At 245 Strong, AUC Mobilizes for Community Action Day in Sint Maarten

In addition to representing the 10th anniversary of Community Action Day, it was AUC’s first service day since Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten last September.

AUC students, staff and family volunteering in Saint Maarten

More than 240 students, staff, and family from AUC spent their Saturday volunteering across Saint Maarten. Outfitted in grey t-shirts and sneakers, they worked at 12 community sites as a part of this year’s Community Action Day. The tradition, which takes place three times a year, is an opportunity for the medical school and students to give back to the island and support various community priorities. 

For third semester student Lauren Polan-Couillard, Community Action Day was an extremely personal and important event. As the President of the Student Volunteer Committee, she was in charge of coordinating student involvement and helping to organize Saturday's projects. 

"It's a chance for us to interact with local residents and show them how appreciative we are to be in Sint Maarten," she said. "Community Action Day is a great cause that reminds us of what we ultimately want to do as people!"

Saturday’s events were a particularly special milestone. In addition to representing the 10th anniversary of Community Action Day, it was AUC’s first service day since Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten last September. With 245 students, staff and family participating, it was also one of the largest Community Action Days on record. In total, AUC provided 765 hours of community service.

“This Community Action Day was particularly significant for AUC,” Assistant Dean of Service-Learning and Community Affairs Dr. Golden Jackson said. “Our students and staff were motivated to help with the island’s recovery and give back to this community that has given us so much. There is a real sense of pride and a responsibility to sustain St. Maarten for the next generation of students.”

A large part of Community Action Day this year focused on post-Hurricane Irma clean-up. Students and staff worked on self-sustainable gardens with Tzu Chi Foundation, prepared new sensory spaces at Ideal Nursery School, cleared debris and worked on construction projects with K1 Britannia Foundation and reinstalled exhibits at the St. Maarten Museum in Philipsburg. AUC also cleaned up Jordan Road and Mullet Beach and partnered with Tri-Sport to clear debris from the Guana Bay and Genevevre Bay hiking trails. Throughout the day, students collected dozens of bags of trash.

In addition to clean-up projects, AUC participated in elder care, youth mentorship and tutoring activities. The university hosted 20 children from the I Can foster home for breakfast and organised playtime and exercise activities. At Philipsburg Jubilee Library in Philipsburg, AUC students taught an open lesson on the human anatomy and the organ system and at the Little League Stadium they tutored Player Development Little League players in reading while also finding time to play ball.

For another 40 AUC students, Community Action Day was an opportunity to put what they have learned in medical school to use. At Carrefour Market on Bush Road, students worked with the Diabetes Foundation of St. Maarten to give free glucose and cholesterol tests and at Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre in St. Peters, students volunteered with St. Maarten AIDS Foundation to offer free HIV tests and provide information about positive and safe sexual health.

“Community Action Day is a great way for AUC to connect with the island and people,” said third semester student Graham Dersnah, who volunteered at the HIV screening event. “I think volunteerism is one part of being a physician, so it’s important that we do as much as possible right from the beginning of our medical school journey.”