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Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI

by St. Thomas Recovery Team
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Rebuilding St. Thomas, USVI
Final Nail Ceremony!
Final Nail Ceremony!

Do you remember our elderly client from our March update? Well, today we’re happy to announce that she, along with members of three other households, were able to watch us hammer in the Final Nail and connect the final fittings to complete their personal recovery plans! STRT’s staff, local volunteers, and national volunteers from all over the continental United States came together to make several St. Thomian families whole again. 

Our Construction Teams replaced and repaired roofs, installed new windows and hurricane-proof shutters, and brought several damaged bathrooms back into working order, with running hot water that clients always mention specifically in their letters and calls to the office. Besides these larger projects, smaller undertakings were also wrapped up: residential gardens, smaller quality-of-life repairs, and the occasional mattress delivery all helped make this project cycle one that we’re very happy to report on. 

As we enter the “Tourist Season” in the Virgin Islands, two years after Irma and Maria, one can easily overlook the needs of those that are still recovering from these disasters and the prodigious amount of work still ahead of us, as a people. We are eternally grateful for our Volunteer Partners: United Methodists Volunteers in Mission (UMVM) and Reformed Churches of America (RCA), Family Resource Center, Salvation Army VI, Catholic Charities of the VI, and the University of the Virgin Islands, to name just a few, for their commitment to supporting St. Thomas through her journey back to full recovery.  

STRT has some other wins to celebrate since our last update:

  • Establishment of a partnership between the Virgin Islands Police Department, Salvation Army, and the VI Good Food Coalition to install and support community gardens in low income neighborhoods
  • Partnership with the VI Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation to plant community gardens in various parks, playgrounds, and public green (and not-so-green-YET) spaces
  • Continued collaboration with federal Community Planning and Capacity Building agents on the Community Response Plan as it continues to grow and find space for our invaluable nonprofit and community partners who keep the island going during clear skies
  • Establishment of and admittance into the Virgin Islands Voluntary Agency Active in Disaster (VI-VOAD): a vehicle through which the Virgin Islands will be able to communicate and collaborate with national nonprofit partners even more effectively both through this IrMaria recovery and for future preparedness and disaster response initiatives. 
  • Continued territorial collaboration with our brothers and sisters across the sea in St. John and St. Croix as we unceasingly pursue improved quality of life and a full physical, spiritual, and economic recovery for every Virgin Islander. 

Thank you for all of your support. Your donations keep this organization going and are directly impacting the lives of those who need it the most. On behalf of all Virgin Islanders, we thank you for your commitment to our mission!

Strong roofs!
Strong roofs!
Let their be light!
Let their be light!
Food security in the neighborhood.
Food security in the neighborhood.

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A beautiful family happy to see their new home!
A beautiful family happy to see their new home!

Next week Friday, September 6, 2019 will mark the 2nd year anniversary of Hurricane Irma's devastating impact on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Since then, we've endured Hurricane Maria, severe droughts and are closely watching Hurricane Dorian approach us this week. Through and through, the rebuild continues and the resilience of the people in the Virgin Islands is unwavering.

Since our last update, we've been able to welcome oh 7th Invitational Travel team through the United Methodists in Volunteer Mission groups and have been able to welcome an additional 5 families back in to their homes, just in time for the new school year! Our last two teams worked very hard on the hardest rebuild case that we have undertaken so far. We were able to celebrate the Last Nail Ceremony with this family and make it extra special by furnishing their home with beautiful pieces donated to us by the Marriott.

It is important to us that we keep the spirits of our people high, be aware and sensitive to widespread PTSD during this season and help our constituents envision a brighter future. 

Some other successes from the STRT include:

  • Successfully designed and implemented several individual home gardens for our most vulnerable clients.
  • Completed the first draft of our Community Response Plan initiative (launching at our September 6 commemoration event).
  • Continued territorial collaboration with the other Virgin Islands to advocate for a better quality of life and recovery for all Virgin Islanders. 

Thank you for all of your support. Your donations keep this organization going and are directly impacting the lives of those who need it the most. On behalf of all Virgin Islanders, we thank you for your commitment to our mission!

What a roof, What a view!
What a roof, What a view!
Thank you Marriott for this donated furniture!
Thank you Marriott for this donated furniture!
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Window screens keep diseased bugs out of our homes
Window screens keep diseased bugs out of our homes

The STRT is happy to announce FEMA sponsored Invitational Travel for skilled volunteers coming to assist in the rebuild! We have 5 full teams scheduled between now and end of July (this will likley be extended) and are excited to be hosting our first team from the United Methodists Volunteers in Mission (UMVM) from Southern Mississippi. This partnership with FEMA will make the STRT even more impactful and be able to use your donations further than ever before. We are eternally grateful for this partnership and look forward to all of the magic, and hardwork, to come. 

