More Freshly Painted Homes from the House Painting Initiative

The Coco Point Fund initiated an island wide painting initiative last year and freshly painted homes are rolling in! These homes have taken advantage of the supplies provided likes like paint, brushes, rollers and paint sprayers.

Approximately 40 Barbuda residents wanted to participate in the first round. We encourage the continued use of the supplies and are pleased to show the latest results. The cheerful colors are bringing hope and happiness to the island and the pursuit of more rebuilding!

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Teach Trainer at the PreSchool

Teacher trainers arrived on the island this week from the US.  We were thrilled to have them consulting for a week to train the teachers in our newly renovated PreSchool.  The Coco Point Fund shipped lots of furniture and rugs and other materials to bring the nursery school up to modern educational standards. In addition, the teachers arrived with lots of laptops, tablets and supplies to help create a more robust curriculum.  The goal of the Coco Point Fund with this initiative is to improve educational outcomes for generations to come!  If this initiative is successful, we will likely commit to doing similar improvements to the holy trinity school.

The training has also highlighted how important the design of a classroom is to educational outcomes. In the previous space, the children were sitting at simple tables in a stark learning environment.  The addition of new rugs and chairs has created a vastly improved learning environment!  Teachers and students are much more focused on learning.  And modern teaching methods, such as differentiated learning, are now part of the learning process. 

Special thanks to MeTeor Education and Home Depot for being such GREAT partners of the Coco Point Fund!

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Daycare Center Completed

As word spread of our work on the preschool, the Coco Point Fund became more coordinated with all the other charitable funds and NGO’s working in Barbuda. In particular, we developed a strong working and economic partnership with three such funds; The Jumby Bay Fund,  Mill Reef Fund and Paradise Found’s Barbuda Relief Fund.

The Daycare Center had been badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. It’s second-story was totally destroyed. We set our sights on rebuilding this facility.  Thanks to a couple, who were long time Coco Point Lodge guests, we secured a lead donation. We then asked the three funds noted above to equally share in the cost of the reconstruction. Once again we turned to Griff Walker for help. In addition we worked with Chad Alexander, a Barbudan architect who received scholarship assistance from the Coco Point Fund. (Look for a future story on our blog about how the Coco Point Scholarship Fund helped Chad succeed and how he is now giving back to his fellow Barbudans!)

We contracted with Griff Walker in late June 2018 to rebuild only the first floor. Home Depot again supplied most of our building materials at very discounted prices. Work started on September 18, 2018 and the facility was completed in January 2019. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding. You will notice in the photos that we kept the exterior cement stairs to the second story so as to retain the option of rebuilding it in the future if a community need surfaces. In early February 2019 we had a small ceremony handing over the keys to the Barbuda Council. The furniture and learning materials are expected to arrive in late March. The before and after pictures reflect the completion of another on schedule and on budget project.

In the coming months we will post updates, photos and stories once the kids return.

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First Reveal in House Painting Initiative

In partnership with the Jumby Bay Fund and Mill Reef Fund, The Coco Point Fund initiated an island wide painting initiative. Collectively, we have supplied the paint, brushes, rollers and paint sprayers to approximately 40 Barbuda residents who wanted to participate in the first round. Connie was a longtime employee of Coco Point Lodge. She was part of the main dining room staff and loved by all of the guests. . She is enjoying the bright cheery red update to her home!


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2018 Year End Update

Dear Friends of the Coco Point Fund,

We know many of you would like an update on how things are going on Barbuda. Progress is being made on many fronts. During 2018 the Coco Point Fund rebuilt the Cody Kelly Preschool and the Daycare building, shipped thirteen 40 foot containers of building materials (mainly roofing material, doors and windows). We also funded a commitment to significantly improve the curriculum at the Preschool, which should be in place by February 2019. Year to date, the Fund received approximately $500,000 in donations and spent approximately $800,000 in direct aid on Barbuda. In addition, we continued funding our academic scholarship program through 2021.

There are a lot more details we could report on, but we will leave those for our soon to be revamped website, which we expect to have up and running in early January. We will send out an announcement and a link as soon as it is live.

