September 11 – 15, 2017 – Robinson School reopened and resumed classes after Hurricane Irma. The storm hit close to home since 80% of our boarding school students are from Tortola and Culebra. Our first priority was to make sure those students had the psychological, emotional and spiritual support they needed to get through this difficult time. Esther Marie Pérez Prado, Robinson’s school psychologist, explained that “these students are torn between wanting nothing more than to go back home, knowing that they can never go back to the home that they remember, and realizing their important role in raising a broader awareness about the devastation of their island homes.
Spiritual Life teacher, Elba Rodríguez helped organize a visit from fellow Tortolans and relief workers, Elsa and Olivia Fonseca, experienced hurricane relief workers who shared an private conversation WITH THESE STUDENTS about conditions in Tortola. They reminded our students that built structures and things are temporary. “Your family and friends are really what makes home,” they explained, “AND THOSE ARE PERMANENT. While recognizing how scary it is to lose what you’re used to, we must find ways to use tragedy to build character.” Elsa and Olivia reminded our students that it was important for them to remain with their Robinson family, safely out of harm’s way, raising awareness, , and helping to comfort and support each other. Robinson students most affected by Hurricane Irma were also able to use the tools they learned at Robinson, tools that focus of character, persistence and resilience. After having just arrived from Tortola and experienced the devastation firsthand, Elsa and Olivia Fonseca also reminded our affected students there was a continued unified international effort to help, like the so-called Puerto Rican Navy – a group of Puerto Ricans who organized aid and used their yachts and boats to bring relief to the devastated nearby islands. Elsa and Olivia also reminded our students affected by Hurricane Irma that “we [the Caribbean] is strong. We’ve been through this before with hurricanes Hugo and Georges. Together we are stronger, and together we will rebuild.”
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Robinson in Action – Heart of Service
Robinson School was founded in 1902 by the United Methodist Church and its sense of service. The Robinson Spiritual Life program structures and grounds student-driven community service in action.
Robinson School reinforced its mission and helped combat the sense of helplessness experienced by students directly affected by Hurricane Irma by encouraging to act, while also giving them the flexibility and space to process their new reality. While continuing to attend classes, these students were allowed to take breaks when necessary and leave whenever there was an opportunity to communicate with their families and loved ones by phone. On September 14, these students prepared a presentation for the Secondary School Chapel of how Hurricane Irma transformed their childhood homes and memories forever, along with direct ways to help.
Click on the image to see the presentation.
Juan Rodríguez and Karylene Crespo, both from the Class of 2018, also demonstrated Robinson’s heart of service propelled by action. They worked to develop a new community service organization that looked beyond immediate disaster relief efforts. They wanted to develop an organization with an enduring vision, “not just a one-time effort.” “Robinson in Action – A Heart of Service” is the product of their efforts – a student-based initiative and organization that identifies actual needs, mobilizes resources from within and outside of our immediate Robinson community. Their mission goes beyond just the material. They are looking for long-term sustainable solutions by raising awareness of those in need through education.
On September 14, these student leaders met with Robinson Chaplain (Rosangélica Acevedo), Upper School Division Head (Luis Fortes) and the Development and Communications offices of the Robinson Institutional Advancement Department (Anya Belaval Calimano, Head of Institutional Advancement; and Rebecca Sumner Burgos, Director of Development). This initial meeting offered these students the support to structure the organization’s efforts just as Robinson School had to close its doors again and prepare for Hurricane Maria. Despite the devastation, Robinson will continue its community service efforts aimed at our own Robinson families in need and all of Puerto Rico. Stay tuned for more about Robinson in action.