St. Maarten Teacher Relief

My name is Michael Schmidt. My sister Cindy, her husband Peter and their 9 year old son Adam recently lost everything as their home in St. Maarten was completely destroyed in Hurricane Irma. The eye of the hurricane passed just 200 meters from their apartment, with 160 mph winds ripping the roof from their building and imploding all the windows. Absolutely everything is gone. They had evacuated a few days prior to the US with a few days worth of clothing, hoping they would be able to return to rebuild. This was not to be. Cindy is a psychology teacher at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, which was also destroyed. Little Adam attended the Caribbean International Academy in Cupecoy, St Maarten, and like most of the students was able to evacuate prior to the storm. Many of Adam's teachers, however, were forced to ride out the storm on the island and lost everything, including homes, posessions and employment. Cindy is currently in limited communication with Adam's 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade teachers. These teachers have been so wonderful with Adam. Under their tutelage he has excelled to a such a degree that he was recommended for advancing two years ahead to the 6th grade. It is my goal to assist with their recovery in any way possible.

From Cindy: "The teachers are from Canada and are provided with very modest housing, a car, and a modest salary. One of Adam's teachers is pregnant and needed a lot of care during the hurricane. Another teacher decided that she was 'here for the good times and will be here for the bad...' to help rebuild. Another teacher decided that if there were any of their kids remaining on the island then the best thing for them would be to get right back to school, so she is working earnestly to re-open the school. They are living in extremely unsafe conditions - no running water, no electricity, very limited food and clean water, and gangs of looters with machetes. Yes, there are more military and clean up has begun, but their safety and basic needs remain in true jeopardy. They risk their lives and certainly sacrifice their comfort for their students. These teachers are so deeply caring. They truly devote their lives to their students.

The students are not poor and some of them are quite wealthy, or at least were. The parents may have owned a chic French restaurant or ran a beachside hotel. Nearly all the families were European - Dutch or French. There were a few American students, but not as many. These businesses have been destroyed, so there is also question of whether they would be able to pay tuition. If they cannot afford tuition, then who pays the teachers? Most of the students have evacuated the island by now. Once you start a new life, how do you go back?

Every year new students would arrive at CIA knowing no or very little English. These teachers did not have classroom aides to help them teach the children even how to find the page that they were on in a book (who just happens to know "page 18" in other languages, for example). They gave these students an education but also helped them navigate the complexities of living on an island, foreign language by immersion, and patience for understanding why Canada was a main focus in their social studies lessons. (Adam really wants to visit Prince Edward Island ever since he learned about it.) The kids had very minimal testing and homework, excellent focus on drama, art, dance, and music, and everyone, everyone took foreign language - either Dutch or French 4 days a week. Adam's 4th grade teacher always had her students write short plays for the holiday and spring shows. Fridays had double or triple art periods (i.e., 3 hours). Adam's 2nd grade teacher used yoga in the classroom. They are teachers with good priorities, good pedagogy, and deep love for educating children. I would trust them with Adam's life. They took excellent care of him, and now I would like them to be taken care of. Every size donation helps when you need to purchase a pillow, coffee pot, new clothing, cooking oil, etc. (That will be our reality when we finally settle in a stable home off island.) I cannot say enough how wonderful you are to reach out in this way and offer to help us. Generosity and beauty always move me to tears, so I'll say it now while I can...thank you."

So many friends have reached out, wanting to know how they can help, so I'm setting up this fund. I would like the fund to extend beyond my immediate family to include the wonderful teachers of my little nephew Adam, who've cared so deeply about his development as a child. Please donate what you can to help not only Cindy and her family but also these invaluable educators of children to rebuild their lives.

Thank you.

Michael
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Organizer and beneficiary

Michael Schmidt 
Organizer
Los Angeles, CA
Cindy Schmidt 
Beneficiary
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