In summary, I’m proud to report that the Coco Point fund board continues to steward your generous donations very effectively. We have stayed true to our commitment to provide 100% direct aid, with no funds being channeled through governmental agencies. That said, we need a lot more money if we are going to finish the job we started. We are working with a few other charitable funds over the next year to rebuild 80 homes which were totally destroyed or damaged beyond repair. We are also working on building in open air market, a new bank facility in Codrington and
possibly jump starting one or more new business ventures on Barbuda. We estimate the collective needs to exceed $4 million. We hope to provide at least $1 million of that aid over the next couple of years.

On behalf of our board, and the Barbudan people, I thank you again for your generous support, wish you a very happy holiday season and ask you again for your continued generous support so we together can help make the New Year happy and bright for all our good friends on Barbuda!

Sincerely,
Michael Smith

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William Cody Preschool Complete

Rebuilding the preschool was the fund’s first construction project. In order to attract back Barbudan families, who had been displaced by Hurricane Irma, and evacuated to Antigua, an operating school system was necessary. The high school was mostly intact and could function for both primary and secondary classes, while the Barbuda Council and Antiguan government addressed repairing the primary school. With the governments limited resources it was highly unlikely that they could address the preschool anytime soon. In early February 2018, members of our board met with contractors on Barbuda to review their proposals and references. We selected Griff Walker, Walker Construction, to be our general contractor for the rebuild. The historic building, which we believe was originally constructed around 1905, served as the main classroom. It suffered severe damage when it’s entire roof came off. As you can see in the before photograph the building’s walls are approximately 2 1/2 feet thick and made of limestone blocks. There was a kitchen attached to this main building, which the Coco Point fund built approximately 15 years ago, which also suffered significant damage. The adjacent five classroom building was also damaged and unusable.

While Griff’s crew attended to the demolition we were able to leverage our budding relationship with the Home Depot and get the needed building materials delivered quickly from Miami. We contracted with Griff in March 2018 and the project was completed in September 2018, on budget. A few weeks ago four members of our board visited the school and found 37 children and 6 teachers very happy in their newly refurbished school. The pictures of the smiling thankful children reflect the success of our first long-distance construction project.

In coming months we will post in this space stories about the history of our past involvement with the preschool, how the school came to be named William Cody Kelly Preschool, and the introduction and adoption of a new advanced curriculum coming very soon to the preschool.

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Spring Update 2018

Dear Friends of The Coco Point Fund:

We want to update you on the state of Barbuda and the work that the CPF (and others) are doing to help rebuild the island. To date, the Coco Point Fund has spent approximately $350,000.00 and has an additional $300,000.00 spend in the planning stages. We never realized how complicated and difficult it would be to do good! That being said, we are making significant progress.

Who is on the island and what they are focused on:

NODS – The Antigua and Barbuda National Office of Disaster Services– This is the lead organization that is in charge of the coordination of all rebuilding activities. All work done by all of the other “public” relief organizations must go through NODS. They also provide limited amounts of supplies and construction workers (from Antigua) for roof rebuilding. It is important to understand that the

only work being done by NODS and others on homes is to replace roofs or homes categorized as 1 or 2 on a categorization scale of 1 to 4.

1= minimal damage

2= more damage but repairable 3= likely not repairable

4= totally destroyed-not repairable

NODS also restored power to a small area of Codington, but has not yet allowed power to everyone. Likewise, there is only one source of fresh water. Each household is only allowed 20 liters of water per day despite family size. The water comes from a very modest desalinization device in the town center.

Perhaps more significantly, getting approval from NODS to do work is very inefficient and takes about two to three weeks to get approval.

Samaritans Purse-

This organization is doing very good work fixing level 1 and 2 roofs. They are bringing in volunteer contractors from the U.S. to do this work. They utilize supplies from others before using their own. We may explore a partnership with them in the future.

UNDP – The United Nations Development Program

This organization is working on Barbuda and all of the other islands destroyed by

Hurricane Irma. They supply workers and materials. However, after a recent board member visit, we found that they have run out of supplies. The UNDP also supplied tents for many residents. The tents remain all over the island with people still living in them.

Red Cross – Canadian and Antigua

The Red Cross has focused on getting some basic supplies for the hospital. These supplies are functional and useful, but the hospital is nowhere near where it needs to be. They have also distributed 500EC on a somewhat regular basis for basic support.

