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Nov 20, 2018

November 2018 Impact Report

CARE Grantee, Reading Rainbow, brings the smiles
CARE Grantee, Reading Rainbow, brings the smiles

REBUILDING A BETTER ST. CROIX

CARIBBEAN ASSISTANCE AND RESILIENCY EFFORT (CARE)

Today’s report marks one year since two Category 5 Super Storms made landfall, within just 10 days of each other, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the majority of damage in the territory on the island of St. Croix, St. Croix Foundation continues to be a guiding and grounding voice in meetings with territorial, federal, and other recovery partners, constantly beating the drum for equity and sustainability.

We are pleased to report that because of your generosity and a strategic and collaborative approach to recovery, we have begun to move the needle from recovery to resiliency. A full year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Virgin Islands is still reminded of what two back-to-back category 5 hurricanes can do. For while progress is indeed being made, recovery is slow: residents requiring longer than 72 hours of medical care are still being evacuated to either Puerto Rico or to U.S. mainland hospitals; on the western end of the island of St. Croix, which was the hardest hit and is home to the poorest residents of the Territory, there is still a sea of Blue Tarped Roofs; and with government systems sill compromised and offices displaced, it is our civic sector that continues to fill critical gaps.

STRATEGIC GRANTMAKING: Connecting, Healing, Teaching, and Building Capacity!

Through our CARE Fund and with the assistance from you - our global community - we were able to provide two grant cycles to our nonprofit organizations and charitable initiatives that provide programs and direct services targeting the most vulnerable and underserved populations affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Enough cannot be said of the importance of these organizations. Together, they serve hundreds of families and thousands of residents. They teach. They heal mind and body. They connect us with one another, and they advocate for those who have been hit hardest.

St. Croix Foundation’s grantmaking supports vital programs but is also designed to build capacity. Grants ranging from $7,500 to $50,000 were awarded to the following organizations:

  • AZ Academy’s – Summer STEM Project
  • Caribbean Center for Boys & Girls – Fueling the Youth
  • Choices Basketball Association – Summer Training Camp
  • Christiansted Lighthouse Mission - Electrical repair and remediation of Center and Children’s Classrooms
  • Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, Inc. – Replacement of Equipment
  • Cruzan Cowgirls Horse Rescue – Outdoor Education Facility
  • Frederiksted Health Care – Dental Expansion
  • Men’s Coalition – Developing Youth Resiliency
  • Onyx Opera – School Tour and Opera Series
  • Music in Motion – Dance Academy
  • Good Hope Country Day School – Summer Theater Camp
  • St. Croix Walls Project – Putting Art into Recovery
  • USVI Soccer Association – School Academic & Soccer Academy
  • VI Perinatal – Cerebrovascular & Cardiovascular Initiative
  • World Ocean School – Experiential Education at Sea
  • Sejah Farms – Food Security and Sovereignty
  • Crucian Heritage & Nature Tourism, Inc. – Capacity Building
  • Elmo Plaskett East Little League – Grow the Game
  • Fresh Start – Litter Awareness Through the Arts
  • Leap and Learn Academy – Hurricane Repairs form Maria
  • Mon Bijou Homeowners Association – Disaster Risk Reduction Community Training
  • My Brother’s Workshop – Home Rebuilds
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness St. Croix – Family-to-Family Class/Support Training
  • Reading Rainbow School – Discovery After School Program
  • St. Croix Animal Welfare Center – Capacity Building
  • St. Croix Environmental Association – Environmental Awareness & Action
  • St. Croix Farmer’s in Action – Health & Healing Benefits of Coconut
  • St. Joseph Catholic High School – Fiber Optic Technician/Installer Training
  • Varied Abilities – Express Yourself: Art & Play Academy
  • Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition – Capacity Building
  • Virgin Islands Volunteer Advocates for Children – Capacity Building
  • Women’s Coalition of St. Croix – Online Advocacy Classes

While we build capacity for our civic sector, the Foundation is also working intimately with private and public-sector partners to develop and institute comprehensive resiliency strategies for St. Croix and the Territory with program components that can be activated during times of emergency and disaster. Today, St.  Croix Foundation is excited to report on two projects we are preparing to launch: our Healing through the Humanities Block Development Project and Pop Farms for Food Security Project.

RECOVERY THROUGH THE HEALING ARTS & BLOCK DEVELOPMENT

As an extension of the restoration of the old Alexander Theater, which will be transformed into the only centrally-located community disaster shelter on St. Croix as well as a state-of-the-art performing arts center, the Foundation is launching our “Healing Humanities” Project. In the past few months, St. Croix Foundation has put the final touches on the development of a plan for a creative cultural arts corridor in the center of Historic Downtown Christiansted in Sunday Market Square.

