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Mar 12, 2019

Our Educational Journey

Practicing squaring, cubing and Teach Your Parent
Practicing squaring, cubing and Teach Your Parent

Thank you Global Giving community for supporting our educational journey!

Our 2019 at St. Croix Montessori (STXM) began by launching a revision to our parent education series. Our school leaders and teachers engaged parents in small focus group and one-on-one interviews throughout the fall semester. As a result, we prioritized (with our parents’ input) parents’ feedback and made revisions for more meaningful classroom engagements, monthly opportunities for parents to discuss relevant parenting topics with the school and other parents, and created a communication platform to receive more consistent snapshots of what their children are experiencing in the classroom. You can see one of our classroom videos, which was created to give busy working parents a chance to see their student and their peers having Montessori Moments!

While our community did experience the tragic death of a parent, we banded together to support the family and our St. Croix Montessori (STXM) community in processing our grief and learning techniques for mindfulness. Everyone – students, STXM team, and families – learned the St. Croix Montessori Heart High-Five – a slower version of a high five, it is a simple way of asking for connection and support. We found ourselves having a range of experiences after – from peacefulness to laughing, crying, or hugging! Our STXM community regularly practices various techniques for calming our brains and positive thinking, which provides a solid foundation for executive functioning skills.

For the first time, St. Croix Montessori has been able to introduce a “State of the School” report to our families – capturing data from our past and present, sharing progress on our 5-year strategic plan, and reporting back on a series of consultations between our families, our STXM team, stakeholders, Board and a Montessori school accreditor, which also highlighted our growing school’s strengths and opportunities. Families responded immediately: “This is great!”; “We should do this more often!” The result of this event was that several parents stepped forward to help organize and lead some of the key opportunities for our school, such as workshops with the students on positive self-esteem, arts classes, wood working, and capital planning.

A major highlight of this semester was the annual Elementary student visit aboard the Roseway, the nautical education sailing boat that is part of the World Ocean School. The students practice leadership and community building, as well as see how their physics, geography, and math lessons become a necessary reality for marine science. Students designed tinfoil boats to determine which would be most buoyant, even as nuts, bolts, and pennies were added. Students reviewed longitude and latitude, and then mapped the Christiansted harbor they were in. We even had an opportunity to practice our knot tying skills – with several students from our summer bush skills classes teaching their peers a square knot, figure eight, and the difference between a bowline and granny knot!

Currently, our students are working on their research projects for Teach Your Parent day. This event is an opportunity for our parents to become students – and our students to practice leadership, confidence building, academic, and presentation skills. All of our students – from 2 ½ years of age to 12 – participate in teaching parents a favorite lesson or, in the case of our more mature Elementary students, presenting their research projects.

Our STXM community is continuing our efforts to purchase our long-term home, in expectation for the quickly approaching 2019 academic year. With our island continuing its recovery, the need for schools focused on executive functioning is crucial. We have prospects and are excited for the future!

Friends create a STX topographical relief map
Friends create a STX topographical relief map
Foundations of writing begin with the metal insets
Foundations of writing begin with the metal insets
Mar 7, 2019

Construct and Rebuild

LTRG volunteers assisting the elderly
LTRG volunteers assisting the elderly

December 2018- February 2019 GlobalGiving Report

The spirit and resiliency of a people is most strongly on display in the aftermath of a disaster. As we recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the unity of the community is vital towards the achievement of a clear and concerted vision. 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

Thanks to the grant monies from GlobalGiving, our Construction/Rebuild Committee is funding the repair of roofs for residents on St. Croix through an initial use of $75,0000 for building materials.

This committee has been hard at work since the first volunteer team arrived on June 2, 2018. Since that time, they have hosted 30 volunteer groups. The groups have ranged in size from 7 to 40 members! In total, 369 volunteers have served and completed 20,213 hours of volunteer labor. That equates to a cost benefit (value of labor) of $1,076,949.92. The work is not slowing down anytime soon. There are currently an additional 50 homes that have been referred to the committee and are now in queue.

The LTRG intends to continue recruiting skilled construction teams and rebuilding the roofs of low- and fixed-income homeowners, primarily the elderly. We continue to seek funds to subsidize building material costs. But perhaps, most importantly, they hope to be able to expand the program by finishing renovations on St. Dunstan’s School, which will allow them to house three times the volunteers than they can at the current location. Further repairs are needed to the St. Dunstan’s School and they also need additional vehicles and trucks for an expanded volunteer program.

The GlobalGiving grant monies were also leveraged to purchase a used 2018 Dodge Ram truck. The truck, which holds up to 6 people, is used for transporting volunteers and supplies to job sites. As we continue to increase the number of volunteer teams, this additional means of transportation is crucial.

