Activist Phillip “Billy” Leslie and Chef Sean Kuylen exemplify heroic spirit
During its 13th annual award ceremony which premiered on Friday, November 10, 2023, Oceana recognized two extraordinary Belizeans as its 2023 Ocean Heroes. They are Chef Sean Kuylen, and activist and tour operator, Phillip “Billy” Leslie, of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
During the virtual presentation of this year’s awards, Oceana’s Vice President Janelle Chanona, shared, “Oceana’s Ocean Hero Award Ceremony is one of my absolute favorite events of the year, because it gives the team and I the opportunity to recognize the unsound work of a fellow Belizean. Their work is making a difference in all our lives!”
Whether he is talking to his guests, tour guides or fellow Belizeans, Billy’s truths resonate in every room—because they come from the heart. The heart of a volunteer, as the saying goes, is not measured in size but the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. We thank him for his unwavering commitment to making positive differences in the lives of Belizeans and her future generations.
Upon accepting his award, Leslie shared, “I would challenge all Belizeans out there that depend on our ecosystems to stay pristine, to stand up and voice their concerns”. He accepted his award on behalf of all those who take the time to listen when he shares about Belize and the importance of our marine resources.
To some he is the no bar code ambassador—weaving local ingredients into gourmet dishes. But long before he was Chef, Sean was marching to his own drum, first in his birthplace in Corozal and later in the kulcha capital, Dangriga. Sean’s passion and commitment for Belize’s marine resources is always center stage, and he has never shied away from using his voice and his platform to raise awareness about the environment. Sean shared his motivation for doing the right thing when it comes to sourcing sustainable seafood and speaking up against illegal fishing is the difference we can make when we come together.
Upon accepting his award, Kuylen shared, “Because of this, I will continue to do what is right, infectiously so.”
The Oceana Ocean Hero Awards has honored more than 20 Belizeans for their exceptional accomplishments in ocean conservation, advocacy, and education. Past award recipients include Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia, Dr. Melanie McField, former Fisheries Minister Rene Montero, Lisa Carne, Jamal Galves, Miguel Alamilla, Captain Romauldo “Romi” Badillo Sr., Janet Gibson, Wil Maheia, Luz Hunter, Madison Edwards, Michael Heusner, Captain Earl David Jr, Guadalupe Lampella, Dale Fairweather, Neville Smith, the late Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey, Kevin Andrewin, Chef Jennie Staines, Dr. Rachel Graham, and Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts.
The stained-glass awards were designed and made by local artist, Leisa Carr-Caceres of Leisa Beliza.
To watch the 2023 Oceana Ocean Hero award ceremony, please use this link.