As the final phase of SCF’s original comprehensive and holistic blueprint for the Square, this community block development will foster positive economic and social activities for residents which is critical to the economic development of the town and in turn the entire island. Currently, the entire census track for this historically relevant section of downtown Christiansted is low income, thus the Foundation’s primary goal is to improve the social and emotional welfare of residents and incentivize economic activity by using creative place-making.  The overall project will specifically:

  1. decrease identified barriers to social and economic development throughout our community by using creative arts and cultural expression
  2. strengthen and expand the work of cultural organizations
  3. increase relationships within cultural projects, programs and events
  4. connect the arts and culture communities to one another
  5. develop a public art program
  6. strengthen awareness and connect creative businesses to each other
  7. provide a command center in downtown Christiansted for disaster response

To date, we have secured commitments from a consortium of civic and nonprofit partners who will work collaboratively to transform the Square into mixed use spaces, including the following:

  • Mixed use commercial spaces for local small businesses and low-income housing units

To continue the revitalization of historic spaces, the Foundation proposes restoring properties in Sunday Market Square and surrounding areas to house commercial spaces on the ground floors and low-moderate income housing units on the upper floors.

  • Small business and nonprofit incubator

Through partnerships with private sector entities, the creation of a small business and nonprofit incubator will provide mentorship and support in the form of technical and financial services for new businesses and civic organizations.

  • After school and summer culturally-themed programs

Through our partnerships with the arts and culture Nonprofit Consortium members, public and private schools will offer students in grades 3-12th opportunities to learn and create around the humanities, specifically musical/dance composition, artwork, and historic artifacts. The program will educate our students on how to incorporate today’s technology with the humanities.

  • Community forums around Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean culture

There will be four forums held throughout the year. The forums will educate the community on contemporary Caribbean Culture and how its shaped by waves of migration that have combined to form aunique blend of customs, cuisine, and traditions that have marked the socio-cultural development of the area. The Foundation’s overall objective is to provide access to and educate the community on how unique collections and scholars can collaborate to produce a digital collection of Afro-Caribbean works of art (literature).  

  • Life-long learning through our Afro-Caribbean museum

The museum will combine our local Caribbean artifacts with African artifacts collected from members in the community that have traveled through the Caribbean and African regions. Bringing these items together in downtown Christiansted, the museum will be a live learning classroom for the community to tour and learn the history of each artifact. The museum’s role will be to embrace and support lifelong learning, social change, and intercultural dialogue, encouraging participation from new audiences.

 We are rebuilding with resiliency in mind and our vision is to incentivize economic development and in turn create greater economic and social stability within our community!

  FOOD SECURITY - POP FARM STANDS

St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, is helping St. Croix businesses rebuild from the 2017 storms through its Small Business Recovery and Revitalization pilot initiative. This initiative awards eco-friendly container stores/community hubs to small businesses/farms as a vehicle for bringing businesses back on-line following Hurricanes Irma and Maria and to assist our local communities if a disaster were to impact the territory again. St. Croix is an isolated island which imports 98% of its food, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Foundation identified food security as one of our community’s greatest needs. “Pop Farms” are steel containers that will be outfitted to store food and serve as community hubs if another disaster were to strike on island building capacity within St. Croix’s local farm stands. These resilient Pop Farms will provide communities a place with power (through solar panels and/or generators), Wi-Fi and portable water.

 LONG-TERM RESILIENCY: MOVING FORWARD

Having dedicated many years to building partnerships with both private, public, and nonprofit entities, St. Croix Foundation is poised to implement projects that will stimulate the local St. Croix economy, heal community by nurturing connections through arts and heritage, build capacity within the nonprofit sector through strategic grantmaking, and create small, sustainable community models that allow for true resiliency in the face of any disaster. At the Foundation we know that in order for our community to maximize the current flow of federal and philanthropic resources, we have to make it an intentional practice to begin with the end in mind, leveraging every dollar to go farther. That’s why every project has multiple intersection points for multiple benefits. On behalf of the community we serve, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development extends our deepest appreciation to the Global Giving community for your 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!

Keeping our Young Men Engaged through CARE
Keeping our Young Men Engaged through CARE
Our vision for the Square and a command center
Our vision for the Square and a command center
Eco-friendly container stores/community hubs
Eco-friendly container stores/community hubs
Sep 13, 2018

Grounding Recovery in Community

Our Youngest Voices are Heard!
Our Youngest Voices are Heard!

