Nov 14, 2019

Empowering Youth for Sustainable Resilience!

St. Croix welcomes VISTA Volunteer, Sinead!
St. Croix welcomes VISTA Volunteer, Sinead!

To achieve sustainable resilience in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, St. Croix Foundation has chosen to focus on nonprofits, youth and workforce development, energy independence, and food security. Our strategy? Select two groups of beneficiaries – nonprofits and youth – that are best poised to carry initiatives forward, seek out and implement innovation, and stretch the boundaries of what resilience really looks like. By choosing to focus on these two segments of our community, we sought to set the groundwork for long term progress and we’re happy to report traction is being gained! But we’ve also chosen two programmatic priorities – energy independence and food security – which we believe to be trigger points we can leverage several times over for economic benefit as well as sustainable resilience.

We hope you enjoy reading about the work you’ve directly supported! These are not just single projects in time, but models that can be expanded and modified as needed. But even more than that, it’s a strategy that is community-based and therefore, sustainable and undeniably resilient. Without you, it just would not happen.

Students Prepare for NCCER Solar Certification!
In our last report, we announced the official launch of our Solar-Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative. Addressing workforce development, energy independence, and nonprofit capacity building, this single initiative is closing in on some major milestones which we are happy to report on.

Today, our 9 students have completed 400 hours of curriculum and are on their way towards gaining their National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certification in solar installation. After just under six months, upon successful completion of their exams in November, students will graduate, fully certified in NCCER Core Curriculum, Electrical Levels 1 & 2 and Solar PV Installation. Our newly certified solar workforce will then proceed with solarizing the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands (Formerly the Boys and Girls Club) in late November and the Flamboyant Gardens Seniors Independent Living Community Center in December.

The best news we’ve received to date is that we were approached by a solar system vendor who asked to meet with our students to inform them that he is prepared to hire 5 students immediately upon completion of the Project to work for his company.

Today, the Foundation is working to identify additional funding for the final two centers, which will also serve as resilience hubs.

The Solar Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative is made possible through a partnership with the Virgin Islands Department of Labor, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Global Giving and a number of other national and local corporations and philanthropic entities.

SCF Awards Youth a Grant for Transportable Solar Station Prototype
While our solar students close in on graduation this Thanksgiving, the Foundation was recently approached by Kieran, a 17-year-old student and Boy Scout on St. Croix who has invented a solar charging station.

As part of Kieran’s final and rigorous service project to graduate as an Eagle Scout, Kieran devised a solar station that can be mobilized throughout neighborhoods during times of crisis. The station can be used to charge phones, laptops, and any medical equipment such as insulin testers that are rechargeable. In recognition of his vision, the Foundation awarded Kieran a grant in the amount of $2,100 that will allow him to create a working prototype of the station for our community to use and possibly invest in. Kieran will also teach 2-3 youth from the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI how to build them and create a manual/ video to ensure the sustainability of this exploratory project. In addition, Kieran has agreed to host one community meeting to inform community members about his invention.

The Foundation couldn’t be more pleased! While we are building capacity for resilience in times of trouble, we are also supporting young people like Kieran to help them realize their dreams and begin to build a future for themselves and their Community!

St. Croix Welcomes Our First AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers!
Early this summer, St. Croix Foundation was awarded over $300,000 by the Corporation of National and Community Service to assign fifteen (15) AmeriCorps VISTA members to support eight St. Croix nonprofits. And while we are still recruiting volunteers and trying to identify affordable housing for VISTA (an unfortunate outcome of the Hurricanes), we are happy to introduce one of our first AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers. Meet Sinead (pictured in our report), a young volunteer who is just now getting settled with the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI. Her scope of work will be to assist the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls VI with website development, community outreach, and the creation of an alumni database.

The overarching objective of our VISTA Project is to strengthen our nonprofits so that they may, in turn, better serve our Community (particularly children and families). By helping our nonprofits build capacity, some of our most vulnerable residents will be empowered to broaden their experiences and rise above the conditions of poverty. But, as with all of the Foundation’s work, our VISTA project has multiple benefits: improving awareness of St. Croix and nonprofits for volunteers as well as providing work opportunities for local residents.

Farm Tiendas on the Way to 7 Farmers!
First, we wish to extend our deepest appreciation to our Community and Philanthropic Partners (like GlobalGiving), who have made our Farm Tienda Agricultural Small Business Grant possible! An exciting initiative that serves to improve food security on St. Croix by bringing farmers back online while also bolstering our economy through the support of small businesses, this is another initiative that serves to also strengthen neighborhoods by creating resilience hubs.

Since we last reported to you, we convened a diverse committee of community stakeholders to review applications and selected seven farmers to receive 8x16 steel container Farm Tiendas, complete with 1000 gallons of water, approximately 4 solar panels and Wi-Fi connectivity.

