When Marjorie Bush-Dixon attended a parent-teacher’s meeting for George Town Primary School in January, she was shocked to learn how much was lost in the September Hurricane Ivan.
Many students didn’t have basic school supplies including exercise books.
‘I was flabbergasted,’ said Bush-Dixon, whose 10-year-old son Cody attends GT Primary. ‘I didn’t realize there were so many kids that had these needs.’
She approached a few co-workers at UBS Fund Services (Cayman) Ltd to help out by picking up a book or two when they went to the grocery store. That request sparked an in-house fundraising campaign that brought in $2,500 within a week. UBS then matched the contributions, bringing the total to $5,000.
‘Almost every staff member contributed,’ said co-worker Chelsea Rivers, who got the ball rolling by sending out an office email asking for a $25 donation to sponsor one child. ‘Some people gave $50 and someone gave $200.’
Not only were they able to purchase exercise books – they depleted the stock at Kirk’s Office Supplies – but uniforms, dictionaries, art materials, pencils and a long list of other supplies for both students and teachers.
They were also able to help other schools in need including Bodden Town Primary.
Rivers said the email has since circulated to other offices on island with several businesses now launching their own school donation drives.
‘It’s an excellent response,’ said Bush-Dixon. ‘God is always at hand.’
Long road to recovery
GT Primary, one of the largest primary schools on the island, sustained major damage from the hurricane. Many of its buildings were badly hit and the majority of equipment, supplies and educational materials were wiped out.
Principal Marie Martin said it has been a struggle post-Ivan – students are sharing textbooks and studying in makeshift classrooms – but support from the community is helping the rebuilding process. She said private schools, service clubs and several businesses have chipped in to help replenish supplies.
‘We’re very fortunate to have received some very generous donations. We’re very grateful. We lost everything.’
While Martin appreciates the donations – it’s been more than she expected – she noted the road to recovery is still far from sight.
‘It’ll take years before materials that have been lost can be replaced. That’s the magnitude of what was lost. It will be a long time before things are back to normal.’
And some materials are simply irreplaceable. Ms Martin, who has been at GT Primary for 21 years, lost all her memorabilia in the storm including years of scrapbooks and school awards.
‘It was just heartbreaking. This school is my hobby – it’s not just my job.’
What hasn’t been lost, however, is the focus on education, she said. With an emphasis on core subjects, she’s confident students will fare well – or even better – academically.
‘Though things are hectic, we’re doing the best we can. Teachers are being put to the test but they’re putting the children’s needs first.’