful regional environmental and social responsibility development for the world's tourism industry," said Frank Rainieri, Founder and CEO of Grupo PUNTACANA. He added, "Our commitment to the Punta Cana region has always been defined by a deep and humble respect for its breathtaking natural treasures and warm, friendly people."
3 finalists for the Destination Stewardship Award were selected by an international team of independent judges for having successfully demonstrated sustainable tourism development practices in all categories including the protection of the surrounding natural and cultural heritage, social and economic benefits to local people, and environmentally-friendly operations. The property was also judged on its efforts to communicate widely with local and international media, as well as other stakeholders, in order to set an example and promote best responsible business practices in the travel & tourism industry. Grupo PUNTACANA demonstrated exceptional commitment in all of the areas mentioned, driven by the company's Ecological Foundation.