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Sep 9, 2019

Building Momentum and Capacity for True Resilience

Collaboration training for action & systems change
Collaboration training for action & systems change

The Atlantic Hurricane “Season” is from June 1st to November 30th of every year with peak activity occurring in September. This year, as with every year, countless people throughout the Caribbean and the eastern coast of the United States are watching satellite images, tracking storms, and preparing their homes for six months of the year – all the while hoping and praying. While Hurricane Dorian did minimal damage on St. Croix, its impact on our sister islands, St. Thomas and St. John, was felt more directly. As we collectively grieved for the catastrophic damage Dorian wreaked on the Bahamas, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is profoundly cognizant that the process of recovery in the face of Category 5 hurricanes is a long and arduous one. As island nations around the world are being forced to annually deal with the global impacts of climate change, the Foundation is committed to leading a progressive and focused resiliency agenda for the people of St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands.

With St. Croix’s only hospital still condemned two years after Category 5 Hurricanes Maria and Irma and with almost half of our public schools closed, we are still living with the long-term impacts of the disaster. We also know recovery is no quick exercise. Once the emergency relief ends, the process of rebuilding the social consciousness and systems begins – and it can take decades. During and after hurricanes it is communities, it is neighbors, it is the social infrastructure of a place that must come together, collaboratively, to foster front-line survival and long-term recovery. We witnessed it every day. And that’s why the Foundation is dedicated to continuing to build on the momentum we have achieved by nurturing greater capacity in our nonprofits through our Nonprofit Consortium.

With over 25 official members and another 20 active participants, our NPC represents every sector in our civil society– from arts and cultural heritage to health human welfare – and, during this past quarter has been building off previous strategies to leverage our momentum for greater impact. The NPC continues to empower and equip nonprofits with the tools to hone in on specific actions around strengthening our resiliency and embedding it into a holistic, equitable and sustainable Vision.

We’re mindful, every single day, that we could not do this without our GlobalGiving partners, and in honor of communities just like ours who are struggling, we want you to know that we build with intention to help create a community-based model of resiliency.

Skill-Building that Empowers Leaders to Advocate and Serve
In June, St. Croix Foundation invited world-renowned systems change strategist, Tuesday Ryan-Hart back to St. Croix for her second visit with our Nonprofit Consortium and community members.

Last summer, Ms. Ryan-Hart introduced local nonprofits to a new concept of community engagement, entitled “The Art of Hosting” (AoH), to initiate conversations and training around high impact collaborations and leadership development. This summer, building off her first visit, Ms. Ryan-Hart provided more individualized trainings around collaboration and shared work to nurture further capacity around the spirit of collaboration to address systemic issues. Today, the Foundation is acutely sensitized to the fact that Systemic Change in our Civic Sector (and all sectors of our community) must happen in order for our entire Territory to not only survive but to thrive. As such, the Foundation has committed to drilling down deeper.

Ms. Ryan-Hart along with fellow AoH practitioner, Kelly McGowan, took a deeper dive into the concepts surrounding the Art of Hosting and provided fully immersive trainings in the practice. In total, over 40 nonprofit partners attended the two-day workshop in which diverse community stakeholders explored and unpacked barriers to effective collaborations to include acknowledging perceptions of where and how Power sits in a room; mutual agreements around shared work and shared values; how stakeholders host themselves as Individual Leaders vs. Organizational Leaders in collaborative spaces;  and how to find balance between Chaos and Order in complex systems.

Ms. Ryan-Hart’s engagement represents the deepening of our commitment to a progressive and sustainable approach to capacity building in our civic sector. Thanks to our GlobalGiving family, and some very special corporate and individual friends of the Foundation, the Nonprofit Consortium will continue to provide vital services to our community while also moving the needle on entrenched social issues.

The Nonprofit Consortium Connects for Data and Advocacy
In August, the Nonprofit Consortium hosted a week of sector meetings for St. Croix nonprofits to explore the following:

Organizational Sustainability, including how the Nonprofit Consortium (as a body) can contribute to the mission and vision of each individual organization; and how the NPC can help organizations meet the fiscal and organizational needs of nonprofits given system-wide dysfunction. 

Community Organizing, including strengthening consensus on place-based priorities and determining the necessary steps for diverse nonprofits to come together around work to leverage resources for greater impact.

Consortium Building, identifying strategies and specific implementation steps to move collective work forward and establishing evaluation methods.

