Last fall, students in Julie Rogers’ sophomore Environmental
Design studio at Texas A&M University unveiled conceptual
designs for the Shandeelay Resort and Health Spa in Charlottesville,
Tobago — the smaller of two main Caribbean islands that
make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The resort is to be constructed by Touch Tobago, a Christian
ministry and relief organization founded in 2002 by Noreen Johnson,
a Trinidad native and obstetrics and gynecology doctor who practices
in College Station. Touch Tobago works closely with other organizations
and volunteers to provide much needed medical help to the inhabitants
of the island’s small fishing villages. The country, Rogers
said, has an estimated three-year surgical backlog.
In 2004, construction teams from Touch Tobago built the Bon
Accord Vocational School and Church in Scarborough, Tobago.
The organization plans to use funds generated by the proposed
Shandeelay Health Resort and Spa to fund its ongoing medical
relief efforts, which include free surgery for those in need.
While catering to tourist, the spa will also provide temporary
housing for Touch Tobago’s volunteer medical teams.
The spa will offer non-invasive cosmetic treatments, luxurious
spa facilities and will specialize in herbs and natural medicines
unique to Tobago. In fact, the students’ spa designs included
a Center for Traditional and Herbal Medicine. The facility will
be used to research and document Tobago’s diverse flora
while providing herbal products for use in the spa.
Johnson said Touch Tobago is dedicated to healing whole person
and not just the physical body — the body, mind and spirit
To kick off the project, Rogers’ students met with Johnson
and other Touch Tobago volunteers who later participated in the
“The energy these students bring to the project is amazing,” said
Shelaine Moreno, the medical project manager for Touch Tobago.
To minimize the spa’s impact on the island’s fragile
environment, the student’s resort designs utilized a sustainable
tourism model. Andy Skadberg of AdventGX, a tourism-consulting
agency that specializes in ecotourism, visited Rogers’ studio
to discuss how responsible tourism can be used to enhance economies
and improve quality of life in the destination communities.
“The opportunity to help others less fortunate than ourselves
while still studying and learning at a university is one rarely
encountered, and it is a true joy to experience,” said
Tess Kroeger, one of the students designers who worked on the
“I always wondered what I could do with architecture,
as far as benefiting the community,” added fellow student
Leslie Schulze. “I feel like this project has shown me
what sort of opportunities I might have to really reach out with
my future profession.”
Over the years, Rogers, who holds a Ph.D. in architecture and
has a special interest in Southeast Asian art and architecture,
has lead her students in the development of design solutions
for a number of international relief organizations. Her students
designed a new facility to house the Cambodian Land Mine Museum
and Rehabilitation Center, which will soon be under construction.
More recently her students provided drawings for two HIV/AIDS
clinics to be built in Cambodia by CARE International and Maryknoll
“These projects allow the students to develop a worldview
and to understand how they, through their architecture, can have
significant impacts on people around the world, said Rogers. “There
is a beauty about these humble projects, and it is recognized
not only in the architectural details, but also in the hope that
is embodied in the architecture.”