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
Jun 10, 2019

Closing Out, But Just the Beginning!

Friends are visited by an iguana.
Friends are visited by an iguana.

Project Close Out Report

There is a Norfolk Island Pine tree that stands just beyond our front porch, with half of the branches stretching 3 feet long, and the other half, lighter green and tender, measuring about 7 inches. It is impossible to miss. Whether I am standing looking out on the porch, readying my son for school, walking the dog back into our home, or looking up from my laptop - there is the pine.

Following the nearly two years since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, you often hear families reflecting on the power of nature – the raw ways it can uproot and disrupt every aspect of our community – as well as the resiliency, beauty, and hope the regrowth inspires in us.

This tree in my yard has been a consistent visualization of what it is like for a community, and our school, to experience the disaster of two Category 5 hurricanes, and then to persevere through rebuilding, to set our efforts on long-term recovery, and also maintain a degree of “normalcy” for our children.

The Joy of A Learning Community

As the director of St. Croix Montessori, I have had the intense joy of seeing children discover that they are capable and appreciated.

While preparing for end-of-year presentations, a group of students ages 6 to 12 practiced presenting research projects to peers. A parent observing kept on marveling that each student had created a project on their own, based on their interest. While the format varied – from games to poster boards to giving a mini-lesson or writing a book – the collaboration was consistent. As one student practiced Jawperdy – a quiz on sharks, complete with points from 200 to 1000 - his peers advised him: “Remember to speak up when someone gets the correct answer. We get excited by that.”

A younger student was advised by an older student during practice, “It’s okay – just read your notes to us so you can help yourself memorize what you want to say. We know you can do it.”

Yet another student, who took weeks to speak to the teachers following his family’s relocation back to the island, transformed when asked to help the class raise an orphaned chick. “Here,” he told us. “At night, you wrap the chick in a towel, like a chickburrito, and it just quiets and sleeps.”  He called a veterinarian to confirm the chick’s health and create a care plan, and developed guidelines for classmates to safely care for our adoptee. 

Two alumni, who began middle school this year, presented to families about what they learned from their 12 years in St. Croix Montessori, including how to prepare for the transition into middle school. “Don’t give up,” one stated. “You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Because then you need to learn from them and figure out what works best for you. Then try it out and keep going.”

She added: “And parents, have patience.”

Restoring Balance

There are times where the fear, stress, and anxiety of parents takes on a feverish pitch, and they come to the school riddled with insecurity about parenting, their child’s friendships, and their child’s chances for future success. Even the best of our school’s team members have had those moments of doubt, whether it is about helping guide a child or family through a challenging time or trying to find the phrase or lesson that unlocks a child’s imagination and interest.

Aside from the trauma of the hurricanes, there are roughly 55% of families surveyed that acknowledged having personally experienced trauma in the past year (i.e. violence, loss of home, family separation). A recent study of the post-disaster impacts on children and families in the USVI reported that 60% of our children have depressive symptoms and there is a severe shortage of behavioral health professionals.

Which brings me back to our Norfolk Pine.

These pines are across the island. You will see many that look like the one outside my door. Many others are stripped bare, and only their dried trunks remain.

The pine has been a sort of measure – and reminder - of how lives progress after the hurricane.

Half of our lives are like those 3-foot branches: we have persisted. We continue to go on with the routines, rituals, and daily nuances of our families’ lives and life in a school.

The other half of our lives is like the newer portion of the Norfolk pine. It is flexible, growing, may never “catchup.” It gives us a new perspective on just how much we’ve accomplished, and what is needed and important in order to restore balance.

Overall, we are the entirety of this picture – aware that the world continues ahead, aware of our fragility, aware of our strength. The work to restore balance – in our schools, our homes, and our community – is the next phase.

So while we are closing out this project, because our most immediate and critical hurricane recovery efforts have been completed, we trust that the GlobalGiving community is engaged in our long-term efforts to restore balance to the St. Croix community by providing families sustained security for their children and ensuring equitable access to a quality education for St. Croix’s children exists for many generations and hurricane seasons to come.

https://globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-recovery-educating-for-equity-in-stx

Thank you for helping us restore the school!

To learn more about the long-term recovery and how we are building an equitable learning community across every area, policy, and practice of our school – from classroom to leadership – please follow our new project. We look forward to sharing the journey with you!

https://globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-recovery-educating-for-equity-in-stx

"I discovered cartography!" Student maps.
"I discovered cartography!" Student maps.
Day old orphan chick receives sugar water.
Day old orphan chick receives sugar water.
Nature reminds us that we are still recovering.
Nature reminds us that we are still recovering.
Alumni remind parents: ask questions, be patient!
Alumni remind parents: ask questions, be patient!

Links:

Jun 10, 2019

Establishing the Building Blocks to Recovery

22 organizations become members of our Consortium!
22 organizations become members of our Consortium!