After four days of work with 20 organizations sitting at the table, the NPC determined that data collection is one of the most critical variables in ensuring organizational sustainability, the ability to be effective community organizers and to build capacity within the Consortium itself. The Consortium established major milestones and metrics to be observed and formally committed to a six-month deep dive into the data behind their work. Beginning with a planning phase in September and a 3-month period during which relevant sector-related data will be collected, the NPC has a projected date of February 2020 to begin reporting to the community and global stakeholders.

Making the Case for St. Croix on Capitol Hill
While the Consortium builds capacity, St. Croix Foundation continues to take every opportunity to educate the nation on the true conditions people in the Virgin Islands are still facing.

Our president, Deanna James along with the Foundation’s Local Disaster Recovery Manager, Kemit Lewis, traveled to the capitol this past August to build networks and support for the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to direct more federal and philanthropic resources to the Territory and more specifically to our local nonprofits on St. Croix.

Our Delegates were able to describe the St. Croix story, which dates back much farther than the two Cat. 5 storms that hit the island in 2017 - from the reality of being a territory with no voting rights to the lingering impact of Hurricane Hugo and the economic recession resulting from a failed oil refinery.

As the Foundation and the Nonprofit Consortium work to move the needs forward on true resilience over the long-term, ensuring that the reality of St. Croix’s needs and assets are fully understood is paramount—and the Foundation is committed to giving voice to Virgin Islanders and strengthening our nonprofits.

The Voice of the Civic Sector
We thank our GlobalGiving partners near and far for their commitment to St. Croix and the Virgin Islands. Not only has your partnership provided financial and networking resources for us to show the power of philanthropy when partners of all sizes collaborate – it has given us an opportunity to have a voice far beyond our shores. That empowerment leads St. Croix Foundation to pay it forward, and we will soon be announcing and sharing a very special Movement Building Activity that our Nonprofit Consortium will be voicing this fall.

We’ve only just begun…

Neighbors, community, healing. Post Maria, 2017
Neighbors, community, healing. Post Maria, 2017
Deanna James, President, advocates on Capitol Hill
Deanna James, President, advocates on Capitol Hill
Nonprofit Consortium's 4 Sectors: On the Move!
Nonprofit Consortium's 4 Sectors: On the Move!
The Art of Hosting (and collaboration) in action!
The Art of Hosting (and collaboration) in action!
Aug 16, 2019

Sustainable Impact through Holistic Recovery Initiatives

Our first solar NCCER cohort is in training!
Our first solar NCCER cohort is in training!

As we write this report, we are mindful that next month will mark two years since Hurricanes Maria and Irma stormed the Virgin Islands in 2017. Today, as our community continues to recover, St. Croix Foundation is focused on work that supports long-term sustainability and resilience. As in so many other communities, on St. Croix sustainability and resiliency are not just words but imperatives. At the Foundation, we are acutely aware that as an isolated island community, St. Croix must look beyond theory and put into practice community-based initiatives that will drive our priorities of energy independence, economic resiliency, nonprofit stability, workforce development, and overall community self-sufficiency.

Today we are so pleased to announce that the projects we’ve been developing and updating you on, in conjunction with partners in the public, private, and civic sectors, are actively at work! And, because it wouldn’t be possible without you, we wish to extend our deepest appreciation to GlobalGiving and our family of supporters for making our vision a reality.

The Synergy of Workforce Development, Energy Independence, and Community
In June, St. Croix Foundation announced the official launch of our Solar-Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative. A perfect representation of how the Foundation is advancing its recovery agenda and its commitment to holistic community development, this initiative was conceptualized to serve as a replicable model through which local youth are trained in order to build a skilled local workforce of solar installers; in turn, they will receive hands-on internship opportunities by solarizing several carefully selected community centers on St. Croix. Funded in partnership with the Virgin Islands Department of Labor, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Global Giving and a number of other national philanthropic entities, the community centers that will be solarized include The Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls VI, Flambouyant Gardens- senior citizens community, Mon Bijou New Youth Community Center, and USVI Soccer Association Center.

We are now fully in the first phase of the initiative, with 10 students aged 18-28 who are currently enrolled in the 5-month National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) course. Our students are receiving intense classroom instruction in NCCER Core Curriculum, Electrical Levels 1-4, and Solar PV Installation. They also receive a stipend during the program in addition to uniforms and toolkits which they will be allowed to keep upon completion of the program.

