Rebuilding the school at Juan Fernandez

Those of you who have been following this blog will remember that we
were caught up in the tsunami that hit the Juan Fernandez Islands during
the early hours on February 28th this year. As a response to the post
that I wrote at the time, I have been in contact with many people who
were either on the island at the time, or had a direct personal
interest. One of these, Katty Kauffmann, was so moved by the events that
she became a key player in a fundraising campaign to help rebuild and
equip the island’s only school, that was destroyed.

Below is an update from Katty about the developments since then, and
details about where help is still needed:

Dear Rhian,

The good news is that SO MUCH has changed since we were last in contact.
The bad news is that SO LITTLE has changed.

First, in addition to Peter Soto, the Mayor has appointed the British
Ambassador to Chile, Jon Benjamin, as a school Patron. This has been of
tremendous help in our fundraising efforts, as Jon is able to reach out
to people in ways and places that would otherwise be unthinkable.

Second, through the good offices of a local NGO, Desafio Levantemos
Chile, a Canadian mining firm (Dona Ines de Collahuasi… I know, it’s a
mouthful for a non-Spanish speaker) agreed to donate what is called a
“modular” school. In essence, this is a set of reconditioned shipping
containers, painted and equipped, that can be set up quickly and, if
necessary, moved to a new location subsequently. The school came with
desks, chairs, blackboards and all sorts of basic school supplies,
including a few new Internet-ready computers.

Third, President Piñera travelled to the island and officially
inaugurated the school year there at the new modular school. Ambassdor
Benjamin was invited to join the delegation and flew out to the island
with the President where they met up with soprano Kala Maxym, who
contributed her talents to the fundraising effort in New York and is
slated to do so again at a benefit concert for the school recovery
effort scheduled for May 8th. Both the Mayor of Juan Fernandez and the
school’s headmaster, Cristina Riquelme, are expected to attend.

The bad news is that so many people seem to think our work is done.

Yes, the students have four walls and a roof over their heads. That is
certainly progress!! Yes they have access to the basics. But what about
all those “extras,” those things they had before like art supplies, band
instruments, science equipment, sports facilities? All of that is pending.

And that is where we are putting our efforts and money today. On the
“extras.” On the things these kids need and deserve to feel that things
really are back to normal. Not makeshift. Not make-do. Normal.

Donations are warmly welcome through the Gabriela Mistral Foundation in
the U.S., affiliated with the Chilean Mission to the United Nations.
Please specify that the donation is for “RC SCHOOL” in the comments
section of this earthquake disaster relief donation page.

or access the Foundation through the DONATE button on our website

Please also email me at so that I can keep track of the funds that should be coming our way.

Lastly, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, however large or small, about this effort and what we are doing. I’m thrilled to be a part of it and excited to help get the word out.

Best regards,

Katty Kauffman