We have just learned that they are about to distribute vouchers for windows and doors. We will be sure to not give CPF’s windows and doors to those who are receiving vouchers from the Red Cross.

Waitt Foundation

They are undertaking various projects such as restoring fishing and lobstering, providing food and clothing, and much more including periodically subsidizing the ferry to and from Barbuda for the residents.

Other Private Charitable Organizations:

Coco Point Fund – U.S. based

We have raised just over $1 million for support.

Jumby Bay Fund – Antigua based

They have raised about $2 million for support in Barbuda.

Mill Reef Fund – Antigua based

They have raised about $800,000.00 for support in Barbuda.

We have established excellent working relationships with both of these “equally committed” charities. We believe CPF has one distinct advantage in that we are

U.S. based and not “involved” in Antiguan politics. For example, both Jumby Bay and Mill Reef offered to rebuild the primary school and they were told “No, the government has someone else committed to this project”. However, there has been no action taken on rebuilding the school (and potentially limited action to

come). We will continue to communicate with these great charities and see if there are more significant projects that make sense to do together?

What We Have Done So Far:

You should know that we have been extremely active for the last 6+ months. We hold board meetings at least once every 2 weeks to discuss all initiatives in progress. At first, we thought that we could just ship supplies down to the island and the repair work would get done.  However, we realized that though the supplies were distributed, the people, for the most part, could not afford to pay to have the work done. Eventually, the work got done with the help of others. Just last week, we sent two large shipping containers full of more materials; half for homes and half to rebuild the Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). We have also hired the best local contractor to do the work privately, away from NODS. One interesting fact: Our latest shipment includes 120 windows and 100 doors. Prior to our shipment, NO windows or doors were sent to the island. We will continue to do more projects in the future, including possibly rebuilding the homes of several vital teachers, the residence of the Head of Schools, and much more.

Early on, we accomplished many things. We gave $500.00 USD to every Coco Point employee before Christmas. We also funded a soccer and swim program for Barbudan children on Antigua, a program that continues to be very successful.

We have hired Bentham Lewis and Anne-Marie Gore to facilitate all of these efforts and properly account for all funds.

While Jumby Bay and Mill Reef both decided not to be in the construction business, we have realized that the greatest need on the island is qualified contractors to do the work. We are also exploring ideas about how to help those with category 3 and 4 homes. This has proven to be a difficult problem not just for us, but for all relief organizations.

The Antiguan Government:

As you all hopefully know, the Prime Minister is planning to annul the Barbuda Land Act, effectively taking away the Barbudan peoples’ communal land ownership. At this time, we do not know how this will all play out. What we do know is that these people DESPERATELY need our help. As such, we will continue to send materials and help rebuild!

“Chicken or the Egg”

The biggest question is “when and how many people will eventually come back to the island?” Eighteen youngsters are currently in Nursery School (temporary headquarters) and a handful of primary school and high school children are in school at the high school (which was virtually unscathed). We believe that not everyone will come back. But when you talk with Barbudans on Antigua that want to go back, but cannot because there are no jobs, it truly breaks your heart.

This is the most challenging situation that we, as a board, have ever seen. We are committed to helping as long as we have money. In addition to helping, we are committed to assuring you, the donors, that the Antiguan Government and Coco Point Lodge never have access to any of our funds.

WE THANK YOU SO MUCH for your contributions. Given the state of the matter, we will eventually need more money to continue our efforts. We hope this letter gives you a better understanding of what is being done for our Barbudan friends.

Please contact Mike Smith, acting President of CPF, at MSMITH3453@aol.com or other board members you may know if you have any questions about our efforts.

Thanks again for your support! Please know that the Barbudan people desperately need our help.