Hurricane Rebuilding by Empowering & Strengthening Nonprofits
As the nation once again prepares for yet another Superstorm as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast of the Carolinas, one year after the two Category 5 Storms hit the U.S Virgin Islands, we are reminded of the critical importance of long-term philanthropic support for American citizens living on a remote island trying to recover from a catastrophic disaster. For St. Croix, which is 10 miles wide and 25 miles across in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the stakes are very high.

What if government systems collapse and private sector operations shut down? That’s what happened on St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands in September of 2017. In fact, it’s what happens in most small, remote communities. Who fills major service gaps such as a nonworking 9-1-1 phone call? Who ensures that our elderly are safe in their homes when our health and human service agencies have collapsed. Who serves thousands of displaced children when the public schools are condemned, and the system is in chaos? It’s St. Croix’s nonprofits that fill those critical gaps.

But what happens if St. Croix isn’t on the national philanthropic map? What happens if issues of inequity, often exacerbated after natural disasters, affect local funding and there are no advocates for vital nonprofit organizations that are filling increasing needs with fewer resources?

This is why St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is aggressively supporting our St. Croix Nonprofits through a myriad of philanthropic strategies from grantmaking and advocacy to direct services through our Nonprofit Consortium and today, one year after the storms, we can say that our nonprofits are getting stronger, serving more of our most vulnerable residents, and creating strong collaborations.

GETTING THE VIRGIN ISLANDS ON THE PHILANTHROPIC MAP
The St. Croix Foundation hosted a small delegation of Board members from the Southern Partners Fund (SPF) from July 11th -15th. Southern Partners Fund is a 501(c)(3) public foundation serving grassroots organizations in rural communities across 12 states; Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Their visit to St. Croix served to help the Foundation make a case for expanding SPF’s funding map to include the Territory.

With a commitment to “giving voice and opportunity to marginalized and underserved communities and families in the rural south, SPF’s mission is to support rural Southern communities and organizations seeking social, economic, and environmental justice by providing them with financial resources, technical assistance and training, and access to systems of information and power to shift the balance of power in their communities.

One of the primary goals of SPF’s visit was to expand opportunities to get the Territory ‘on the map’ and recognized as a relevant and legitimate funding priority for national funders. The Foundation fundamentally believes that one of the critical components of a holistic recovery is a healthy civil society.

With far too many of our nonprofit organizations too dependent on government subsidies the Foundation hosted 20 of our local nonprofits in an intimate gathering with SPF with the overarching goal to support our nonprofits so that they can ultimately exert the level of political power necessary to advocate for an equitable recovery and for social justice for the constituents they serve.

Organizations that connected with Southern Partners Fund include St. Croix Women’s Coalition, who serves as an advocate and direct service provider for victims of abuse and violence; the Caribbean Centers for Boys and Girls, who serves nearly 200 young people every single day; the St. Croix Landmark’s Society, who houses one of the most comprehensive culture and heritage archives on the African Diaspora in the region; and the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, whose wide range of economic, educational, artistic, cultural and civic events and services are bringing together community in an innovative and culturally relevant way!

The Foundation, through their Nonprofit Consortium, is working to elevate the efficacy and force of the nonprofit sector and in turn build a model for other communities’ recovery and sustainability efforts. Toward that end, SPF has already made a commitment to supporting the work of St. Croix non-profits through several direct grant awards to local nonprofit organizations.

ST. CROIX FOUNDATION HOSTS WEEKLONG COMMUNITY-BUILDING ACTIVITIES WITH WORLD RENOWNED SYSTEMS CHANGE & SOCIAL EQUITY AGENTS
In the aftermath of any disaster, rebuilding efforts must be grounded in each community’s unique culture and DNA. It is common, however, for redevelopment to happen with marginalized groups very much on the sidelines and for the fabric of a community’s culture and core values to be torn apart by disaster capitalism which can oftentimes exploit community’s in the areas of employment, housing, health, and education. To mitigate this and ensure that our nonprofits have the ability to advocate for the vulnerable residents they serve, the Foundation has undertaken to provide real technical skills and introduce nonprofits to advocacy-based organizations. Here’s just a snapshot of our recent convenings:

  • In early August the Foundation hosted a week of activities geared at empowering organizations and our community at-large to become change agents. Led by Tuesday Ryan-Hart, an internationally renowned systems change strategist who has worked with organizations and stakeholders engaged in community building, we introduced over 55 organizations in 3 days to a new concept of community engagement entitled, “The Art of Hosting” to help build organizing capacity in our community through conversations and training around high impact collaborations.
  • The Foundation also hosted a two-day session with the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) which has committed itself to increasing national philanthropic engagement in the U.S. Caribbean (USVI & Puerto Rico). In the aftermath of the Hurricanes, ABFE is nurturing a shift toward greater social equity and philanthropic investments in communities of color which have historically been ignored by the field. 25 of St. Croix’s nonprofits joined, representing organizations that are directly advocating for a food security, workforce development, historic and community revitalization and the preservation of our environment and culture and heritage.

