The Island Spirit Fund

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The Island Spirit Fund
The Island Spirit Fund
The Island Spirit Fund
Volunteers helped plant 680 trees in Puerto Rico
Volunteers helped plant 680 trees in Puerto Rico

Island Spirit Fund nonprofit partner Protectores de Cuencas in Puerto Rico knows the power of planting native trees. As the trees grow tall, their shade crowds out the competing invasive plants and provides shelter and food for endangered animals. As the trees’ roots grow, they hold soil in place amid heavy rains. 

In the coming months, Protectores de Cuencas seeks to continue to restore forest ecosystems in the Guanica State Forest in Puerto Rico with the help of volunteers. In October and November they planted 680 native trees with the help of volunteers, and they hope to hold a third volunteer planting event soon, which was postponed for COVID-19 safety reasons. They aim to create denser plant communities in this UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve. Along the way, Protectores de Cuencas also seeks to better educate their community about the importance of their work. 

Meanwhile, in St. Croix, our partner CHANT is reflecting on other benefits of trees. Their artist-in-residence taught 14 community members workshops on beginning and advanced woodcarving.

CHANT also purchased a sawmill to process recovered heritage trees damaged by Hurricane Maria. Their woodworking experts are learning how to operate the machine and store the milled wood. 

Thank you for supporting the Island Spirit Fund’s nonprofit partners, who will be in their communities for the long-term, reaching out and growing roots.

St. Croix community members learned woodworking
St. Croix community members learned woodworking
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More than 1,500 days since hurricanes Maria + Irma
More than 1,500 days since hurricanes Maria + Irma

It’s been more than 1,500 days since hurricanes Irma and Maria. La Maraña in Puerto Rico marked this milestone by bringing together several of their community partners. They celebrated their successes in-person, after months of collaborating virtually. Soon they’ll be launching their documentary, Desde Adentro (From the Inside), another major achievement.


The Island Spirit Fund and its partners have recently reached other milestones:

A first convening of the new Island Spirit Fund partners

In October, representatives from each of the current nonprofit partners of the Island Spirit Fund joined a video call to share their work. Their work is difficult, but collaboration can help. “This space of conversation here gives me new partners to reach out to,” one representative said.

$3 million worth of medication donated

There are no private health insurance options on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John at Patient Assist serves. So the organization fills the gaps. They procure donations of insulin, blood thinners, and other medications from pharmaceutical companies, and deliver them to patients at no cost.

A new structure for preparedness

Immediately following a disaster, an organization called National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) helps assemble local support for recovery efforts. Our partner St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group is supporting the Virgin Islands’ shift to a Community Organization Active in Disaster (COAD) model. Going forward, there will be three Virgin Island COADs under the VOAD umbrella. These new organizations will provide a valuable focus on preparedness.

A new recognition of mental health needs

Many survivors of the storms have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. This is especially true of seniors, who have been particularly isolated due to COVID-19. This, coupled with little mental health access, means each new hurricane season can bring with it renewed trauma. Many of these organizations are trying to address the needs. Frandelle Gerard of CHANT noted that creative outlets like “woodworking can be therapeutic for young people,” like those her organization supports. “We need to find spaces for collective healing and support,” Annette Reyes, of Protectores de Cuenca, said. 


Thank you for your support of the Island Spirit Fund as we surpassed $4.3 million raised and three and a half years of recovery work.

La Marana marks a milestone
La Marana marks a milestone
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CHANT trains St. Croix residents as artisans
CHANT trains St. Croix residents as artisans

Get to know the two newest nonprofit partners of the Island Spirit Fund, Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism and Patient Assist VI.

Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism (CHANT), based in St. Croix, seeks to provide accredited training and apprenticeship programs for 75 residents. Their goal is to create a pipeline for local careers in historic restoration and preservation, the building arts, and the decorative arts. In the process, they’re helping both to rebuild structures to make them habitable after hurricanes and to provide employment. They hope to restore six buildings in the historic neighborhood of Free Gut, on the western side of the island, and make the space available to low-income residents and artists.

"We're highlighting the people and the town that have been made invisible,” Frandelle Gerard, Executive Director said. “We continuously talk about our Danish colonial architecture, and we ignore the fact that the Danes didn't build, the enslaved Africans did."

By centering that erased history and revitalizing abandoned spaces, CHANT is energizing the island and creating a new legacy to intervene amid environmental and economic devastation.

Patient Assist VI (PAVI), based in St. Thomas, will use its Island Spirit Fund support to provide medicine to people with chronic illnesses. “No person should have to choose between basic needs like food and shelter and the medication they need to stay healthy and productive,” PAVI Executive Director Angela Beall wrote.

