Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Opening School After Typhoon Soudelor

The first day of school for Saipan International School was supposed to be August 5th, but we had a visitor to the island that made that quite impossible -- Typhoon Soudelor. On Sunday August 2nd, Soudelor rocked Saipan. Our school, luckily, was saved from major damage. We did lose the roof to our palapala and there was some water damage to ceiling tiles in several classrooms, but compared to what many people woke up to on Monday morning, SIS was blessed. In the face of no power and no water, we had to make some tough decisions. Several schools were damaged and simply could not open; plus, many families on the island had no homes left, or at least they were without power and water as well. Lines for fuel were four and five hours long and lines for water were similar. We had to decide when we would open for school. The teachers were the first to respond with those that could coming to campus to help clean up the school yard. Although we received very little structural damage, the trees lost many branches and the debris from the palapala roof was everywhere. Teachers came in for several days during that first week and attempted to clean up. Barnard, a local carpenter, came by, once his house was repaired, to assist us with our repair work and clean up. Steven Metayer was able to locate a generator and chainsaw on island for us. These items were not easily found right after the typhoon as people purchased everything they could in the aftermath of the storm.

Kyoung Min Song, the Treasurer of our Board of Directors, donated some of her workers to do the dangerous part of the clean up work which involved cutting down loose hanging branches from the giant trees in our school yard. The next round of help came from students and parents as they organized a major clean up day. Kyoung Min cooked a huge amount of curry and rice and served all the students, parents, and teachers who pitched in to help that day. It was a wonderful site to see -- the entire community pulling together to get the school back on its feet. Another member of the board, May Ling Colombo, help throughout the day as well -- cleaning debris and serving curry along side Kyoung Min. John Nersten, a new parent to SIS, volunteered to repair the palapala roof. Currently he is planning to finished the job tomorrow (August 19th).

Steven Metayer came in to help us with arranging generators and power to the buildings. The first thing we needed after the storm, in order to have school, was running water. Steven was able wire our generator directly into the regular circuit board, which supplied some power to the office and to the water pump for the elementary and middle school. Today we have the ability to run the server, both office computers, the water pumps, and a couple of power tools thanks to Steven's work. Without Steven, it would be impossible to even have school at this point.

Due to the efforts of many people and some luck, we were able to open school on August 17th. Students were happy to be back at school and feel that their lives were returning to some type of normal mode. It is hot in the afternoon, but teachers and students are trying to make the most of their time as school. Today, August 18th, we were able to get water running in the high school as well. As more generators arrive, we will be able to power more of the school. The next hope is to be able to run some fans to provide a little relief from the heat in the classrooms. Every day we are making little steps forward.