As communities across the Caribbean begin the arduous task of rebuilding their lives after two devastating hurricanes, Team Rubicon UK’s volunteers have been working alongside search and rescue charity Serve On and residents to clear and repair damaged schools in the British Virgin Islands so that children can get back into class and resume their studies.
Tens of thousands of children have had their education disrupted after two hurricanes in less than two weeks tore through these islands, pulling roofs off schools, smashing windows and drenching textbooks, report cards and equipment in torrential rain. With power and water supplies disrupted in many areas, many schools will struggle to reopen in the near future.
Local education officials are determined to get children back into class as soon as possible and Team Rubicon UK has been collaborating with the islands’ education ministry to help in this vital task. Many of the schools that are being repaired will take in pupils whose schools have suffered more severe damage.
Officials have described the passage of two such massive storms in such quick succession as unprecedented. The scale of the devastation prompted Team Rubicon UK to expand its initial operation by sending 38 volunteers, including veterans and emergency responders, to the region on 20 September, making this our largest operation to date.
“Any bookshelves or cupboards, which hadn’t been thrown around and spat out in some mangled form were drenched, growing mould and totally unusable. From now on this school can only get better and the impact for the community was felt beyond bricks and mortar.”
TR volunteer Lizzy Stileman
- Team Rubicon UK and Serve On volunteers assessed damage to the Robinson O’Neal Memorial Primary school in North Sound which caters for over 200 children. The school’s roof was torn off during Hurricane Irma and the building was pounded again during Hurricane Maria. Four volunteers worked alongside locals to fill three 30-foot skips with debris, including soaked and shredded school books, roofing material, children’s reports, chairs, musical instruments and toys.
- Volunteers also tackled damage to the Ciboney Centre for Excellence, which provides education to around 100 pupils. Working alongside school staff and local volunteers, they gathered anything that could be salvaged to store in a container. They then began to clear out the school building.
Team Rubicon UK’s volunteers have also been clearing damaged schools in Tortola in close collaboration with the island’s Ministry of Education.
- At Cedar International School in Kingston, volunteers repaired the perimeter fence, reinstated electric power to the septic tank pump, provided 3,000 gallons of clean drinking water for students and removed a downed tree in the play area.
- Volunteers also got to work at Althea Scatliffe primary school, which has around 460 pupils between the ages of 5 and 10. Volunteers removed one tonne of debris, including shards of broken glass from the reception hall where children gather for morning assembly, eat their meals and play games. Debris was also cleared from first floor classrooms.
- At Joyce Samuels Primary School in Belle Vue, Team Rubicon volunteers mucked out 11 classrooms, removing two tonnes of debris.
- Volunteers also built new plywood classrooms at Elmore Stoutt High School so that children can return on October 5 to begin revising for upcoming exams.
Team Rubicon UK and Serve On first sent volunteers to the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma hammered a string of islands in early September. Arriving less than 48 hours after the storm hit, teams made up of military veterans, emergency responders and civilians focused their relief efforts on the devastated British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos, with other volunteers based in Antigua and Barbados to organise logistics and help funnel aid through the region.
When Hurricane Maria threatened to wreak more havoc on already battered communities, the teams switched rapidly to storm-proofing shelters, securing debris and making sure residents were as prepared as possible. These teams were ideally placed once Maria had passed to assess the new damage and embark immediately on clean-up operations.
Our main body of volunteers has now returned to the UK, and a third wave of volunteers departed for the Caribbean on 3 October. The new team is picking up ongoing projects including continued muck out and reconstruction of schools on both Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Amongst other projects, volunteers will also be training and facilitating at the Virgin Gorda Recovery Operations Centre, working to improve communications and continuing distribution of filtered water.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of the volunteers that have worked so hard to support this operation so far, both in the Caribbean and at our HQ in Wiltshire, as well as all of the incredibly generous individuals and organisations that have supported our emergency appeal to help communities across the Caribbean.
What you can do
- Donate now to support our ongoing work in the Caribbean – every donation no matter how small makes a difference
- Sign up as Team Rubicon volunteer – we are looking for new volunteers to join our growing community of disaster responders
- Find out more ways to support Team Rubicon