Newsletter for May 2021
Getting back to the Learning Centre
by Tylisha Miller

The Learning Center reopened the doors on the 9th of May 2021 for the first time since Saint Vincent was tossed into a whirlwind of chaos. After closing the doors in early December for what was supposed to be a short 3-week break, we were unable to reopen in January due to a spike in Coronavirus cases. Just as we thought it was safe to peek our heads from our cages (homes) we were pushed back inside yet another time by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano.
Now that we have reopened we have welcomed 25 students which includes several evacuees from mainland Saint Vincent. It has been a week of acclimation into a classroom setting for the kids. With CPEA couple months around the corner Alicia is putting in extra work with the 6th graders while the other teachers work on getting the kids back on track.

The staff and students at The Learning Center are all looking forward to making the rest of 2021 as productive and successful as possible!
Tylisha Miller and Gabby Ollivierre built a ping pong table for the Learning Center. Learning, of course, begins with relationships--sharing a space, spending some time. And that's the thinking behind this fantastic project. Love it!
Building a house, making a home
The Koven family has made a life on Bequia, and when opportunities arose to give back, they did that, too.
By Glen Herbert
Nina Koven Arnett first started visiting Bequia in the early 1970s, typically arriving each spring or summer to visit her grandparents, Jane and Gus Koven. For a kid it was all quietly, brilliantly magical, and many of Nina’s memories are from a distinctly child’s eye view. “They had a windmill,” she recalls. “They powered an old battery with it so we would have electricity for a little while in the evening.” Sometimes the power would last all evening, sometimes not. “I remember there was a big snake that came in while someone was sleeping one time. And there were manicous. … It felt like a real adventure, because you never knew what was going to happen.”

Her grandparents grew vegetables, which was typical for the time, and also raised sheep and lamb. They first lived at Welk House (“It had a thatched roof” she says, something that, again, would really draw a kid’s eye) while they built a home on the hill. “They bought it in the early 60s from Mrs. Ollivierre,” she says. “Everyone walked. That’s how you got around. And even when they were building Hope house, they carried all the rocks up from the beach. It was pretty incredible.” They’d walk up from town, past where Mrs. Olliverre used to live. “And there were two cement tracks that my grandfather put in that went down the hill and up to Hope.”

From the beginning there was a sense of working with others to create something together. Nina recalls that the property most days was a hive of activity, with people tending the gardens, harvesting the vegetables. She says with a chuckle that Bequia “is not a place where you’re going to sit on a beach and someone’s going to deliver you a cocktail with an umbrella in it.” And that’s precisely what she loved about it then, and continues to love about Bequia now. “It’s a real community.”

That sense of community has become the most lasting memory. “We’re still really close to Eldica Simmons who used to cook for my grandparents when they first had the house in the 60s. Now she lives right down in the harbour, so we still see her. She makes mango chutney for us.” She remembers Herman McDonald, who died a few years ago, in 2017. “He was with us for like twenty-five, thirty years.”

Her grandparents had five children, her father Ted, Gay, Connie, Gus, and Tom. With all the cousins, too, time spent on Bequia often had the feel of a homecoming. “All the kids … we all went down and spent years growing up in Bequia,” she says. “My cousin Pam and I would go down together and sometimes we’d sail from Grenada up to Bequia, stay there for a couple weeks, and then sail back to Grenada. There were times we all went, all the grandchildren.” In the early days, just getting there was part of the adventure. “There was no airport of course, and usually you got stranded, either at St. Vincent or Barbados. It was very infrequent that you could do the whole trip in a day. There was always something that happened.”
"It's just a way to give back."
The connection with the island grew over the years, and with it grew the desire to give back. This particularly in light of some of the unique challenges that the people there were facing, including vision problems, food security, education. “Those kinds of things affected people that we knew,” says Nina. “I think that’s really the biggest thing. … we knew so many people that had problems with their eyes. People were going blind, including Eldica Simmons.”

They wanted to help, and they did. That was the impetus behind the Koven Family Foundation, which has quietly, consistently, been doing such great work on the island. While they haven’t put their names on anything—and certainly don’t intend to—looking around, there are so many initiatives that they’ve either created or supported. The Sunshine School and the hospital. The Anglican Church. The recycling program, by Action Bequia, is one that they supported from the earliest days. They’ve sponsored eye surgeries, and distributed pairs of glasses to school children.
Most recently, of course, they’ve contributed substantially to the vaccine program. “It’s really important,” says Nina. It’s important in the way that eye surgery and glasses are, supporting the health and welfare of the population. But it’s important in other ways too, something that certainly isn’t lost on the directors of the foundation. People want to work, and the vaccine program is the shortest path to a renewed economy. Nina’s aware that not everyone is a fan, and that there continues to be a lot of noise around vaccination both on Bequia and beyond. Worse, perhaps, are those who see the vaccine program as coercive. It isn’t, and that’s a message that Nina wishes more people could hear. The support of the program, she says, “is just because we love Bequia, and the people there. Everyone has always been good to us. It’s just a way to give back.“
A hearty thank you to those who supported to the volcano relief programs and the vaccine initiative:
Shelley Hiebert
Miriam Hirsch
The John and Margaret Sagan 
Donald Levin
The Dorfman and Kaish Family ----
Hilary Armstrong
----Doyle and Virginia Barlow)
Gretchen & James Squires
RD & Linda Sahl
Brian Clare Jr.
Aaron Fenton
Eleanor Hobal
Daria Chase
Michele Beckerleg
Hannu Hiilamo
Margaret Vermeersch
Steven Cotton
David Snider
David Moskowitz
Donna & Glen Sifton
Bryan Lumpkins
James & Patricia Ritzenberg
Mike Ambler
The Cones Family Foundation
Mollie Snead
Kathleen LaMoreaux
Todd & Caren Fisher
Lennart & Susan Freeman
Chales Drake
Laura Harrier
William Vitiello
Ron Jones
Holly & Jeff Ridgway
The Randall and Barbara Smith 
Susan R. Holtz
Lael Yudain
Barbara Whitney
Jean Crocker
Linda Chan
David Stucky
Blake Pettipas
Sherene Davidson
Christine Finlay
James Wolstenholme
Frank & Patti Kostal
Robin McLaughlin
Judith Yaworsky
Asher Davis
Wendy Sol
Dinah Lainey
Kathy Martin
Lucy Tantalo
Jennifer Fraser
John & Rosemary Edwards
Deane & Judy Collinson
Alessandra Domina
Gus Koven
Jorn Lyseggen
Monika Milsom
William King
Allen Green
Matt Pines
Janice Harland
Andrea Cutajar
Richard Child
David Baskin
Cheryl Choptain
Hadley Leipciger
David Snider
Jennifer Abela-Froese
Thomas Flaherty
Jean Crocker
Elizabeth Zook
Richard & Jane Tully
Barbara MacDonald
John MacDonald
Kathryn Christi
Joanne Weeks
Michael W Rossi
Susan Renouf
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