That could sometimes be a real choice for people like their patients. Hospitals in the US Virgin Islands suffer a shortage of specialty physicians, so many medical complications still require treatment in the US. Many residents lack health insurance and can’t afford to purchase their medications on their own. So Patient Assist fills in the gaps by getting patients their prescription medicines to treat diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and asthma. By managing these issues, serious complications are less likely to occur and community health is improved. Last year they obtained more than 1,000 prescriptions for more patients in the territory than ever before.

Thank you for your part in supporting the work of these two organizations through the Island Spirit Fund.

PAVI delivers medicine and supplies on St. Thomas
PAVI delivers medicine and supplies on St. Thomas
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Speakers at La Marana event in Puerto Rico
Speakers at La Marana event in Puerto Rico

The Island Spirit Fund’s partners have been hard at work this spring supporting diverse projects that build environmental resiliency and help individuals and communities rebuild their lives. Here are some of their updates:

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has funded several program throughout the island including:

  • Training to 31 Virgin Islands-based entrepreneurs, most of whom were women and people of color. The two-day program helped the entrepreneurs to innovate, dissect problems, develop solutions, and lead change in their communities.
  • Equipment to mulch yard debris, which reduces the strain on the territory’s overflowing landfills and related transportation costs.
  • An eight-week urban farming program providing each participant with access to a community garden, seeds, tools, online classes, and a tour of a new sustainable local farm.

“Thank you for having such a wonderful program," Amanda B., an urban farming program participant said. "It has opened my eyes to food and food sustainability not only in Frederiksted but throughout the Virgin Islands and world. After receiving my farming license I have continued farming and plan on having plantains for sale in the next couple of months.”

CFVI funding will also support upcoming programs including a solar affordability workshop for lower-income families, training to displaced workers, and a permaculture farm project.

Meanwhile, the St. John Community Foundation finished three more home rebuilding projects, surpassing the number of homes rebuilt by any other private or federally funded project on the island. They have two more major home rebuilding projects which are pending permit approvals and depend on supplies that can be difficult to procure due to COVID-19.

In Texas, a staff member from partner Bayou City Waterkeeper called out the City of Houston for underinvesting in water infrastructure for those most vulnerable in the community. Her op-ed was published in the city’s largest newspaper.

In Puerto Rico, La Maraña is making progress on a documentary and celebrating their partner organization’s newly opened community kitchen and meeting space. With progress on their current goals underway, they are starting to think about the next chapter of their work.

Thank you for helping these organizations think big about what they can accomplish in the future!

Doors are added to a rebuilt house on St John
Doors are added to a rebuilt house on St John
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View from St. John Community Foundation home site
View from St. John Community Foundation home site

Our thoughts are once again with Texas and our nonprofit partners like Bayou City Waterkeeper in Houston, TX. The area is recovering from winter storms that left many residents without power and water for days. But Texas’ water problems started long before the winter storm.

“A denial of climate change means no real planning has been done to prepare infrastructure to meet increasingly extreme weather, from hurricanes like Harvey to the current freeze—but also more ordinary heavy rain events that our region faces,” said Kristen Schlemmer, legal director at Bayou City Waterkeeper.

Over in Florida, the Federal Disaster Case Management Program provided by FEMA has ended for survivors of Hurricane Michael. The work is not over, so nearly 300 impacted families and individuals were referred to Doorways of Northwest Florida and another local nonprofit to receive continued support. At the same time, Doorways of NWFL has been helping distribute CARES Act funding. This provides support to cover rent, mortgages, utilities, child and elder care, and food expenses for households that lost income due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, in the USVI, the St. John Community Foundation's disaster case management team identified 31 more homes that won’t be repaired under any government program. Organizations like theirs can help fill the gaps, but some residents have had to move on, leaving their homes and the islands behind. Others are still living in tents awaiting a better future. Due to pandemic lockdowns and the limited open hours of the permitting office, the work of reconstructing homes has slowed. Some home projects have been finished though.

One senior citizen, “JN,” moved into her fully rebuilt home a couple of months ago, thanks to the work of St. John Community Foundation. The community came together and donated four pallets of concrete blocks for the walls. Donations from individuals helped hire the labor to build the walls, install windows and doors, and pour a strong hurricane ready concrete roof.

The communities supported by the Island Spirit Fund have suffered setbacks that drive home how important it is to adapt. Bayou City Waterkeeper is working with—rather than against—nature for long-term resilience. Doorways of Northwest Florida is guiding their clients amid three states of emergency (two natural disasters and a pandemic). St. John Community Foundation is figuring out how to build homes with more paid labor while volunteers are unavailable.

Flexible funding from donors like you give these organizations the freedom to invest their time and resources where they are needed most. Thank you for listening to and being part of their stories.

Bayou City Waterkeeper supports this wetland
Bayou City Waterkeeper supports this wetland
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Location: Washington, D.C. - USA
EIN: 30-0108263

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