Radeen and I are happy to have connected with the wonderful Principal of the Primary School on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Ms. Blyden is a very high-quality person and we really respect her leadership and her dedication to the children on the island and on Tortola. We first met her in April 2017 and again in January 2018 when we were motoring around with a broken mast, waiting to ship out for repairs. Last year we made a donatation from our 503c nonprofit (www.EveryoneCanHelpSomeone.com) to help with needed school supplies. We have stayed in touch via Facebook. This year we connected with her and said we would buy school supplies in Puerto Rico and sail them over to her. More on that later, so first here is our happy picture together.
Shopping for school supplies was really a very fun activity. We sailed in and anchored in Salinas, PR. There we rented a car and headed out to Walmart for shopping stop #1. We had a list of needed items from her and we started working on the list. As we shopped, we were in constant contact with Ms. Blyden via Facebook Messenger on our cells. We would locate items, take photos and ask if these were the right items. She would reply immediately and on we shopped. What a very, very fun activity. At Walmart, we emptied the shelves of all the Expo Whiteboard Markers. We also bought all the chisel tip sharpies they had. This was everything we could find at Walmart.
After buying all the markers at Walmart, we headed off to Ponce, Puerto Rico about 35 minute drive to shop at an Office Max. The teachers had no staplers and no staples, they needed laminating pockets, glue sticks, sticky pads, mounting tape, pens, etc. Well, this Office Max had it all, and we loaded up. Each purchase was sent by a photo on Messenger to Ms. Blyden and she approved or said no, not needed. We really kept focused on her needs for her teachers. With a cart full, we hit the check out. We tried to use our Federal Tax ID number to avoid paying 8% tax but they would not accept it because we had no account on file.
We returned late at night after also shopping at Kmart for a few gifts for Ms. Blyden as she lost her home and everything in it to Hurricane Irma. We were very happy to pick up a few items for her home kitchen. What a joy. So, it was back to the dinghy dock, late at night, where we loaded up the dinghy and moved everything into the quarter berth.
On the boat, we divided the items and we made 8 bags, one for each teacher. Each bag included a Swingline stapler, staples, Expo whiteboard markers, 8 chisel sharpies, sticky pads, and glue sticks. We also had a full box of more of the same plus mounting tape, 200 laminating pockets, more staples, black pens, red pens and special pens for Ms. Blyden. This box was for the storage closet.
Added to the school supplies, Radeen and I also connected with Grace, at Mpowerd.com and we ordered 48 LUCI 2.0 solar lights. These we expedited shipping to St. Thomas, but we needed to find a location to ship to where we could pick them up. We are so grateful to National Marine Inc, of St. Thomas, they agreed to accept our shipment at no charge and we were now set to receive our final gifts for Jost Van Dyke. Last year we gave away 24 LUCI lights in Puerto Rico and we found out that people loved them. They would come up and ask if we had more and we would give them to anyone who had no power in their home. We wanted to do the same for the households of the children in the Jost Van Dyke school, and we did! Within 2 days our 4 boxes of LUCI lights were onboard and we were charging them up in the sun so they would be ready to light up for the children.
After a stop in Christmas Cove, we next set sail for Jost Van Dyke arriving around 10 am. We were lucky and secured a mooring ball right off the customs and immigration dock. As captain, I had to first go in and clear into the country. Upon filling out the paperwork I had to declare that I was importing goods into the country. So I alerted the customs officer to this and he insisted that I bring everything into his office for inspection and to pay the duty tax! Oh, no!
So, I returned to Island Spirit and we waited out a bit of rain, placing all items into plastic bags to keep them from getting soaked. After the quick rain shower, we loaded up and moved all items to the customs dock for inspection. The officer asked what everything was and he looked over the items and then applied a 20% import duty on the gifts; the school supplies were duty-free. We were cleared and we moved the times to a waiting pickup truck with Ms. Blyden. It was important to us that Ms. Blyden distribute everything on a schedule best for her, without interrupting the school day. We would have liked to spend at least one night, but the weather was good and we had packages to meet in St. Thomas. After a great visit at Foxy’s with Pam, A.D. and Hayden on IP420 Pappy’s Packet, we headed to a mooring ball in Hawksnest Bay in the National Park on beautiful St. John.
We were thrilled when all was transferred to Ms. Blyden and she was so happy to receive these gifts. The guidance counselor drove the truck back to the school and we treated Ms. Blyden to lunch at the local cafe on the beach.
We are so touched by the photos Ms. Blyden posted on Facebook of the teachers and children with our gifts.
Radeen and I feel so fortunate to be able to give to others and to help where we can. We are not a large organization; it is only us and our friends and family who donate to help. We give 100% of the donations away each year. This is one example of the small missions we are trying to accomplish. Since the destructive hurricanes of IRMA and MARIA, we are trying to give back to those in need. One month before we discovered we also had damages, we created this project of Everyone Can Help Someone. The first year we donated over $3,000. This is now our second year and we will be looking to help children in Dominica schools next. You can read about our project to help others here.