Once students have completed the classroom component of the program and have successfully passed each level of coursework, they will receive on-the-job training installing Solar Photovoltaic Systems on our four identified local community centers.

While building a skilled workforce around sustainable energy is undeniably critical to St. Croix’s social and economic health, we are equally excited about how this initiative will impact nonprofit community centers and the neighborhoods they serve. Community centers were selected based on their strategic location to isolated or underserved neighborhoods and their connection to established nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations and providing structured community-based programming. Centers will ultimately serve as neighborhood hubs for individuals and families in walking proximity that will support them with critical needs in the aftermath of future natural (or manmade) disasters. Independent of the grid, these centers will enable residents to store medication that requires refrigeration, charge electronic devices, and use internet connection to communicate with family. Community centers can also serve as localized distribution sites from which aid and relief items can be stored and disseminated in the future. Equally important, this initiative seeks to nurture a culture of resilience by empowering each nonprofit community center to achieve a reduction in utility costs, the savings from which can be reinvested in direct services that benefit the communities and vulnerable populations they serve.

Our first center, the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls has already pledged to begin November 4, 2019. And, thanks to our incredible network at GlobalGiving, the Foundation has secured funding to solarize our second community center, the Mon Bijou New Youth Community Center. The Foundation hopes to secure funding for two additional community centers, one of which serves the elderly and another that is located in a remote neighborhood with very little access to services in times of trouble. Each community center will be collecting data on usage, savings, and programming impact and the Foundation believes that this approach to sustainability and resiliency will become a model for recovering communities.

Hear from our students and Deanna James, President of St. Croix Foundation, on how this initiative is and will impact community:

AmeriCorps VISTA comes to the Virgin Islands to Support  8 St. Croix Nonprofits
After a comprehensive and rigorous application process representing over 400 staff hours, St. Croix Foundation is happy to report that we’ve been awarded a $340,157 grant by the Corporation of National and Community Service to assign fifteen (15) AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to support eight St. Croix nonprofits beginning in September 2019. We are very excited to welcome the first AmeriCorps VISTA Team in the territory in over 20 years.

In the aftermath of the 2017 Superstorms Irma and Maria, St. Croix Foundation conducted a survey on the status of nonprofits, who serve some of our most vulnerable residents, finding that 70% of nonprofits reported an increase in demand for their services while 64% were operating on a limited basis or not at all due to loss of funding, facility damages, and staff relocation. In response, St. Croix Foundation identified the AmeriCorps VISTA project as a strategy to build organizational capacity for nonprofits and began the comprehensive, year-long application process. With the application approved, a VISTA Volunteer Team will support the following organizations: Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls VI, St. Croix Landmarks Society, Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, St. Croix Montessori, Clean Sweep Frederiksted, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office and St. Croix Foundation.  In total, St. Croix Foundation’s VISTA Project expects to directly benefit youth, historic preservation, food security, green spaces, and relief and recovery services.

St. Croix Foundation specifically identified participating organizations who represent each of our subsectors within our civil society, including youth & education, health & human services, the built & natural environment, and arts & culture.  All sectors are also directly aligned with the priorities of the Foundation to ensure a holistic approach to capacity building among our nonprofits. As an added benefit, this initiative is also providing further opportunities for local residents by encouraging residents to apply to be part of the VISTA team, thereby learning about the critical role of our nonprofits.

Fiscal Sponsorship Opens Grant Opportunities For Recovery Groups
In every report, we like to update our partners on the work of the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG), who continues to steadily serve residents with unmet needs resulting from the 2017 Hurricanes. As the LTRG’s fiscal sponsor, the Foundation has been providing the LTRG with initial start-up support, waiving financial management fees and providing office space to the group so they can keep working while they build capacity.

In total, the LTRG has raised over $1,000,000 including a generous grant from GlobalGiving which will cover the cost of 6 new Disaster Case Managers (DCM) for the Territory. The DCM staff will work with the three Long Term Recovery Groups (STT, STX, STJ) to help address the needs of residents who were severely impacted by the 2017 storms but have no resources or recourse for recovery. As part of its response, the Federal Government was projected to award an $11 million grant to the Territory for Disaster Case Management almost two years ago; unfortunately, funds were failed to be released. As a result, our local nonprofits have been piecing funds together to hire staff to fill the gap. Beyond the DCM initiative, the STX-LTRG has, to date, completed major roof and hazard mitigation restoration on 52 hours.

