Stepping out of the Storm

PowerUp Puerto Rico! is now paying off for the students and teachers forced to restart after Hurricane Maria.  An elementary school in San Juan, Puerto Rico recently installed new air conditioning units.  Another elementary school in nearby Guaynabo is soon to build a new playground. Both improvements are the big imprints of Birchwood’s helping feet.

Six months ago, Birchwood students together took over half a million steps in their gym classes and raised $4,218.68 for Puerto Rican schools.  The effort was muy grande, with 166 students participating.  The average steps per student in a single gym period (as counted by pedometers) was 3,173. The giving of families was muy generoso, eventually tallying to $4,218.68.  Que magnifico!

Puerto Rico continues to appear in headlines since Hurricane Maria turned life upside down on the island about one year ago.  Our fellow citizens there have lost loved ones, homes and contact with the outside world. Millions have gone without electricity and water for long stretches. Children stand to lose the most: about 200 schools have been forced to close in the aftermath and all their students reassigned.

To locate schools in need of aid, we relied on a reputable partner, the Baldwin School of Puerto Rico.  This international school had the advantage of more modern facilities and a well-resourced clientele. They weathered the storm fairly well and have been able to serve as a conduit for aid dollars to not-as-fortunate schools.  They have the ability to identify the schools most desperate and carefully document that gifts benefit students.

Birchwood made contact with Baldwin last spring.  Many communications via phone and email ensured the money made into the right hands and was designated for approved expenses. Because the 2017-18 school year ended around that time, the decision was made to wait until the beginning of this school year to determine the best use of the gift. The summer was a tumultuous time for Puerto Rico schools as many of them consolidated.  The first week after break, two schools in need were identified. Escuela Rafael Hernandez Marin in San Juan was given $1,218 of Birchwood’s gift for new air conditioners.  Inspired by Birchwood’s example, the Baldwin School chipped in another $453 to complete the purchase See photos below.  

Most of the Birchwood gift, $3,000, will go to Escuela Ramon Marin Sola in Guaynabo to build a playground.  The Baldwin School has decided to match it with $3,000 of their own because this project serves such a vital purpose.  Escuela Ramon Marin Sola is trying to accommodate a sudden surge in enrollment due to other school closures.  More students in the classroom means more pent up energy.  A new playground can do a whole lot of good for these bodies and minds.  In a way, hundreds of thousands of steps by Birchwood students has set in motion millions of more steps. The effects of the storm are sure to last long.  Yet so too will linger the kindnesses of one school to another.  

We hope to include photos in a future update of the landscaping and construction of the playground.  Thanks for putting your best foot forward Birchwood.