Nonprofit Consortium – Building Infrastructure!
As stated in the St. Croix Foundation’s Third Quarterly Report for the Nonprofit Consortium, a 30-60-90 day plan for building infrastructure around the Consortium was built and is today officially being implemented. While much of the work will be ongoing, the Foundation is currently pleased to report on the following components of the plan:

  • Practice inclusion – Recent events such as the Art of Hosting and the convening hosted by ABFE as well as our workshops with the Southern Partners Fund listed above were opportunities for nonprofits and interested partners and agencies to witness and practice internal development work as well as an opportunity to connect with agencies they may not have been able to reach in the past. These convenings also built technical skills around collaboration, building awareness for public advocacy, hosting effective meetings, and analyzing issues through an equity and data based lens.
  • Develop a logo and an overall brand for the Nonprofit Consortium – St. Croix Foundation recently offered the Nonprofit Consortium a logo and tagline of “Holding the Vision”. The Foundation is now working to have Consortium members provide input and vote on the formal adoption of this logo.
  • Refine and distribute Nonprofit Consoritum Contact Listing – An ongoing activity and critical to communications and gaining traction, the NPC Listing is regularly updated and distributed to members.
  • Create a Facebook page – To share our calendar of activities and events and provide announcements pertinent to the community that will enhance connectivity a group has been created within the St. Croix Foundation’s Facebook page to begin sharing announcements and updating our NPC. Once the official logo has been decided, the page will be made active but exclusively for NPC member.

Building structure around the Foundation's NPC will provide greater communication and leveraging of resources for nonprofits who are actively working to help St. Croix recover from the hurricanes. Because of the support of GlobalGiving and some generous support of local corporate citizens, we’ve been able to build the cornerstones of what we know is already becoming a strong consoritum of nonprofits who have the capacity to affect social change that connects with St. Croix’s economy, environment, culture and heritage, and the education of our young people.

We wish to thank our generous partners who have made all of the Foundation’s work possible and hope you’ll stay the course with us. Making the Nonprofit Consortium possible makes anything possible!

Addressing Unemployment through an Equity Lens
Addressing Unemployment through an Equity Lens
Our Nonprofits Connect with National Partners
Our Nonprofits Connect with National Partners
Collaboration & Hosting Skill-building
Collaboration & Hosting Skill-building
55 Nonprofits Collaborating for Recovery
55 Nonprofits Collaborating for Recovery
Our NPC Holds the Vision, Considers a New Logo
Our NPC Holds the Vision, Considers a New Logo
Sep 11, 2018

One Year After The Hurricanes

First week for a new student - learning to tie!
First week for a new student - learning to tie!

A year after two Cat-5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, rampaged across the Caribbean, St. Croix Montessori opened its doors to embrace 37 children and their families and welcome the start of a new school year. The new gutters gleamed in the sunlight, and the campus burst with the sounds of rejoice – our children ran across freshly grown grass to leap on the playground they hadn't seen in two months, families shared stories of summer vacation and hugged as they reunited.

“It feels like a family reunion!” one father shouted.

“You’ve moved back to the island! Thank you!” a grandmother said to a young mother of two.

“We are just so thankful to have been able to join Montessori this year," exclaimed a grinning parent of one of the four public school students able to enroll in our Elementary program.

Thanks to the GlobalGiving community and St. Croix Community Foundation, our school was able to navigate our initial year of hurricane recovery. We struggled. We survived. Your support ensured we provided a year of education following the storms, six weeks of summer enrichment to the children of St. Croix, and enabled St. Croix Montessori to re-open our doors for the next year of recovery.

 

The Foundation for Learning

In St. Croix, there is a severe gap in options for early childhood education. Roughly a dozen private options exist for pre-school, and the public system introduced a pilot pre-school program for 30 children ages 4 and up this September.

Our school exists in a unique position, having the only accredited option for developmentally-based education preK-grade 6. St. Croix Montessori understands that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs during the first five years of life and forms the neural foundation for all learning, behavior, and health (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University). Programs engage all aspects of a child’s development – i.e. emotional, social, practical life (movement), and academic - beginning at age 2 ½ and continuing to age 12.

