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Service Programs

Cleaning up a School after Hurricane Tomas in St. Lucia

Anse-la-Raye, St. Lucia -Three days after the passage of Hurricane Tomas on Oct. 29, 2010, 15 volunteers arrived in St. Lucia from the USA and Canada for three weeks of service projects in the community. Little did they know that their presence would be doubly appreciated as they cleaned classrooms and desks damaged by the storm and organizing activities for the students.

They were warmly welcomed at the airport by Mr. Remy Taupier, the local UPF representative. These volunteers had already planned to come and stay in Anse-la-Raye, a fishing village on the west coast of this Caribbean island, about 10 km south of the capital Castries. Little did they know that their presence would be doubly appreciated due to the damage caused by hurricane Tomas. Due to the cloudbursts of the hurricane, all rivers overflowed and left mud inside many houses. The Anse-la-Raye Primary School was left with two inches of mud in the classrooms. The first set of work done by the volunteers was to clean the classrooms and the desks.

Another consequence of the outburst was that Anse-la-Raye River became like a torrent and washed away the pipes that bring water from the dam far inside the mountains to each house of the village.

During their three-week stay, the problem of water shortage would become the main problem of the volunteers: no water to clean their hands when coming back from painting houses, no water to wash or shower, no water to flush the toilet, no water to wash clothes.

Like everyone else in the village, they went to bathe and wash their laundry in the river and then carried water back to do the dishes and flush the toilet. Twice, they went into the mountains with a car to collect mountain water and bring back buckets of precious potable water.

These 15 volunteers are part of a year-long educational program called STF (Special Task Force) consisting of training and activities focused on transcending the barriers between people of different religions, races, and backgrounds to further the vision of building “One Family Under God.” STF participants are primarily high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 21 who defer college enrollment for one year or take a gap year during their studies.

STF training creates a supportive environment for the development of good habits for a life of faith, strengthening relationship with God and experiencing the joy of living for the sake of others through all activities.

Due to the lack of water, all schools were closed, allowing the STF members, together with several members of the local Catholic youth group, to organize games, singing, and discussions every evening. (About 85 percent of St. Lucians are Catholics.) They engaged in various discussions: the aftermath of the hurricane, overcoming challenges, the power of love, the importance of the family, parental love, respect and obedience to parents, etc.

The children were so happy that the visitors took time to play and care for them. They organized two days of football competition between the youth of the village and even had a match against the football club of the next village, Canaries.

On a Thursday evening, the Catholic youth group and STF members had a joint session on sexual purity. The boys and the girls met in different groups. (The parents of the STF members belong to the Unification Church that promotes strong families and absolute sexual purity for their children). They honestly explained how difficult it is to resist to the pressure of school friends, television, or the society and how they succeed.

One young woman from the Catholic youth group reported: “The STF sisters gave testimonies about their life of purity; they created a very open atmosphere so the girls listening were comfortable about sharing their own perspectives and struggles with purity. The purity talk had a profound impact on the girls. The girls here never get a chance to have deep conversations and truly share their hearts. There are so many broken families here so the majority don’t have a stable relationship with their parents, and have to guard their emotions.”

The STF members had the opportunity to hear about the history of St. Lucia, about its challenges and its hopes for the future through several Ambassadors for Peace who kindly took time to address them.

On the last day of their stay, STF members organized a show for the community with the help of the Catholic youth group. The motto of the event was: “One God, One Heart, One Community.” More than 300 people attended the event. STF members and the Catholic youth group had jointly prepared several songs, dances, and a skit. American youth and St. Lucia youth performing together with great harmony—it was so beautiful to see! This sincere and deep friendship moved the participants, they all could feel like “One Family under God” and taste a little bit of  what could be the “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.”

Mr. Collymore, the village clerk, and Mrs. Modeste, the president of the Club Sixties, were very grateful for the dedication and hard work of STF members to repair and paint the homes of the elderly who couldn’t afford the repairs. Both of them commented: “I hope they come back soon!”

Note: Hurricane Tomas developed from a tropical wave east of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean on October 29. Quickly intensifying into a hurricane, it moved through the Windward Islands and passed very near Saint Lucia. Throughout the hurricane's path, at least 41 people are known to have been killed, 14 of whom were in St. Lucia. Monetary losses have been estimated at over US$572 million, mainly in St. Lucia. In the wake of the storm in Haiti, flooding intensified an ongoing cholera outbreak indirectly causing more fatalities.

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