“DOING GOOD WORK IS NEVER EASY”

Sincerely,

Mike Smith
Acting President, The Coco Point Fund

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Barbuda Irma Relief Update

Dear Friends of The Coco Point Fund:

We are excited to provide you with an update on what The Coco Point Fund is doing to help our friends on Barbuda recover from Hurricane Irma. First of all on behalf of our board, and me personally, we thank you for your generous donations, which currently total approximately $750,000. This is a very good start… but more on that later…

Traditionally, since our inception in 1978, The Coco Point Fund has focused on three areas; scholarship funding, medical supplies and facilities, and local school support. As you know, Hurricane Irma devastated Barbuda’s infrastructure, educational and medical facilities and housing stock. The good news is that there is a significant effort underway to support the reconstruction of the island infrastructure, and plans to rebuild the educational and medical facilities. These efforts are complicated by the remoteness of the island, bureaucratic impediments and the political arguments regarding land ownership.

Your Fund is fortunate to have a board that has deep and long ties to the Barbudan community, which when combined with a broad spectrum of business experience, allows us to navigate these issues and apply our funds judiciously and effectively with full accountability.
One or more members of our board have met with the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, the Director of NODS (disaster relief), the Education Ministry, the CEO of the Waitt Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, and Rev. Billy Graham’s Samaritans Purse. All are actively staffing volunteers in Codrington. Our efforts are informed by these meetings and interactions and we will continue to coordinate with them when appropriate.

Scholarship Funding. The board has resolved to continue our scholarship funding and meet our existing scholarship commitments. We are also actively prepared to support future qualified applicants.

Medical facilities, equipment and supplies. We are currently evaluating what the Antiguan Red Cross, the Antiguan government and the other charitable organizations on Barbuda as to what they are doing in this area before we make a commitment. We are prepared to be involved but we will require more clarity and accountability before committing funds.

Local School needs. The Mill Reef Fund has informed us that the rehabilitation of Holy Trinity School, the grade school, will be fully funded by a family charitable trust from Barbados. It is also our current understanding that the high school, Sir McChesney George School, will be reopened by the government in coming months, and in the interim serve both grade schoolers and high schoolers on an expanded daily schedule. Lastly, the preschool, William Cody Kelly School, was severely damaged and we are considering collaborating equally with the other active relief funds on Barbuda to rehabilitate or rebuild it. Over the next 6 weeks one or more board members plan to meet with Education Ministry personnel and make a personal site visit to develop an appropriate action plan.

Due to the devastation Irma wrought to the island’s housing stock, we have added a fourth major priority, housing reconstruction. After extensive information gathering and feedback from trusted residents of Barbuda we felt we needed to provide much more assistance to the Barbudan people, beginning with the employees of Coco Point Lodge. We hope to follow that with wider individual relief in partnership with the island’s other active relief funds.

The direct assistance we have provided to date is as follows:
In November we delivered relief checks of $500 /EC1350 to each of the 90 Coco Point employees who were employed by Coco Point Lodge last season. This was meant to supplement the Red Cross distribution providing additional daily living resources. It was greatly appreciated. We also co-sponsored, along with the Waitt Institute/Blue Halo, a swimming and soccer program on Antigua for all Barbudan children. To date, we have approximately 80 Barbudan children participating and we have gotten terrific positive feedback. In the new year, a second session of 80 children will begin. In addition, we will be delivering much needed sport shoes to these children within the next month.

Last week, with the superb assistance of Home Depot, we shipped a 40 foot shipping container load of much-needed building materials to Barbuda; including 2 x 4’s, plywood, corrugated roofing, nails, screws, tools, etc. (see the photo below) Our priority is to help rehabilitate damaged and reconstruct destroyed homes, categorized by the UN’s assessment of all buildings on Barbuda as level 1 or level 2 (salvageable with work). In order to facilitate this effort, we hired long-time Coco Point Lodge team members Bentham Lewis and Anne Marie Gore to help us locally to coordinate, receive and distribute these materials to Coco Point employees. We are regularly updating our assessment of the specific needs of this group and we anticipate sending several more similar loads of building materials and tools over the next few months. It is our understanding that there will be volunteer workers (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) arriving early in the new year to help island residents rebuild their homes using the materials we/you and others are providing. We are currently assessing how we can hire local skilled Barbudan’s to perform work for our first priority constituents who the volunteers cannot get to.