These first 7 FEMA IT volunteers have hit the ground running and will be working on two very vulnerable displaced clients to get them back in to Safe, Sanitary, and Secure homes. We have had very little rainfall in the last 5 months, leading to a severe drought. Last week, the skies opened up and the island has seen flash flooding and all of the blue tarps installed 18 months ago failing / leaking. While we've been battling some heavy rains, our Construction Team has been adaptive and flexible in amending their work plan. Roofs are the majority of our scope of work, but alot goes in to the interior of homes as well. 

As usual, our volunteers and clients have hit it off quite well. Working side by side with the client, they are on track to close this client's case by next Monday (all while closing another case last week)!

Some other successes from the STRT include:

  • Successfully completing the first 4 of 8 weeks of our Storm Strong Program (a collaboration with the National Science Foundation and the University of the Virgin Islands in which we work with up to 20 families with children in grades 6-12 over an extended period of time to teach them about our local hazard risks, help them investigate options and measures they can take to be more resilient, and faciliate their development and implementation of Community Transfer Projects. 
  • Successfully designed and implemented several individual home gardens for our most vulnerable clients.
  • Begun surveys for our Commuinty Response Plan initiative (launching this September).
  • Continued territorial collaboration with the other Virgin Islands to advocate for a better quality of life and recovery for all Virgin Islanders. 

Thank you for all of your support. Your donations keep this organization going and are directly impacting the lives of those who need it the most. On behalf of all Virgin Islanders, we thank you for your commitment to our mission!

Tagging and counting our tools keeps us organized!
Tagging and counting our tools keeps us organized!
New roofs mean new ceilings! These volunteers rock
New roofs mean new ceilings! These volunteers rock
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Our Construction Coordinator Dan!
Our Construction Coordinator Dan!

We’re happy to report amazing results from our All Hands and Heart partnership! Together, we were able to rehouse a family with an elderly grandfather taking great care of his granddaughter and autistic grandson. These clients have been lucky enough to stay at a neighbors house (where they sought shelter in the middle of Hurricane Irma when their house was destroyed around them), but they were given two weeks notice to vacate

All Hands and Hearts performed the initial client intake and were able to give this family beautiful floors, new kitchen cabinets and fixtures, and a sound roof. As soon as we heard that there were long-standing electrical issues with a short deadline, we knew we had to help. We were able to call our handy dandy local volunteer (and certified electrician), Jason, who has been working on this project for 4 days so far. Jason was able to crack the wiring code and get much needed power to the water pump and water heater for these clients. 

With the electrical wiring correct and water running throughout the house, we’ll be able to install ceiling fans with lights in the 3 bedrooms, as well as in the living room and on the front and back of the house's exterior. This family already received 3 brand new beds from our Donations Management team. We’ll need to come back to the house to install hurricane shutters and secure the sliding glass door, but this family is now ready, after 18 months, to move back in to their home and begin piecing back together their 'new normal'. 

We’re really excited about this project for a few reasons. First, our partnership with All Hands and Hearts has helped both of our organizations carry out our missions and help people much more efficiently. Secondly, and most importantly, we were able to mitigate any further emotional and financial harm to our clients by getting them back into their safe, sanitary, and secure house by their deadline. With your support, our local volunteers, and our amazing partnerships we really are changing lives for the better - every single day!

Thank you all! #VIStrong

Too many wires not enough colors!
Too many wires not enough colors!
Water running, stove ready to be hooked up
Water running, stove ready to be hooked up
Nothing that Jason can't solve!
Nothing that Jason can't solve!
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Local volunteers with our happy home-owner!
Local volunteers with our happy home-owner!

This past weekend, a team of 5 local volunteers met with one of our elderly clients to ensure that her home checks all of our Safe, Sanitary, and Secure boxes.

Our local volunteers cleared a few pathways to the home's doors, diverted runoff water that was flooding the home, drew plans to install a safety handrail along her walkway and began planning to help her build her micro-garden.

This project actually cost $0.00 in materials and was able to be completed with some hard working and caring neighbors. Her case is not officially closed yet, so stay tuned to see this client's full recovery story! While not all of our projects will be this easy to complete, we are very proud of each and every St. Thomian that we are able to help recover!

Thank you for all of your help! Your continued support means that we can keep a smile on this client's face and continue to chip away at the vast unmet need that we are still facing. 

Bye-bye old weatherhead! Hello working electricity
Bye-bye old weatherhead! Hello working electricity
B4 cleaning, our client couldn't get to her door
B4 cleaning, our client couldn't get to her door
Now she can navigate to and from her door easily!
Now she can navigate to and from her door easily!

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Organization Information

St. Thomas Recovery Team

Location: St. Thomas - Virgin Islands
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Imani Daniel
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

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