It’s a brand new day for students, parents and educators in Marsh Harbour with the reopening of the largest public primary school on the island - Central Abaco Primary School.
Joining a league of partners including United Nations Children's Fund, All Hands and Hearts, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, Lyford Cay Foundation and the Global Emergency Relief Recovery and Reconstruction, the Sandals Foundation contributed some US $200,000 to rebuild the Central Abaco Primary School which was destroyed in September 2019 by Hurricane Dorian.
The reconstructed building now boasts new disaster resilient features such as reinforced hurricane strapped roofing, water tight and insulated classrooms, a water reclamation system, and a generator to provide electricity.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation who was on hand for a recent walk trough of the school, beamed with joy to see the rebirth of the education institution which once served more than 800 students.
“It is very emotional to see what can best be described as the rising of a phoenix out of the ashes of what it endured. We at the Sandals Foundation are incredibly happy to know that students can return to their classes and continue to feed their minds with lessons and experiences to guide a lifetime.”
The institution was completely rebuilt in 2020, however, due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, its reopening was delayed.
District Superintendent for the Department of Education in Abaco, Mrs. Dominique Russell says, “We are elated to have Central Abaco Primary open. Children must receive quality learning engagements that will allow them to take care of themselves and contribute to the progress of The Bahamas. Your support was invaluable because it allowed us to give our children what we believe is their human right!”
“The people of Abaco are industrious and resilient. So, ensuring their children are given every opportunity to succeed is a major goal of parents and other key community stakeholders. We listen to the cries of parents every day. Having to work and homeschool children is challenging. Therefore, providing educational opportunities in a conducive environment alleviates the load.”
Even as the strongest Hurricane to hit the islands was passing its shores, the Sandals Foundation commenced mobilizing Response and Relief efforts to include the safe evacuation of people, the delivery of food and basic supplies, and educational resources to support the learning needs of affected students.
“As the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, we take our role as a Caribbean company very seriously,” said Clarke, “Every island is our home, and every area of need following a disaster is a call for us to take action. We are immensely grateful to all our donors, partners, guests and team members who answered the call, donating their time and resources to help this amazing community start a new day.”
The funds were raised through the organization’s bi-annual charity concert ‘Vibes for the Islands’ originally scheduled for March 2020 in Miami, Florida. Despite the postponement of the event due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, corporate partners including Coca Cola, American Airlines and Greenberg Traurig in the United States remained committed to supporting the efforts in building the capacity of the education sector.
In addition to helping rebuild Central Abaco Primary School, the Sandals Foundation has donated some US $65,000 of teacher and student resources and equipment to serve 11 schools in the affected Northern Bahamas islands.
In partnership with the Ministry of Education, students and teachers of Amy Roberts Primary, Cherokee Sound Primary, Coopers Town Primary, Fox Town Primary, Guana Cay Primary, Hope Town Primary, James A. Pinder Primary, Man-O-War Primary, Sherlin C. Bootle High, Moore’s Island All Age, and Central Abaco Primary School will now benefit from multi-age level books, 30 whiteboards, 16 bulletin boards, 6 portable projectors, 6 web cameras and 2 document scanners. The resources will significantly enhance the technology driven dual- learning model which will characterize lessons moving forward.
On March 18, the Sandals Foundation celebrated 12 years of responding to the sustainable needs of the Caribbean. Through its investments in education, community, the environment, and disaster relief, the organization continues to inspire hope in the lives of over 1 million people in the region.