Watch what our LTRG does every time a home is finished!

Our Appreciation...
Sometimes there are no words to adequately describe the appreciation we have for empowering St. Croix Foundation to serve, to lead, and to make these projects possible - projects whose ripple effects literally change lives. So instead, we'll just say thank you for being a part of philanthropy in the U.S. Virgin Islands!

Meet the children our first solar center serves!
Meet the children our first solar center serves!
Jun 18, 2019

Building a Better Future for Disaster Victims

A joyful homeowner hammers the last recovery nail
A joyful homeowner hammers the last recovery nail

The St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives from faith-based, non-profit, government, business and other organizations working within St. Croix to assist individuals and families as they recover from Hurricane Maria. The goal of the LTRG is to unite recovery resources with community needs in order to ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover from the disaster.

Construct and Rebuild: Homes, Safety, Joy, Relief
In this reporting quarter, we used $70,260.65 USD of GlobalGiving funds to purchase building materials for homes.  We were also pleased to celebrate the one-year anniversary of St. Croix receiving volunteer construction/rebuild teams. This milestone represents 478 volunteers, 30,176 volunteer labor hours, 37 total groups, and 50 homes completed! We have 78 homes in the queue, so the work is only just beginning. Special thanks are given to our member partner Lutheran Disaster Response for leading this project.

One important aspect of this program is the “Final Nail Service.” Upon completion of a home, the volunteers, staff, neighbors, and homeowners gather for a ceremony where the homeowner symbolically drives the “final nail” into their completed home. These ceremonies are full of emotion: joy, relief, gratitude, and praise. They symbolize the first major step in a beneficiary returning to a “normal” life. We are grateful to our volunteer teams from the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for introducing this practice to the LTRG. (Our homeowners love it too!)

Disaster Case Management - No Closed Cases Until Recovery is Complete!
Disaster Case Management (DCM) is the key for LTRGs to provide this much-needed assistance to individuals and households across the island. Each manager works with up to 80 cases at a time to ensure that every beneficiary is not inadvertently receiving duplicate benefits from FEMA, has connections to available resources on the island, and refers to the LTRG’s Unmet Needs Committee when resources are not available. Unlike other programs, Disaster Case Managers do not close a case until the client is completely recovered and has a sustainable action plan for thriving post-recovery.

With the loss of Federal funding to cover the expense of this program, the LTRG has pieced together funds through grants from various philanthropic sources—including GlobalGiving. We are pleased to announce that the $50,000 USD monies have allowed us to hire an additional DCM, Ms. Ahria O’Bryan. She has now been on-boarded and is up to 30 cases.

We are grateful to our National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) partner, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, for providing DCM training to ALL active DCMs in the territory. And we are also grateful to GlobalGiving for an additional grant to support this program. Recently, the new grant was recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton for GlobalGiving’s commitment to this work.

Unmet Needs Committee: Filling Critical Needs
As mentioned above, the Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a DCM has exhausted all resources available to a beneficiary, and needs are still not met, then the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap.

In this reporting quarter, the Unmet Needs Committee has completed the online portal for case intake. This portal, unique to St. Croix, allows DCMs to anonymously upload cases for review—preserving the dignity of the beneficiary and allowing the funders to make unbiased decisions. The $50,000 USD monies from GlobalGiving will begin to be expensed in the following quarter to address some of the needs of the 9 cases that have now been referred.

Building a Better Future
Some survivors affected by the hurricanes do not meet the eligibility criteria for government disaster aid programs or will continue to have unmet needs even after receiving the maximum amount of help from the disaster recovery programs. This is where recovery groups come into play. LTRGs are locally-based teams that are committed to seeing the islands through to full recovery.  The groups are helping Virgin Islanders remove debris, feed their families, and make repairs to their homes.

LTRGs will continue to bring people together to support grassroots recovery efforts and find solutions for some of the major challenges Virgin Islanders face after the disasters. Together with GlobalGiving, we will achieve this!

Volunteers construct a roof - and give hope & joy
Volunteers construct a roof - and give hope & joy
GlobalGiving & LTRG recognized by Clintons!
GlobalGiving & LTRG recognized by Clintons!
Final Nail Service: Giving thanks for repair
Final Nail Service: Giving thanks for repair
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