In executing all of these current and expected actions, you should know that a guiding principle the board is following is to channel all our resources directly to the people in need. We will not contribute funds to other relief organizations, nor pass any funds through Coco Point Lodge related accounts or government or local council accounts. For example, if we get involved with the preschool project we will stipulate that we pay contractors directly. In addition, every member of our board has either made or pledged a meaningful financial contribution to the Fund. The Fund’s board has held nine conference calls to date and each board member has spent numerous hours individually gathering information, planning strategy and executing. We have also agreed to personally cover our own expenses when we make visits to Antigua and Barbuda. We are seriously committed to executing on the Coco Point Fund’s mission. We will have a Facebook page soon which will be useful in disseminating updated information. In addition, we are revamping our website to be more informative, and will update it as soon as we can. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments please feel free to contact any member of the board, or me if you don’t know one. All of our contact information is contained on a page at the end of this letter.

With respect to donations and the “good start” noted above… On behalf of our board, I am personally asking you all for additional contributions as the needs are substantial. If you have already made a contribution I hope you find our commitment, process and direction compelling enough to consider increasing your gift. If you have yet to contribute to the Irma relief Fund please do so before year end. We have years of work ahead of us, and our success depends upon having the needed financial resources. There is no doubt in my mind that our Barbuda brethren have made a real difference in our lives, so please help us make a real difference in their lives!

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Michael Smith, Acting President, The Coco Point Fund

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Hurricane Update

Dear Fellow Guests and Friends of Coco Point Lodge:

As promised, we want to keep you in the loop regarding progress on Barbuda and the information we have gathered since Irma. A few weeks ago, a board member, Kemper Pierce, traveled to Antigua to meet with Coco Point employees, Barbudans, the Barbuda Council and the Prime Minister.

He also had the opportunity to go over to Barbuda and see firsthand the damage to both Codrington and Coco Point Lodge. Here is where things stand to date:

Current Coco Point Fund Initiatives

Distribution of EC$1350($500US) to all ~90 Coco Point Lodge employees, particularly in light of their A&B Red Cross support running out on Dec. 15th.

Enrollment of ~80 Barbudan children living in shelters in soccer and swimming programs on Antigua, providing a structured way for displaced children to interact and play with other Barbudans – in conjunction with Waitt Institute

Sourcing badly needed building materials (corrugated, lumber, block) for delivery to Barbuda for home rebuilding

Commitment to rebuilding either Holy Trinity School or the Hanna Thomas Hospital; based on where the government deems our help most needed

We now believe there may be an even bigger joint effort with similar organizations, including the Mill Reef Endowment Fund and Jumby Bay Fund. We have connected with them and will have more information on our cooperation in the future

We are coordinating with other endowments and aid organizations as well, including the Red Cross, Robert DeNiro and Blue Halo to facilitate rebuilding in a coordinated and productive way

The Board maintains regular contact with Lodge staff members, Ray and Denise Doherty and each other

Status of Codrington & Rebuilding Efforts

Cleanup and fumigating of the island is ongoing, with most roads in Codrington currently clear

An infirmary is functioning on island, with support from the Canadian Red Cross and other agencies

The Antigua Barbuda Utility Authority (APUA) is working to bring electricity back online; water is returning for those connected to the public grid; Digicell service came partially online this week

Lincoln Burton’s market is open and local civic organization “The Block Club”, of which many staff are members, has been providing meals to relief workers during cleanups

Barbudans have begun returning to the Island in small numbers and many continue to make trips to clean and rebuild, most indicate a strong desire to return though schools and jobs remain a long-term necessity for large-scale repatriation

This article in the LA Times effectively frames the challenges Barbudans face in returning home.

Coco Point Lodge

Coco Point Lodge was severely damaged with most rooms and the lodge either significantly or completely destroyed

Power, water and fuel infrastructure all seem to be in good working order although there wasn’t any insurance, so rebuilding is questionable at this time

The Fund remains very interested in the reopening of Coco Point Lodge given its importance as an economic driver for the Barbudan people and a revenue source for the local government

We have come to realize that the logistics of Barbuda’s recovery are exceptionally daunting and we continue to be 100% committed to making sure all funds go directly to the Barbudan people. The Board is working to come up with a meaningful, significant and actionable plan and as we gain a better understanding of the work ahead we will continue to solicit your feedback and support.

Once again, thank you for reaching out, showing your care and concern and giving generously to a place we all have come to love as a home away from home.

Best wishes,

The Coco Point Fund Board

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