It has been nearly five years since hurricanes Maria and Irma collided with islands in the Caribbean, and while life has recovered there in some ways, nothing has been quite the same since.
One of our nonprofit partners, Ian Samuel of St. John Community Foundation adapted a meaningful saying to reflect on our own long-term recovery partnership together. In his words:
“Commitment is doing the thing you said you would do after the feeling of saying it has left.”
The Island Spirit Fund remains committed to helping rebuild and renew communities impacted by hurricanes.
Meanwhile, two of our Puerto Rico partners have wrapped up their work with the Island Spirit Fund, and we want to celebrate all they have accomplished.
Over their last year with the Island Spirit Fund, Protectores de Cuencas planted more than 7,500 trees. Forest fires caused by low precipitation and high temperatures, coupled with higher tourism traffic in the area, prevented the Protectores de Cuencas team from continuing their reforestation efforts for several months. However, they are growing over 12,000 more native trees in their nursery to use in upcoming replanting efforts as climate conditions improve.
La Maraña has lately been able to dive back more fully into in-person programming. They’ve found that being in-person is fundamental for generating confidence, trust, and relationships with the communities that they work with.
They recently selected four communities to participate in their Laboratorio de Diseño Participativo (Participative Design Laboratory). These groups include a community of 141 families who had to relocate to the northeast part of the island after Hurricane Georges in 2006. La Maraña is helping the community pick up on unfinished plans for their first community park. Another community of fishers in the far west part of the main island is looking to rebuild their fishing village (pictured above). Elsewhere, a plaza revitalization project will host a monthly community market and a collective orchard. Finally, a group of women working on the smaller island of Culebra will be supported in their vision to revive an abandoned public space near their main port with goals of sustainability and food security for the island.
Thank you to these and all of our Island Spirit Fund partners for their hard work throughout the recently concluded program year. Their dedication inspires us each and every day.
In 2017, Carlo witnessed firsthand the devastation in Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria—and the painfully slow government response that left lights out in communities for months. “No one is coming,” he recalls thinking. “No one is coming to save you. No one is coming for your family. You have to save yourself.” Carlo believes Puerto Ricans themselves know best how to create safer futures, but they’re shut out through broken systems. His job is to make space for Puerto Ricans to envision and enact solutions as the Executive Director of the nonprofit La Maraña, an Island Spirit Fund partner.
La Maraña’s story was featured in GlobalGiving’s recent Community Forward Film Series, highlighting nonprofits putting communities in the driver’s seat of change. [Watch Carlo discuss La Maraña’s work in this one-minute video.]
GlobalGiving’s interim CEO recently shared in an article how research shows community-led organizations like La Maraña are more agile, connected, and flexible. They’re able to act quickly because they understand the contexts in which they work. They’re able to harness local assets because they have long-held relationships with their neighbors. They’re able to pivot based on changing needs because they see and feel those needs every day.
The world’s most pressing problems, like recovery from back-to-back natural disasters, will never be solved if the people with the most promising solutions continue to be shut out. Instead, we need to back the people with local knowledge, with lived experiences of the issues, the people from within communities who want to create change.
When you support the Island Spirit Fund, you lift up changemakers at organizations like La Maraña, Protectores de Cuencas Inc, CHANT, Patient Assist, St Croix Long-Term Recovery Group, and St John Community Foundation. Thank you for helping communities lead the way.
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.
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.
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.
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When a disaster strikes, recovery efforts led by people who live and work in affected communities are often overlooked and underfunded. GlobalGiving is changing this reality. Since 2004, we've been shifting decision-making power to crises-affected communities through trust-based grantmaking and support.
We make it easy, quick, and safe to support people on the ground who understand needs in their communities better than anyone else.
They were there long before the news cameras arrived, and they’ll be there long after the cameras leave. They know how to make their communities more resilient to future disasters, and they’re already hard at work. GlobalGiving puts donations and grants directly into their hands. Because the status quo—which gives the vast majority of funding to a few large organizations—doesn’t make sense.
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