Juan Fernadez Island

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the horrific tsunami that swept away much of the village of San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe island. The occasion is a sad one, as we look back on the tragic loss of life and property. But it is a joyous one as well, as much has been done to rebuild and hopes are high.

It is also an auspicious occasion for an update from me on our efforts to help the schoolchildren of Juan Fernandez. And the news is good: the modular school continues to function on land loaned by Conaf (the forestry service) and the students and teachers are content with their temporary “lodging.”

Our efforts have contributed in many ways to the operation of the school, from a copy/fax machine, public announcement equipment and an industrial strength floor cleaner (the mud gets everywhere!) to our star projects: a state-of-the-art English-language lab for 15 students and a native English teaching assistant to live and work on the island for the 2011 academic year.

All in all, in this first year we have raised – and spent – some US$50,000.

But our work is far from over. The Mayor recently confirmed that the municipality will be using its own funds to purchase land for a brand new, permanent school: that will require us to step up our efforts. A new school means space for a real library, for a sports center, for an auditorium. It means room for a dedicated science lab, a school band and even a youth orchestra (thanks to you, we’ve gotten the ball rolling with a single, child-sized violin).

Those efforts will naturally require additional funding. We turn to you, our original donors, in the hopes that you may be able to assist us in securing those monies, either personally or through friends and contacts. Thanks to the generous in-kind donation of the British Embassy’s legal counsel in Santiago, we are in the final stages of opening a Chilean non-profit organization to lend much-needed institutional structure to receive and allocate those new funds. In that regard, I would like to publicly thank Gabriela Mistral Foundation of New York for their unwavering support this past year in channeling funds to us. Every cent you donated through GMF came directly to us, no cuts, no commissions, no fees. We couldn’t have asked for a more generous partner. Thank you GMF!!

Last, but certainly not least, I am attaching a few very recent photographs (taken today) of the school and current conditions on the island. With any luck, by next summer (December) the major government-sponsored infrastructure projects underway will be complete – and hotel capacity sufficiently restored – so that we can welcome you all to the island as you so warmly deserve, should you decide to visit.

Un abrazo,

Katty Kauffman
Colegio Insular Robinson Crusoe