SXM Canadian Recovery Initiative
Sint Maarten Canadian Recovery Initiative
Hurricane Irma, the largest and most powerful Atlantic Hurricane ever recorded, swept through the Caribbean during the early morning hours of September 6th. The duel-country island of Sint Maarten (Dutch)/St Martin (French), commonly referred to as SXM, took a direct hit by Irma.
In Irma’s wake, Sint Maarten was left devastated. The news agency, Reuters, quoted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as saying Irma has caused “enormous devastation,” and that the island remains unreachable for now.
What was once a beautiful, friendly tropical island, visited annually by millions of sun-seeking visitors, has been forever changed. For the moment, the island is now home to looters, homeless residents, and missing family members and friends. Islanders are without water, food, and all essentials- no, the necessities of life. Just think for a moment: there are no functioning toilets for the majority. Yup- “disaster plus."
It has shocked me as to how quickly people- humans- turned into animals. These less-than-human looters were already out during the passing of the hurricane eye. Really! As my associate and friend Chin said, “I am saddened to see my people behave this way." Officials are restoring law and order. However, in the interim, the island is desperate for outside assistance.
My name is Robert B. Cooper, better known as Coop or Cooper, and I have a strong personal connection to Sint Maarten.
My first time to Sint Maarten was in the mid 80s after a long 5 year employment as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s photographer. While operating a captained charter sailboat out of the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.), repeat guests wished to sail elsewhere as they/we had already sailed the B.V.I. Sint Maarten was the next closest Island to sail to- leave the B.V.I. at sunset and arrive in SXM for breakfast. However, I had never truly explored the island beyond Front Street and Bobby’s Marina until my return.
I chose Sint Maarten simply because I wanted a winter break, and to deliver a photo I took 30 years previous to Eddy at Le Select (Jimmy Buffet’s hangout) on St. Barts.
Coincidentally, an elderly friend’s cruise ship port-of-call was SXM while I was there. In arranging Jane’s pick-up from the docks, I took a road I never would have taken and, on the way out, I stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant. The the establishment was Chesterfields, locally known as Chesty’s. While at lunch, I met Ronny Busby, who would soon become a friend, and whom introduce me to many islanders, beginning with “The Back of the Bus Boys”- a group of professionals who socially gather once a week.
During my visit, I became aware that a business I had been working on here in Canada was better suited for the island, and since then (soon to be 2 years) I have traveled to SXM 7 times, each time staying a bit longer in different Airbnbs and meeting very special people. A network of close friends quickly developed.
Some individuals we have not heard from since Irma hit. We are all concerned for their well being- their whereabouts are unknown. We are all collectively holding on to hope that they are ok.
I am doing what I can do from afar, which this GoFundMe campaign is an integral part of.
Additionally, I am bringing one of my associates, Chin Wong, a Dutch-born Chinese individual, and his family to Canada so they can escape the mayhem they are experiencing now. Their children, Taymra, 14, and Lorena, 7, have been traumatized by the experience- as all islanders have.
Every donation will assist in not only rebuilding lives, but the island as well. Yes, I can only contribute my small part and you can be part of my efforts by donating.
I cannot state strongly enough as to how desperate the majority of Sint Maarten residents are, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Once services are restored, it will take years to fully recover. Please share my Relief/Rebuild GoFundMe campaign with everyone you can. Repost it, tweet it, talk it up with your friends and in your community.
Funds raised requiring a tax receipt will go directly to Sint Maarten’s Red Cross - no middle people. All funds will be publicly accounted for and if anyone out there has ideas or suggestion I am all ears. This is bigger than me.
Thank you everyone for reading and paying attention to my efforts. Please follow this campaign to see how your contributions are being used to rebuild lives and the island.
PS: I’m returning to SXM on November 3rd to bring needed items and the Red Cross donation. Please help me make a difference. Remember, “a little goes a long way."
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