Disaster Case Management

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 30 cases at a time to ensure that every beneficiary is not inadvertently receiving duplicate benefits from FEMA, has connections to available resources on 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 only 4 Disaster Case Managers, this committee of the LTRG has managed to get through 80 cases—the majority of which are elderly with medical issues. The work is difficult and exhausting--but they are working to ensure that residents get connected to the resources they need. Our hope is to divert an additional $50,000 of the Global Giving monies to support the hiring of an additional Case Manager.

Disaster recovery encompasses interventions at the community level as well as with individuals and households. While there is inter-dependence between the recovery of the community’s infrastructure and the recovery of individuals and families within that community, the mechanisms for their recovery are distinctly different. Disaster casework and disaster case management are functions in support of empowering and of addressing the basic needs and recovery needs of individuals and families.

Unmet Needs Committee

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. There are currently 6 cases that have been referred to this committee. Diverting $50,000 of GlobalGiving monies to this committee would allow us to start to fill these needs and close these cases.

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!

Rebuilding efforts continue more than a year later
Rebuilding efforts continue more than a year later
Volunteer groups assisting with repairing homes
Volunteer groups assisting with repairing homes
Feb 21, 2019

LEADING SUSTAINABLE CHANGE

V.I. students visited Barbados Change Institute
V.I. students visited Barbados Change Institute

February 2019 Impact Report

 LEADING SUSTAINABLE CHANGE

CARIBBEAN ASSISTANCE AND RESILIENCY EFFORT (CARE)

Disaster recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) continues! As climate change becomes more of a reality and with a destructive wake-up call sent with two Category 5 Hurricanes devasting St. Croix in 2017, we understand more than ever the importance of resiliency for isolated territories. In fact, resiliency is evolving in many ways as St. Croix Foundation begins to expand its grantmaking to ensure that there is continued support to nonprofits and to nurture critical social systems like food security. St. Croix Foundation continues to ensure that as the Territory rebuilds its infrastructure a plan to augment a resilient economy is also included.

 STRATEGIC GRANTMAKING THAT GOES BEYOND THE AWARD CHECK --

St. Croix Foundation often refers to our grantmaking as strategic and our grantees as partners based on its commitment to leveraging existing relationships and building new ones far beyond the grant award check. Every grant award becomes a partnership and works in concert with local nonprofits to gather data, support critical social services, and build capacity for nonprofits. It’s a progressive, interactive approach to grantmaking informed by 28 years of service to nonprofits as a fiscal sponsor and civic sector advocate. As a place-based foundation operating in a community with limited financial resources, invaluable lessons have been learned about both the assets and challenges inherent in the nonprofit sector.

Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition (VIGFC), a sponsored project of the Foundation, member of our Nonprofit Consortium and a CARE grant recipient, is a perfect example of our unique grantmaking strategy. With the Virgin Islands importing 98% of its food exposing critical vulnerabilities exposed after the storms, VIGFC is working tirelessly to ensure that every resident is able to sustain their household with locally sources food in the event of future disasters. Aligned with the Foundation’s own vision for equity, social and economic justice and self-sufficiency, our CARE grant to Good Food Coalition is supporting a first of its kind Territory-wide movement to create a comprehensive sustainable food system for the Virgin Islands.

In July of 2018, armed with its first CARE grant from the Foundation, the Good Food Coalition and the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls Virgin Islands partnered to send three students to Barbados for ten days to attend the Change Institute International. The program offered a unique intersection of culture and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and provided students with opportunities to collaborate with their peers from North Carolina and Barbados, while learning about youth leaderships roles to effect local transformation. Youth participated in activities focused in the areas listed below:

  • Youth Leadership: Collectively built skills through peer mentorship, experiential learning, community engagement and fun!
  • Sustainability: Provided global learning of social, environmental and economic issues through a multidisciplinary approach.       
  • Local & Global Partnerships: Engaged in community service and learning in partnership with community organizations locally and abroad.
  • History & Culture: Experienced another culture while also exploring their own. Captivated minds by exploring diverse histories and viewpoints.
  • Inclusion & Equity: Developed an analysis of power dynamics; discovered and/or expanded on youth roles as change agents in their community and in the world.

 

Students were also given the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of Barbados, to work in the United Nations office, and to learn about the importance of Food Systems through partnering with local farms. By working with youth and partnering with local nonprofits, the Good Food Coalition is demonstrating sustainability in action!

With its CARE grant, the Good Food Coalition also began to build on conversations and prior workshops, and in January of this year, the organization invited stakeholders from diverse agencies and departments across the private and public sectors to engage in a conversation about the landscape of agriculture on St. Croix. VIGFC partnered with VI-EPSCoR, a program hosted at the University of the Virgin Islands, in order to develop a network of community partnerships to assess and further improve St. Croix’s agri-business infrastructure and functionality. In total, 25 participants representing the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, University of the Virgin Islands Experimental Station and Cooperative Extension, Virgin Islands Department of Education, and the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism attended working collectively to develop a new network of relationships, to align policies, needs, missions, and environmental change strategies. At its next convening, the Good Food Coalition will be meeting with local Farmers to discuss their needs, systems, and Vision for the future.

