Can I just say that we have an amazing alumni community? I’m sure you all knew that already, but let me explain why I feel it merits repeating. The love and support for the South Caicos community continues long after students leave the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS). Here at CMRS we are involved with the community daily: the scheduled outreach opportunities, buying that $1 ice cream cone just to sit and talk with the store owner, playing softball (or basketball or volleyball or…), helping with homework, teaching a fourth grader how to read, interviewing locals for Directed Research purposes… which suddenly turns into a conversation among friends. The host community is part of CMRS, and our students and alumni have given back in a variety of ways.

Most recently, we have received donations that have shocked the community and us at CMRS. In January, Leah Shamlian, a Fall 2013 student (along with help from her sister), donated nine boxes of books. She noticed that the bookshelves looked barren in the schools during outreach and, after speaking with her younger sister, did something about it. The books were distributed into the three schools, leaving the principals speechless. After the books were delivered and sorted into the classrooms, which I had the pleasure helping with, I had local kids coming up to me for weeks thanking me for the books. This spring, the Iris Stubbs Primary School has started a Reading Club, hoping to further spark the interest in literacy.

ust this week, the last full week students are at CMRS for the Spring 2014 semester, Jessie Frascotti was able to distribute board games into Iris Stubbs Primary School. She noticed that aside from our Saturday outreach, the kids didn’t have much to do. One thing in particular that was lacking was something in the schools to keep the local kids out of trouble during breaks. Working with her family, Jessie was able to deliver a box (which was bigger than I am) full of board games.  These are available to the students to check out during their class breaks and play.

Compiling up at headquarters are shoes and cleats, also donated by alumni and friends of CMRS. After a plea from the Sports Officer and the school Physical Education teachers, we put a call out to the SFS community. The local kids mostly end up playing and practicing for track meets in socks. (Have you ever run barefoot on concrete that has been baking in the sun all day? OUCH!) A few have shoes that were hand-me-downs from an older sibling, or a previous CMRS shoe-drive. The cleats will help the boy’s South Caicos softball team, as well as the rugby practices that CMRS helps run. With the sun beating down on the hard, rocky island, footwear is important.

On May 9th, CMRS will be turned from “school” to “clinic”. We are hosting the Turks and Caicos SPCA  for a spay and neuter clinic again this year. So far our alumni have raised over $1,300 for the clinic, which will help control the stray dog (“potcakes”) and cat populations. We continue to see overpopulation of animals on the island, and across the TCI. These funds help the TCSPCA provide spay/neuters and vaccinations for nominal fees, helping to control overpopulation and overall health of animals on South Caicos. The TCSPCA clinic is the only time that a veterinary service comes to our small island. In the photo below, spring 2014 students educate the primary school kids about proper dog care and announced the clinic.

As I told you, our alumni are pretty awesome. Not only do students live and work with the community for the semester or summer that they are here, but South Caicos remains in their hearts long after they have left.