Community Action Day Brings Students, Sint Maarten Residents Together in Service
More than 200 students, colleagues, and friends set off from AUC School of Medicine’s Sint Maarten campus on Saturday, February 22, bound for multiple volunteer sites across the island. From there, they continued the AUC tradition known as Community Action Day: an opportunity for the university to collaborate with local organizations on projects benefitting the people and communities of Sint Maarten.
Members of the AUC community contributed a total of 672 hours of service through a variety of projects, working with partners including the Mental Health Foundation, Tri-Sport, Tzu Chi Foundation, and Sister Basilia Center, among others. Their focus ranged from environmental cleanup and sustainability efforts to social and educational activities with children and disabled adults.
It's game time for AUC students and clients at the Mental Health Foundation. Photo courtesy of Felix Toussaint, Student Experience Ambassador.
At Waste2Work, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the amount of reusable materials ending up in landfills, students rolled up their sleeves to help create upcycled home goods from reclaimed wood, varnishing furniture, and making coasters and lamps. Over at the adoption center for SXM Paws, a volunteer organization that rescues and cares for neglected animals on the island, 15 students painted fences, cleaned kennels, and spent time with the animals.
“AUC has become an important social partner on Sint Maarten, not only turning out future doctors but also reaching out and engaging in a myriad of social and educational programs in the community,” says 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 program that offers a space for children to learn and play baseball, one of the day’s projects included repainting tables that AUC students had originally helped assemble in 2017.
Students assemble donated items at Player Development. Photo courtesy of Tom Burnett.
“Each time a group of future doctors shows up, they work hard and spend time with the kids,” says Coach Tom Burnett of Player Development. “For me it is a time when all the little—OK, often big—things get done that I just have not been able to do.”
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 nonprofits through AUC’s student-run clubs as well as on an individual level. Last semester, student Jasmin Millon received AUC’s Dr. Karl Stockhausen Student of the Semester award in recognition of her continued efforts to support at-risk youth on the island, in partnership with community and university organizations.
For student Felix Toussaint, who spent Saturday’s event at the Mental Health Foundation, Community Action Day has made a personal impact on him as well as making a difference for the larger community.
“My favorite 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,’” says Felix.