While the Foundation had originally budgeted for six Farm Tiendas, one of the Foundation’s Donors, who was on the review committee, decided to fund one more. The decision was made after we determined that one of St. Croix’s oldest farms had not made the cut score. In the end, all eligible farmers were awarded Tiendas!

To date, farmers have been notified verbally of their selection and are preparing to sign formal contracts that will outline their reporting requirements and expectation for how the Tienda will be incorporated into the community.

In addition to the prototype Tienda that we presented in April, 6 more containers have been ordered. Of those, two containers have already been wrapped and prepared for delivery to the farm site, and we anticipate that the final wrappings will be completed by Thanksgiving. We are very excited to report that all Farm Tiendas will officially be delivered to our farmers during the second week of December. Once the Tiendas are delivered, solar systems will be installed on-site.

The Farm Tienda Small Business Grant Program is made possible through a partnership with Coca Cola, Global Giving, and ProTouch Communications.

Thank you!
As St. Croix Foundation nears major milestones with the completion of the first phases of several of our most comprehensive recovery initiatives, we are mindful of the many partnerships that make this possible. The Foundation has never been more prodigious than we are today, and this is in large part fueled by our philanthropy partners who have committed sustained support for our recovery and who believe as we do: that making strategic investments in communities affected by natural disasters scalable models can be built and the lives of people can be transformed. As we near November 15 and National Philanthropy Day, it should be noted that all we do is ultimately driven by our unabashed Love for Humankind. And we thank you for sharing that love.

Our solar students are just weeks from graduation!
Our solar students are just weeks from graduation!
Solar Charging Station Prototype for Neighborhoods
Solar Charging Station Prototype for Neighborhoods
7 farmers have Farm Tiendas on the way!
7 farmers have Farm Tiendas on the way!
Sep 16, 2019

Community: The Key to Recovery!

Smiles from all as a homeowner finishes repairs
Smiles from all as a homeowner finishes repairs

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. This is Community and Solidarity in action.

Construct and Rebuild – Homes, Safety, Joy, Relief
In this reporting quarter, we surpassed $100,000 USD of GlobalGiving funds to purchase building materials for homes. Thank you! An additional $100,000 USD will be drawn down by LTRG member organization Lutheran Disaster Service to continue to purchase building materials.

To date, we have hosted 706 volunteers, 39,000 volunteer labor hours, 46 total groups, and 60 homes completed! We have 68 homes in the queue, and requests for service continue to come in on a daily basis. The other good news from this reporting period is that FEMA has granted us Invitational Travel through June of 2020. This means they will pay for the volunteer teams to travel here and provide a small stipend to feed them while they are serving. And, we continue a very important aspect of this program: the “Final Nail Service,” where the homeowner symbolically drives the “final nail” into their completed home. These ceremonies are full of emotion: joy, relief, gratitude, and praise.

Special thanks are given to our member partner Lutheran Disaster Response for leading this project.

Disaster Case Management: No Closed Cases Until Recovery is Complete!
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 – to ensure that Disaster Case Managers (for all three islands) are in place and active.

As reported in the last quarter, these managers are critical, with each working 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 (DCM) do not close a case until the client is completely recovered and has a sustainable action plan for thriving post-recovery.

We are grateful to our National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) partner, the United Methodist Committee on Relief for grant monies to support an additional 2 DCMs and to GlobalGiving for supporting a territory-wide grant that will allow us to hire 2 more DCMs on St. Croix. Recently, this new grant was recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton for GlobalGiving’s commitment to this work. With these funds in place, the LTRG will have 8.5 DCMs by the end of the year.

During the quarter, our case managers have served and continue to serve 177 cases. Of those, 140 are still active, 7 have referrals pending, 37 cases were closed, and 10 have been referred to the Unmet Needs Committee.

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.

In this reporting quarter, the Unmet Needs Committee has accepted 10 cases through our online portal. 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 are being used to address some of the needs of the 10 cases that have now been referred.

This committee is now seeking additional funders for the Unmet Needs Roundtable in preparation for the additional cases that will come through. The goal is to raise an additional $15,000,000 USD to meet these needs and every little bit counts!

Improving Lives through Community
The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is philanthropy in action: volunteers from the community, unifying for the purpose of helping their neighbors for the love of humankind. We thank our GlobalGiving Community for your continued commitment to the people of St. Croix and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As an isolated community and Territory, our voice is often lost, but lives throughout the Virgin Islands are being impacted for the better, people’s wellbeing stabilized, because GlobalGiving sees us. We cannot express our gratitude enough and hope you will continue to stand with us in solidarity to build resilience!

Our volunteers never stop working to improve lives
Our volunteers never stop working to improve lives
More than just a roof! Safety!
More than just a roof! Safety!
2 years post-hurricanes, needs are still great.
2 years post-hurricanes, needs are still great.
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!
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