We practice equitable collaboration – parents and community partners are part of the learning process. We teach social justice and peaceful conflict resolution. Our team of 5 instructors integrate cultural education as well as academics and gardening into the daily routines. For St. Croix Montessori, systems-thinking is just good Montessori.

The Importance of The GlobalGiving Community’s Support

It is only through the support of St. Croix Community Foundation and GlobalGiving that our school has survived through to September 2018.

As of this report, our school has not yet received disbursements from insurance, FEMA Private Non Profit Assistance, or SBA Disaster Loans, despite having begun these processes in September 2017. The impacts of having been stretched to capacity for over twelve months are seen across our organization, however, in the face of islandwide, chronic shortages for teachers, contractors, supplies, and in response to the demand for safe learning spaces, we have remained open, provided quality education, repaired a collapsed sewer line and damaged roof, expanded our Elementary program, and became one of the only summer enrichment programs to remain open.

We have a saying: the child is the promise of humanity.

St. Croix Montessori believes that access to education should never be determined by socioeconomic status.

Thus, we fundraise to provide scholarships to over 50% of our families. On average, St. Croix Montessori’s fundraising results in 25-50% of the total amount waived for scholarships for low-income families, which are 35% of our population.

Our commitment is to practice our core beliefs. For example, the Head of School refused to take a salary for over a year so that teachers could receive a living income. In the face of rent increases and housing shortages, the Head of School continues to receive less than half of her salary so that all available funds can be directed towards teaching, learning, and ensuring the integrity of our school’s operations. Our team, at their personal expense, is in the process of becoming cross-trained in order to address the realities of life (e.g. we get sick; our relatives pass; our children are ill) and still provide support to our students.

 

The Global Giving community is saving children in St. Croix.

In 2015, 40% of all VI children entering public kindergarten lacked age expected cognition skills and over half (55%) lacked age-expected word recognition and comprehension skills for kindergarten readiness (USVI KidsCount 2015). In comparison, 85% of St. Croix Montessori’s students who are eligible for promotion (i.e. 1st grade, 3rd grade, or 6th grade) perform at or above grade level, and transition successfully into public, parochial, and other independent schools.

And our classrooms are filled!

In September 2018, public school students were promoted to the next grade despite having had a year of half-day sessions. Many were sent back to schools with hurricane damage. In comparison to St. Croix Montessori, the only other choice for non-parochial education on St. Croix charges over $12,000 a year for Elementary education and increases to $16,000 per year for middle school.

On an island whose median family income is $42,000 (pre-hurricane), we ask: how can we ensure equitable access to education exists for all families?

The Challenges & Joys of Being Different

St. Croix Montessori is unlike most independent schools. We operate more closely to a public Montessori program, yet don’t receive the support of our public counterparts; nor do we have an endowment or affluent, enrolled families.

The reality of continuing to provide access to wholistic, child-centered education is challenged by an island in crisis and our school having:

  • Full responsibility for all damages to the leased campus and property, including ongoing maintenance (over $10,000 per year), routine repairs (approximately $5,000 per year), and property insurance, which doubled in annual costs.
  • Hurricane Repairs total over $200,000; we have not received disbursements from FEMA, SBA, or Insurance.
  • Rent was increased three times since the two hurricanes, even as critical plumbing infrastructure collapsed and the school requested an agreement that would not compromise our ability to remain open
  • Our Elementary programs are at capacity with a waiting list; space on STX is in demand.

Enabling access to schools is a critical cornerstone in securing an economic future; it is also a fundamental requirement for humanity.

The Joy of Being Different: Together with the GlobalGiving community, we build a network of relationships whose purpose is to support families on STX and create a scalable, model system of education that always places the child first.

The magnitude of change needed in the USVI makes it clear that closing the education gap and ensuring St. Croix’s children have the skills for a 21st century world, requires investment in partnerships that are built upon an equitable collaboration philosophy and community of practice.

St. Croix Montessori, with a team of 6, has been steadily growing its relationships to meet this call. With you and our global Montessori partners commited to ensuring our school survives through the next year of hurricane recovery, we will transition from survival to a model for thriving. Parents, who have donated their talents and time to building, repairing, and cleaning, join this commitment. 

You, our GlobalGiving community, have ensured that 37 children, and their families, can discover the joys of learning and feel the security of knowing they have a school for another year.

Learning takes place for everyone in the family!
Learning takes place for everyone in the family!
Montessori Dads oversee the joyful return of kids
Montessori Dads oversee the joyful return of kids
Teaching the colors of the rainbow
Teaching the colors of the rainbow
A joyful return back to her island home!
A joyful return back to her island home!

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