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This GoFundMe Campaign is in support of my good friend Alex Vano. I want to help Alex Vano and his friends rebuild their lives and businesses in St. Martin so they can once again create, build and provide jobs while making St. Martin a special welcoming island again. If Alex decides it's best to leave Saint Martin either permanently or temporarily, funds will be used to help him and/or his friends secure transportation, lodging and healthcare as needed.
At this time, we are seeking to raise $15,000. 100% of all funds raiseds will be provided to Alex Vano by Robert Risse . (see below)
Alex Vano's Zen'it Cafe Resturant and Beachclub (before Irma)
After Hurricane Irma:
About Alex and the Zen'it Cafe and Beach Club
Alex Vano, 32, from Lille France, is a citizen of France. He built and managed Zen'it Cafe, a very special French bistro and beach club in Grand Case, Saint Martin. It was a beautiful and welcoming place. And the food was beyond excellent. In St. Martin, Zen'it was known not only for its great food and seaside vista, it was a welcoming spot for Gay people, artisits, musicans, neighbors and tourists. The employees of Zen't Cafe became "friends and family" And for many workers in St. Martin, it was the place to stop by, see friends, chill out and feel like they were at home, welcomed and loved.
When Hurrican Irma hit St. Martin, 90% of the island was destroyed. The Zen'it Cafe and Beach Club was obliterated. Alex and his team put everything they had, including their heart and soul to build Zen'it and to make it the special gathering place on the Island. It is now gone, Nothing remains but the beautiful memories.
Why am I organizing this campaign?
As I drove Miami Beach residents to hurricane shelters on Friday, I had to do much more than drive. People were scared. Many thought they would lose everything and may not ever see their homes and neighbors again. I had to be a therapist and a life counselor. I encouraged each person to plan for the worst and hope for the best. And I assured them, that if the worst did happen, if they lost everything, the community would come together in support. We are thankful the worst did not happen here in Miami, but a few days earlier, St. Martin was destroyed. I was worried about Alex. Finally I heard he and his friends survived and have shelter in St. Martin. But everything else they had, everything they built, is gone. Please help me help them. Help them to rebuild and improve St Martin.
Alex Vano at his Zen'it Cafe
Update, Tueasday September 19, 2017
Alex and I exchanged Facebook Messenger messages again last night. He and his group of friends/Zen'it employees continue to stay together on the Island. Intermittently they have electricity and cellular connections. They send a group out each day to get drinking water and find food. They have access to limited supplies from the resturant storage. Being French and the Chefs, they manage to create good meals which they share with their neighbors. Although some friends have left to return to France, Alex and the group are commmited to staying. "Why", I ask? Alex says, "it is my home." Alex is braver than I am. His strength gives me strength and the determination to make a difference here.
How I met Alex
Two years ago, Alfonso and I met Alex Vano in Brussels at La Demence. This 30 year old, low key casual guy was very impressive both creatively and intellectually. He exibited quiet confidence of a young self-made accomplished entrepreneur who had left France at a young age, traveled to a far away unknown place and found his way. He did well. He built his resturant and made it a very special, welcoming place. Alfonso and I visited St. Martin to see Alex and to enjoy the hospitality of his resturant and island. It felt like home to us.
Fund Raised will be used as follows for Alex, his team nad friends in St. Martin:
(1) Medical Care if Needed
(2) Temporary Lodging and Transportation costs
(3) REBUILDING COSTS. MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT, TOOLS
(5) Should Alex determine that he is unable to continue and rebuild in St. Martin, any remaining funds will be used to help him and his friends to relocate safely.
ALL funds donated will be withdrawn from GoFundMe by Robert Risse into his USA based Bank Account as required by GoFundMe(1). Some funds may be used to directly purchase transportion or related services to help Alex or any member of his team to leave St. Martin and travel to a safe place such as France or the USA. Otherwise all funds will then be wired or depsited into an account which is accessible by Alex Vano or his immediate family.
No funds from this campaign will be used by Robert Risse for his expenses. 100% will go to Alex Vano.
Detailed records will be maintained, and a full accounting will be posted as an update to this campaign. as required by GoFundme.
Alfonso, Alex Vano, and Me
About me: Robert Risse
I was fortunate. I was a Philadelphia auto mechanic's son who received a scholarship to be an exchange student in Kenya, East Africa at 15 years old. I then studyed engineering at Stanford and Business at the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Currently I help young entrepreneurs around the world start and build companies. I live partime in Paris (Rue Saint Croix de la Bretonnerie, Marais IV) and Miami Beach. Today I am grateful that I have this opportuntity to help Alex, as my home and city, Miami Beach was spared the worst of Hurrican Irma.
Trip-advisor Review, Zen'it Beach Cafe
Zen'it Cafe and Grand Case, St. Matin
Note (1): GoFundMe requires that funds are withdrawn through a USA-based back account whose holder has a USA Social Security number.
Alex (2nd from left) and Friends in St. Martin
- Felix Vanoverschelde
- Julie Vano
- Steven & Syvain Collins
- Catherine Vanoverschelde
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