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The Island Spirit Fund

by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network
The Island Spirit Fund
Photo by Donna Callejon
Photo by Donna Callejon

We’re feeling inspired by the work communities are achieving together in the US Virgin Islands. Each of these three beautiful islands is slowly recovering, physically and emotionally.

Here are some of the stories of hope coming from St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas:

  • St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group was able to hire a new Disaster Case Manager. Each manager is assigned up to 80 cases and they work to ensure every client is connected to resources. Unlike in other programs, Disaster Case Managers provide assistance until their client is completely recovered and has a sustainable action plan to thrive post-recovery.
  • St. John Long-Term Recovery Group has built 12 homes. They have 15 more homes currently under construction and 53 homes still in need of assistance. “Together we can make these houses a home again,” says Jon Eichner, Director of Operations.
  • Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) is investing in the ecological resilience of the islands. They are funding the distribution of native fruit trees to farmers on St. Thomas, native plant restoration in National Park areas on St. John, commercial composting on St. John, and a new Seed Stewards team that will to reestablish the urban tree canopy on St. Croix.
  • All Hands and Hearts wrapped up its work on St. Thomas earlier this year after one and a half years of support. They celebrated their successes—6,000 people helped and 930 jobs completed—by hosting a community ballgame in a park that they had revitalized.
  • St. Thomas Recovery Team has helped families with middle and high school students learn together about local hazard risks and investigate opportunities for resilience. They’ve also hosted several teams of skilled volunteers to help with their ongoing home rebuilding efforts.

The work is far from over. On St. Thomas alone, there are more than 5,000 people waiting to have a case worker assigned to help them navigate the process of rebuilding their homes and livelihoods, to access counseling or job training, and to work as their advocates with public and private insurance and rebuilding agencies.

Thank you for your support of long-term recovery. We will continue to bring you stories of resilience and strength from these islands.

St. Croix LTRG celebrates a completed home
St. Croix LTRG celebrates a completed home
A family picks up trees to plant at their farm
A family picks up trees to plant at their farm

Thanks to your generous support, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands are able to invest in the sustainability of their natural environment. Island Spirit Fund partner Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has been busy funding environmental restoration with two local organizations, the University of the Virgin Islands and St. Croix Environmental Association. Your donations are improving coastal ecosystems with the introduction of can and bottle recycling and the planting of native trees.

The University of the Virgin Islands was able to secure additional funding to expand their recycling pilot project, allowing the initiative to be rolled out to both the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses. Before the recycling bins and materials are placed around the campuses, the project leaders have been hosting awareness events. When the bins are installed, the work won’t quite be over, as the leaders of the project see a significant need for education around recycling—both on the importance of recycling and about the proper way to recycle various items.

St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) is planting native trees on their home island. The trees play an important role in hurricane recovery and in restoring an ecosystem that can better withstand future storms:

  • Native trees are adapted to withstand the impacts of and recover from hurricanes.
  • The root systems of native trees are adapted to holding soil in place, keeping it on land rather than washing into the ocean and hurting coastal ecosystems.
  • These trees also host native pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, and bats—all of which are essential to forest recovery and the production of fruits, an important food source for the island’s humans and wildlife alike.

Thanks to generous discounts provided by the sellers, 310 trees were able to be purchased, exceeding the initial goal of 250. Of these trees, about half were given away at community events and the other half were planted by volunteers. Nearly 50 volunteers of all ages helped the relief effort by planting trees at a coastal reserve near an old tower that is home to several hundred cave bats.

Learn more about both these programs in the Community Foundation for the Virgin Islands’ project reports.

We love being able to share these stories from the field. Check your inbox in the coming months for updates on the progress of Island Spirit Fund partner organizations!

Tree planting at the coastal reserve
Tree planting at the coastal reserve
St. Croix LTRG - Senior resident receives roof
St. Croix LTRG - Senior resident receives roof

Our partners in the U.S. Virgin Islands are in it for the long haul, helping fill in the gaps and helping ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Some survivors affected by the hurricanes are ineligible 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 group, like the St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG), come in. LTRGs are locally based teams 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.

“The mission of the St. Croix LTRG is to help members independently provide community services on a daily basis and provide effective relief and recovery services to people affected by disaster on the island of St. Croix,” said Pastor Gary Moore, chairperson of the St. Croix LTRG.

“As we transition from the emergency response phase of the disasters to long-term recovery, it is important that we come together as community leaders to communicate, cooperate, coordinate and collaborate for a more sustainable and resilient future for our entire St. Croix community.”