 The Heart, Soul, and Economics of Powering Our Communities for Resiliency

St. Croix Foundation knows that disaster recovery looks different in small, isolated rural communities and that as an island, nurturing self-sufficiency is the foundation for true sustainability. Recognizing that by empowering smaller, civic based neighborhood centers to be energy independent, in the face of major natural and/or man-made events, St. Croix Foundation began developing our Sustainable Solar-supported Community Demonstration Project in May 2018. But this Initiative is about more than just solar energy: through it, we are nurturing local talent, supporting local businesses, building capacity for workforce development with our youth, and empowering neighborhoods to be more resilient and self-sufficient in times of plenty and in times of crisis. Ultimately, this solar program is also a demonstration of the power of philanthropy and cross-sector collaborations - all grounded in community.

Over the past several months, the Global Giving Community has been updated on the planning of this solar project, and now, the Foundation is excited to report that in March 2019, there will be an official launch of this pilot project.

With a sudden influx of off-island contractors, one of the Foundation’s priorities is to rebuild from within, and as such, supporting local businesses like Sustainable Systems and Design International (a locally owned and operated solar design company); and Jensen Berkitt (a local solar installation business and NCCER Certified Solar Installer) has become a priority.

This team of skilled professionals will provide comprehensive technical support and installation of the solar PV system at the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls, which serves over 80 at-risk children daily. The PV-system will generate 6kW of power to offset CCBG’s critical loads and over time reduce their energy costs. But Sustainable Systems and Design International is not only charged with the installation component of the project – they have also developed a Solar System Sustainability Chart that will enable community partners to document the project and monitor the economic, community, and environmental impact of the solar system.

The workforce development component is also gearing up to launch in March 2019. With the assistance of the Virgin Islands Workforce Investment Board, the Foundation will provide 10 young men ages 17-24 with NCCER courses in Core Curriculum and Solar Photovoltaic System Installer, which will provide a nationally recognized certificate at the end of their on-the-job training. In partnership with the Department of Labor, St. Croix Foundation will select students through a standard application process, with students participating in interviews and taking a pre-test to assess their knowledge as they enter the program. Having already developed and implemented a NCCER program for young men back in 2013, the Foundation recognizes that targeting disenfranchised, unemployed youth will necessitate extra academic supports in order to ensure students’ success. To provide further supports for these students, the Foundation secured supplemental funding through the Workforce Investment Board and selected local instructors who are experienced and relatable to work with students. The Foundation is committed to supporting students with job placement assistance upon completion of the program as well; currently working with one instructor who has already committed to providing internships and job opportunities to graduates of the program.

The Foundation’s approach to the development, funding, implementation, and evaluation of its projects is centered around partnerships and collaboration. By including local governmental agencies like the Department of Labor and Workforce Investment Board, private businesses, national foundations, and the civic sector, the assets of the community is harnessed for greater impact and long-term sustainability of the program itself.

In fact, in December of 2018, the Foundation received funding from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy in support of the pilot, and in January 2019 St. Croix Foundation was pleased to be presented with a certificate of “Commitment to Action” by Hilary Rodham Clinton in recognition of St. Croix Foundation’s solar program being a ‘comprehensive’ model of holistic community development and energy resiliency. The Foundation is currently working diligently to identify an additional $200,000 to expand this project to three more vital community centers that serve the elderly, vulnerable residents in low-income housing, and our young people.

 LONG-TERM RESILIENCY: MOVING FORWARD

With another Hurricane Season just four months away, St. Croix Foundation is in demonstration mode to implement holistic projects with some urgency to create small, sustainable community models that will nurture real resiliency in the face of any disaster. It is the intent of the St. Croix Foundation to build capacity within the nonprofit sector through strategic grantmaking, and stimulation of the local economy. We know that for any community to maximize the current flow of federal and philanthropic resources, there must be an intentional practice to begin with the end in mind, leveraging every dollar to go farther and committing to data collection to inform future programming and measure impact. On behalf of the community we serve, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development extends its deepest appreciation to the Global Giving community for their support and engagement.

True recovery and sustainable rebuilding cannot happen overnight, but together we can build community-based models that can be replicated throughout the Virgin Islands and the world. We hope you’ll stay with us on our journey!

Jensen Berkitt one of our project instructors
Jensen Berkitt one of our project instructors
DJ & Hilary Rodham Clinton_2019 Puerto Rico CGI
DJ & Hilary Rodham Clinton_2019 Puerto Rico CGI
 
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