Volunteers give dogs at SXM Paws a bath.
CUPECOY–More than 200 American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine students, colleagues, and friends participated in AUC’s Community Action Day on Saturday, February 22.
All volunteers set off from the campus, bound for multiple sites across the island.
AUC’s Community Action Day is an opportunity for the university to collaborate with local organisations on projects benefitting the people and communities of St. Maarten, said AUC in a press release on Monday.
Members of the AUC community contributed a total of 672 hours of service through a variety of projects, working with partners including Mental Health Foundation, Tri-Sport, Tzu Chi Foundation, and Sister Basilia Centre, among others. Their focus ranged from environmental clean-up and sustainability efforts to social and educational activities with children and disabled adults.
Students rolled up their sleeves to help create upcycled home goods from reclaimed wood, varnishing furniture and making coasters and lamps at Waste2Work, a non-profit organisation dedicated to reducing the amount of reusable materials ending up in landfills.
Fifteen students painted fences, cleaned kennels, and spent time with the animals at SXM Paws adoption centre, a volunteer organisation that rescues and cares for neglected animals on the island.
“AUC has become an important social partner in St. Maarten, not only turning out future doctors but also reaching out and engaging in a myriad of social and educational programmes in the community,” said Dorette de Leeuw-Pfennings of SXM Paws.
In many cases, Community Action Day provides a touchpoint for students to continue the work of their peers, increasing the impact over time. At Player Development SXM, an afterschool programme that offers a space for children to learn and play baseball, one of the day’s projects included repainting tables that AUC students originally had helped assemble in 2017.
“Each time a group of future doctors shows up, they work hard and spend time with the kids,” said Coach Tom Burnett of Player Development. “For me it is a time when all the little, often big things get done that I just have not been able to do.”
AUC said that while Community Action Day is held once a semester, volunteering is a year-round priority at AUC School of Medicine. Many students regularly connect with local non-profits through AUC’s student-run clubs as well as on an individual level.
Student Jasmin Millon received AUC’s Dr. Karl Stockhausen Student of the Semester award last semester in recognition of her continued efforts to support at-risk youth on the island in partnership with community and university organisations.
For student Felix Toussaint, who spent Saturday’s event at Mental Health Foundation, Community Action Day has made a personal impact on him as well as making a difference for the larger community.
“My favourite quote to sum up my experience the last two semesters of Community Action Day is, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,’” said Felix.