What does long-term recovery look like in action? An example comes from the Resilient Housing Initiative of the St. John Long-Term Recovery Team. The group recently finished refurbishing the house of a retired school teacher who designed the home with her late husband. She had been staying with her daughter in the U.S. mainland since the storms. She returned to St. John when her home was rebuilt and members of the recovery group went to visit her. She stood with tears in her eyes as she looked silently over the newly constructed home.

The group had restored the home with a reinforced ceiling, safety grab bars in the shower, and like-new furnishings donated from a villa owner. She looked around at her once beautifully terraced gardens and remarked how excited she was to work in them again. Hillary Bonner, the group’s Director of Operations says, “She hugged each of us as we left, expressing her gratitude and giving thanks for all that had been done for her. We were just grateful she was able to be back in her home and returning to a ‘new’ type of normal.”

Thank you for your part in supporting full recovery on the U.S. Virgin Islands.

St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group volunteers
St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group volunteers

Thank you for supporting communities in the US Virgin Islands as they rebuild in the year after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Your donation to the Island Spirit Fund continues to support these five incredible organizations working locally to support their communities through recovery:

  • The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group has managed 267 volunteers who in turn provided 13,050 hours of labor to support construction on 20 homes. Chris Finch shares one of the group’s many success stories, “When the homeowner entered the house and saw that she could occupy her bedroom for the first time in over a year, she collapsed on her bed in joy.”
  • The St. John Long Term Recovery Group started or completed the rebuilding of 10 or more homes with materials purchased with the funds donated by the Island Spirit Fund. They used their funds to source approved materials to build the homes in a more resilient manner and in accordance with building codes.
  • The St. Thomas Recovery Team (STRT) has put five families back into their homes. “The Island Spirit Fund has really raised morale on St. Thomas as well as on the other two islands,” says Imani Daniel, Chair of the Board for STRT.
  • The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has made three grants to local organizations. The grants are piloting a recycling program on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus, supporting native tree restoration, and strengthening the local marine workforce with internships in coastal science or conservation and a partnership with Penn State's Biology program.
  • Across their work in the USVI, All Hands and Hearts has managed 1,141 volunteers who provided 23,668 volunteers hours to impact 6,718 people. A client expressed gratitude for this work saying, “All Hands and Hearts were the first people who said, ‘We can help you,’ and actually delivered on the promise.”

With your help, our Island Spirit Fund nonprofit partners are able to continue making a transformative impact in the lives of people impacted by the storms. Thank you for your continued dedication to the recovery of hurricane-affected communities for the long haul.

A CFVI grantee gave out native trees to be planted
A CFVI grantee gave out native trees to be planted
St. Thomas Recovery Team
St. Thomas Recovery Team

Thank you for supporting communities in the USVI to rebuild after last year’s devastating hurricanes. Your donation to the Island Spirit Fund, has supported the following five amazing organizations working tirelessly on the ground to rebuild and renew their communities after hurricanes Irma and Maria:

  • The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is working with faith-based, nonprofit, government, business and other organizations working in St. Croix to unite recovery resources with community needs to ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover. Your support will help the LTRG provide disaster case management and help rebuild 1,000+ homes.
  • The St. John Long Term Recovery Group is working with local groups and volunteers in St John to rebuild their community after last year’s hurricane season. Your funds will support their efforts to put repair the homes of elderly residents in St. John and prepare other structures on the island for the next hurricane season.
  • The St. Thomas Recovery Team (STRT) is working with volunteers to rebuild homes for vulnerable members of the community, including those who are low-income, elderly, and disabled. Your gift will allow STRT to rebuild homes that would not be able to be rebuilt otherwise.
  • The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) is working with local initiatives related to environmental rebuilding and the marine economy. Your support will support CFVI’s efforts to build momentum in connecting to issues including public health, social equity, tourism, sustainability, and resilience.
  • All Hands and Hearts is working with volunteer teams on St. Thomas and St. John to fulfill a long-term commitment to help the U.S. Virgin Islands recover. Your support will help All Hands and Hearts to repair child care facilities, to manage waste and debris, and to muck, gut, and sanitize homes.

Thank you for your continued dedication to rebuilding hurricane-affected communities during this time of need. With your support, our nonprofit partners are able to continue making a tangible impact in the lives of so many.

All Hands and Hearts
All Hands and Hearts
St. John Long Term Recovery Group
St. John Long Term Recovery Group

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