23.08.2018

SXM Project pledges $140K towards rebuilding homes on Sint Maarten

Interview of R.D. “Donny” Dicharry, President of SXM Project, a non-profit organization created after Irma from the U.S to help the Sint Maarten's population.

Why did you create the non-profit organization called SXM project ?

Initially it was to provide immediate humanitarian relief. My wife, Becky, and I own a couple vacation villas in St. Martin and we have made numerous friendships with locals and villa staff workers during the past decade. The creation of our charity was a compassionate response to their desperate situation and a proper response to our faith.

We teamed up with a wonderful man, Jon Bobbett, a fellow villa owner who has the same heartfelt intentions. Within days after Irma he was flying small chartered cargo aircraft filled with food and diapers to SXM long before the airport was reopened. Soon thereafter we shipped large cargo containers of food from the U.S. and distributed them from my villa after installing a huge security fence. We also teamed up with yet another wonderful villa owner, Steve Ward, who shipped a cargo container load of tools, generators and work clothing from the U.S. which we distributed at the villa. These efforts were part of Phase I “Relieve”..

We are currently involved with Phase II “Restore” which is to help restore households mainly with appliances.

For Phase III we developed the goal of helping to Re-Establish the tourism industry without knowing exactly how. We are still working on that.

You experienced hurricane Katrina. Do you think it made you more sensitive about the consequences of Irma in Sint Maarten ? Have you launched this kind of project after Katrina ?

No, I did not launch this kind of project after Hurricane Katrina. I was much too busy fixing my flooded home which took 16 months to repair. Yes, that experience definitely made us much more sensitive to the despair caused by a hurricane. Through hands-on experience, we are now experts at this sort of human trauma.

You already collected 120,000 dollars for the Phase I. How did you deal the supplies ? To who ? Did any local organization helped you ?

We obtained the assistance of local companies who were in touch with many workers and families. They provided phone numbers and email addresses which allowed us to invite them, along with friends, neighbors, etc., to “register” with our Project. There were no qualification requirements. We are very grateful to Carimo Real Estate (AirBnB) and St. Martin Sotheby’s for their help in contacting storm victims. Whenever we had supplies to distribute we contacted the registrants and informed them when they could come to pick up the supplies. We estimate that we provided aid to approximately 500 people.

The phase II has already raised $174,250 for a 875,000 goal. Do you think you will reach this goal ? Do you know where the donators are from ? When will you close the donations ?

It is too soon to know if we will reach the $875,000 goal but we are very hopeful. People are exceedingly eager to donate as long as they know it is for a worthy cause. We will continue to engage in various fund raising efforts until we run out of doors to knock upon. Most of our donations come from the United States. Although Puerto Rico is still suffering badly from Hurricane Maria there are many Americans who vacation in SXM and who want to help.

We will continue to collect donations for Phase II well into 2019 and maybe beyond. Hurricane Irma was so very destructive that we sadly predict that several years will be required before living conditions get back to normal.

One way to donate to SXM Project is through Amazon Smile. Could you tell us more about it ? Does it help to raise money ?

Amazon Smile is part of Amazon. Anyone with an Amazon account can easily switch to Amazon Smile. Everything works the same except the buyer may select a charity and Amazon Smile will donate a small percentage of every purchase to that charity. For us simply type in “SXM Project” and St. Martin Lowlands Hurricane Relief Project (our original name which was too long) will pop up. Select it and you are done. It is a small help yet is greatly appreciated.

What is the purpose of the Phase II ? 

Phase II includes restoring household appliances (and possibly other furnishings such as cookware, linens, etc.) and also repairing several homes in Sint Maarten. The home rebuilding project is a “dedicated donation” that was made in partnership with Jonathon Bobbett, the Anne Pass family and Henri Brookson of Foundation Community Aid Sentry Hill. Eleven homes have been selected for repair at an estimated cost of $140,000. Those are the two primary parts of Phase II today yet we will likely engage in other special aid project as the needs and funds arise.

Could you also develop the aim of the phase III ? When do you think you will be able to launch it ? 

We are still in the process of developing Phase III. The aim is to help Re-Establish the tourism economy and restore local jobs. We have met with numerous wonderful French and Dutch government, and private sector, leaders to describe our aspirations and seek feedback. The response has been very positive yet, at this point, it is premature to reveal our primary strategy. Hopefully, in only a few months, we will receive enough encouragement to set in stone our vision of Phase III. The goal is jobs. However, I can disclose that a very important part of our Phase III vision has already started to take shape. We are collaborating with several very dedicated local people who wish to develop a “Village” to provide educational, cultural and social programs on the island which we hope to combine with our tourism efforts.

Fanny Fontan

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