Before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Caribbean, St. Croix Foundation couldn’t have known how critical our Nonprofit Consortium would become over the next several years. But as a nimble and innovative place-based community foundation committed to equity, resilience, and collaboration (even before the storms), we knew how important social infrastructure was for the overall health and welfare of a place. We had also seen the powerful impact of strong nonprofits. Initially conceptualized in response to the growing economic crisis on St. Croix, in September 2016 the Foundation launched our Nonprofit Consortium and for a year prior to the hurricanes had been steadily building unity and trust among over 35 organizations. When two Category 5 Hurricanes hit St. Croix in September 2017, nonprofits who’d been working together for a year launched into action, sharing resources - from information about conditions on the ground to labor, equipment, and office space - to get urgent recovery needs filled.

As another hurricane season stretches before us, for the Virgin Islands (and many communities just like ours) the stakes are high. With many residents still living under tarped roofs; with our only community hospital scheduled for a complete rebuild despite still being in limited service; and with the actual rebuilding of physical infrastructure just beginning, support from our global philanthropic community is now more important than ever before. For our community at this time, our social infrastructure is in fact equally (if not more) important as the capacity of local nonprofits (like our community health clinic) to serve and fill gaping service voids can literally mean the difference between life and death for our residents.

The Foundation’s June report is quite special to us because not only have we begun to formalize the building blocks of the Nonprofit Consortium, but we are pleased to report that the work, which has never stopped, is now honing in on targeted activities for a holistic community-based recovery. But first, we would like to pause and dedicate this special report to the many donors – corporate, individual, global and local - who have made the work of the Consortium possible, including our friends at GlobalGiving. Thank you, because from collaborative partnerships and words of encouragement to financial support, you have been a part of the work.

Formalizing the Nonprofit Consortium (NPC)
Today St. Croix Foundation is incredibly pleased to report that in April, 22 partners in our Nonprofit Consortium signed Memorandums of Understanding, becoming official members and pledging their commitment to work on building a system of nonprofit collaboration. The Memorandums of Understanding outlined roles and responsibilities of each member for the next year.

The first ‘official’ members of our NPC represent four sectors: Culture & the Arts, Youth & Education, the Natural & Built Environs, and Health & Human Welfare, and range from grassroots movements to formal 501(c)3 organizations. All members are firmly committed to the Foundation’s vision of a robust civic sector on St. Croix and throughout the territory. Over the course of the next year, the NPC’s goal is to expand formal membership to include the entire nonprofit sector on the island and in turn, grow to be an active coalition Territory-wide. Led by an Advisory Committee, comprising a broad cross-section of community stakeholders, consortium members will be provided targeted capacity-building support and from time-to-time convenings will be opened to a wider segment of the local nonprofit community.

The Foundation’s overarching goal is to leverage existing assets in our community into real social infrastructure in order to nurture a more sustainable and resilient recovery. The following organizations and civic projects are now official members of our Nonprofit Consortium and represent a holistic framework for the priorities of the Consortium, its expansion, and ultimately, its impact!

  • Christiansted Community Alliance
  • Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls
  • Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts
  • Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc.
  • Clean Sweep Frederiksted
  • Diane Hampton Breast Cancer Project
  • Fish with a Vet
  • FYR is LIT
  • Liberty Place
  • Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands
  • Music In Motion School of Higher Dance Education
  • Per Ankh
  • St. Croix Animal Welfare Center
  • St. Croix Environmental Association
  • St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group
  • St. Croix Montessori
  • Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center
  • Virgin Islands Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council
  • Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition
  • Virgin Islands Partners for Healthy Communities
  • Women’s Coalition of St. Croix
  • Yvonne A. Galiber Foundation

NPC Sustainable Development Goal Priorities
Today members of the Consortium and nonprofits are participating in a survey to target the top three priority areas for collaboration (shared resources, accountability, and tactics for addressing challenges) for multi-layered impact. Results will inform the work of the Nonprofit Consortium as it continues to build governing structures. The NPC’s Sustainable Development Survey – in alignment with the United Nations’ own Sustainable Development Goals - will begin to develop consensus around the priorities for the NPC’s own collaborative work. To date, the NPC has developed the following seven focus areas from which the Nonprofit Consortium will identify its priorities:

  1. Zero Hunger- The development of strategies for food sovereignty and a focus on the eradication of hunger and poverty is central to resiliency and sustainability.
  2. Clean Water & Sanitation- Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.
  3. Affordable & Clean Energy- Reliable and equitable access to sustainable energy are central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
  4. Sustainable Cities and Communities- Resilient communities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services such as energy, housing, education, medical care, and transportation.
  5. Climate Action- Climate change is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere.
  6. Life Below Water- Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
  7. Life on Land- The ability to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss is critical to all life.

