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Storm-ravaged School in Curaçao

Maranatha Volunteers International complete project six months after initial request. (Posted January 24, 2013)

BY JULIE Z. LEE, director of marketing, Maranatha Volunteers International, reporting from Roseville, California

Six months from the initial request by the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Maranatha Volunteers International completed a One-Day School campus for the Mahuma Sur Primary Adventist School in Curaçao. School began at this new location in January with 225 students enrolled.

ONE-DAY CAMPUS: New buildings for the Mahuma Sur Primary Adventist School in Curaçao dot the landscape, thanks to the work of Maranatha Volunteers International. [PHOTOS: Dick Duerksen/MVI]
The One-Day School campus replaces one that was severely damaged during a 2008 tropical storm. Along with water damage, roofs and sections of the walls were destroyed, leaving the classrooms in a deplorable state. Ironically, the storm was an answer to years of prayer by the school staff. Located near an oil refinery, noxious fumes clouded the air at school, and both parents and teachers were wary of the long-term effects of constant exposure. Moving the campus was the ideal solution, but unlikely. As schools are constitutionally mandated in Curaçao, even denominational schools rely on federal funding for operations, and the government had no plans or money to relocate the campus. Yet with the current campus having been destroyed by the storm, the government had no choice but to rebuild.

Temporarily, the government gave Mahuma Sur the use of another campus that was empty at the time. Unfortunately, it was located on the east side of the island—far from most of the constituent family homes on the northwest side. Bus rides, subsidized by the government, took children from their old campus to the temporary school on the east—a trip that required some children to wake well before dawn.

“It’s tough when children have to wake up very early and leave their homes at 5:00 so they can reach an Adventist school. It’s hard when they get back home at 7:00,” said Sumire Kasteer, a parent at Mahuma Sur. For Kasteer, the long trip—while difficult—is a worthwhile investment. “For my family, Jesus is number one, which is why we choose an Adventist school.”

CONSTRUCTION TEAM: Workers from Maranatha Volunteers International, a Seventh-day Adventist supporting ministry, assist in the construction of the new One-Day School buildings at Mahuma Sur.
In the meantime, plans were drawn for a new campus, and a location granted. But there was no movement from the government to begin construction on the actual buildings.

Three years passed, and in 2012 the government notified Mahuma Sur that beginning in 2013, they would no longer subsidize buses for the students. With no transportation, families threatened to withdraw their kids from the Adventist school and enroll them in schools nearby. Shurman Kook, president of the Curaçao and Bonaire Conference, said a drop in enrollment could have severe consequences for the entire Adventist educational system in Curaçao.

“Well, I don’t want to think about the consequences. . . . Number one, what are we going to do with the children that cannot reach . . . the eastern part of the island? What are we going to do for them? Number two, the government subsidized the school based on a system of how many students you have. So based on the amount of students, you had money to pay the teachers. So if you don’t have enough students, we’ll have to fire a lot of teachers. So that means—actually—the end of Adventist education on the island.”

Closing Mahuma Sur, currently one of two Adventist schools in Curaçao, would have a detrimental impact on church outreach. Kook believes education has been an integral and effective means of evangelism on the island.

“Many of our kids—even our own—first get exposure to what Adventists believe at school. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, the seed is being sown. Many times it’s not credited to the school, but if you look at the statistics you will see that for many of the children, the groundwork for Adventism was laid at the school,” said Kook.

SMILING STUDENTS: These two young scholars are glad to have a school in their community, ending early-morning, cross-country bus rides!
In June 2012 Israel Leito, president of the Inter-American Division, contacted Maranatha. Having seen the One-Day School structures at the General Conference session in 2010, Leito believed that Maranatha could provide a solution for Curaçao.

“We received a message, asking us to consider an urgent request that was a priority for the division,” said Kyle Fiess, vice president of marketing and projects at Maranatha. “After examining the situation in Curaçao, we determined that a one-day school could provide a fast and effective resolution to the problem.”

On November 29, 2012, a team of Maranatha volunteers arrived in Curaçao. In a little more than a week, volunteers completed 12 One-Day School classrooms. The Adventist Church in Curaçao dedicated the campus on December 8, 2012,  at a ceremony in the town square.

School officials hope that one day the government will fund the construction of a larger school, turning these One-Day structures into additional classroom space. Given the government’s lack of activity on the project during the past four years, however, this is uncertain.

“We have been working with the government to get the new school that they promised, but the promise seems far from being fulfilled. So when our hope was almost lost, Maranatha came in, and we are very appreciative,” said Kook.





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