These priorities will serve to frame the Consortium’s programming and will help to lead the Territory in the first broad-based conversation about sustainability.

Environmental Forum
As the Foundation prepared this report, our Nonprofit Consortium was hard at work wrapping up its first Environmental Resiliency Forum. Like a growing number of island states throughout the region that are establishing audacious goals around climate resiliency and energy carbon neutrality, the NPC is developing its own comprehensive environmental vision for St. Croix.

St. Croix is indeed facing a set of unique challenges, including the restart of one of the world’s largest oil refineries directly after the hurricanes. As such, the Nonprofit Consortium hosted an Environmental Forum this May 31st entitled The USVI Environmental Landscape and Activating Community Around Sustainability and Climate Change. The forum was specifically designed to disseminate information, provide a platform for unheard voices, engage national philanthropic partners around environmental justice and advocacy, and build a shared vision for the future.

In attendance were over 30 local nonprofit leaders with expert scholar, David Bond, who presented on the history and context of major environmental impacts such as the building of the HESS Oil Refinery and the Alumina Plant. Attorney Jack Dema also presented data he compiled as legal counsel for the Virgin Islands Government to contest the environmental impacts of the Refinery.

Outcomes from the forum include the development of a community-based Environmental Vision for the Territory.  Video from the forum is also being circulated to provide a broader cross-section of our community with a deeper understanding of the real impacts of heavy industry on St. Croix’s environmental landscape.

We hope you’ll take a moment and contact us at 340.773.9898 for footage and interviews from the Environmental Resiliency Forum.

AMERICORPS VISTA

An important objective for the Foundation for the past year has been completing the process of applying for a 15-member VISTA Team to assist eight organizations (including St. Croix Foundation) on St. Croix who have been active participants in our Nonprofit Consortium. With the majority of our nonprofits reporting an increased demand for their services while they grapple with few resources – including staffing – an AmeriCorps VISTA Team on St. Croix will be a major step toward enhancing the capabilities of our nonprofits. In the spring of this year, St. Croix Foundation asked for a VISTA Supervisor to meet with all the organization who will be participating in VISTA Project. The VISTA State Director spoke about the program and compliance and a work session for developing the VISTA assignment descriptions for each position was conducted.

Representing approximately 400 staff hours to date in coordination of nonprofit candidates and the development of a comprehensive application that includes detailed scopes of work and objectives for each organization, this project will be led by St. Croix Foundation, which will also serve as VISTA Team Lead for seven organizations:

  1. Caribbean Centers for Boys & Girls of the Virgin Islands
  2. Clean Sweep Frederiksted
  3. St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group
  4. St. Croix Montessori
  5. Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition
  6. St. Croix Landmarks Society
  7. Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Commission

The Foundation is pleased to report that we have completed the final submission of the application and, if reviews are favorable, our partnering nonprofits will be able to staff up and build infrastructure around programming and operations beginning in August of this year. This will be the first AmeriCorps VISTA Team to work on St. Croix in over 20 years.

Upcoming Activities
As always, we like to keep you updated on what we’ve got planned next, and the Foundation is currently working on our next convening already. We have invited Tuesday Ryan-Hart back to St. Croix for her second visit with our Nonprofit Consortium and community members, from June 19th-21st, Tuesday will be conducting more individualized trainings with nonprofits around collaboration and shared work.

Building off her first visit, during which she introduced our community to the concepts of Art of Hosting as a progressive pathway to sustained social change and collective impact, we are excited to nurture further capacity around the spirit of collaboration to address systemic issues.

Momentum for the Nonprofit Consortium
Over the course of the past year and a half, the GlobalGiving community has been integral to the Nonprofit Consortium’s momentum and impact. This work continues to be recognized as a progressive model for community resiliency and sustainable development. While more focus is typically directed at Physical Infrastructure in the aftermath of major disasters, what our Nonprofit Consortium has taught us is that, in reality, fortifying Social Infrastructure is oftentimes the most direct and rooted pathway to supporting vulnerable and marginalized populations. The Foundation is assured that our Consortium is a scalable model that can be replicated in other communities, especially since we have been asked to share our work and best practices with other island states in the region. The Consortium is also presenting us with a viable mechanism for building a broader network of social support systems nationally and throughout the Caribbean.

We are grateful for all of our Partners at GlobalGiving for sharing our vision. Thank you for believing with us that communities have the innate capacity to nurture and sustain resiliency from the inside out. We are just getting started and your partnership is simply invaluable to so many.

Scholar David Bond shares data at Environ. Forum.
Scholar David Bond shares data at Environ. Forum.
Our Environ. Forum draws diverse audience.
Our Environ. Forum draws diverse audience.
8 organizations receive VISTA training.
8 organizations receive VISTA training.
 
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