ACE School reopen doors in property provided by Tzu Chi Foundation

~ For lower rent, stable location~

All Children’s Education Foundation (ACE) School on Sunday cut the ribbon to signal the official reopening of its elementary school at Daisy Road # 2 in Cul de Sac thanks to the assistance of Buddhist Compassion Relief Organisation Tzu Chi Foundation.


Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung said the project was Tzu Chi’s first major education mission in St. Maarten.

She said the new location means that ACE, which had been undergoing some major challenges in the past and had been under threat of closing, would pay a lower rent and now has a stable location to educate its pupils.

Cheung said when the Tzu Chi Foundation realised that ACE was in need of assistance, the foundation embraced the institution with love and assisted them. The foundation’s support to ACE began in 2006 with donations of rice and school supplies for students. This assistance continued when Tzu Chi collaborated with cultural foundations in the community and held a fundraiser to help ACE school cover its rent.

"The school had been going through some tough times. It was unable to keep up with its rental payments and its other financial obligations. Beside the financial problem, teachers and students also faced a major problem: whenever it rained the building flooded and education was interrupted," Cheung said at the ceremony.

"Because we embraced them with love, we could not bear to see the suffering of this school. We decided to apply the principles of Tzu Chi Education which are: great compassion, great mercy, great joy and great giving, she said. "ACE school was chosen as the first recipient of our ‘Education Mission."

The Foundation purchased the property in March to help the school with a stable location with lower rental payment so that it can focus on its main task: education.

According to Cheung the property was empty for many years and it was in a very bad state of disrepair. The challenge was to get it ready in time for the new school year in August. Like a river of love, the kindness of the people of St. Maarten flowed during this time, she said.

"Thanks to the assistance of many of our committed volunteers, the business community, organisations, associations, students and parents who sacrificed their days, nights and weekends working on the property to help repair the building, the project was completed in time," she said. "This project was one of love, dedication, compassion and most of all – one of volunteerism. Most of the work to the building was done by volunteers. From the cleaning of the yard, the painting of the building, mixing of cement and sand, to the restoration of furniture and even technical work such as the electrical work (thanks to the professionals donated by Maho), this project was completed," she added thanking the many persons, businesses, foundations and groups that were involved.

"Tzu Chi is truly grateful for the efforts of everyone who was involved. It shows that volunteerism is still very much alive and kicking in St. Maarten and that many people are willing to be part of something positive that can benefit the community."

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams stressed the importance of ensuring that all children receive fair education and the key role this plays in the development of St. Maarten as a country. "With compulsory education having been introduced in stages in 2009 there where many undocumented persons who were residing on St. Maarten whose children, through no fault of their own, were not able to attend school," she said at the ceremony.

"As a Government and a people we collectively believe that children should never ever suffer because of the circumstances their parents face. We should be grateful as a community to offer children the education that they deserve and it is important that we all work together as government, private sector and civil society to make St. Maarten a better place for all of us and a better place starts with an educated population. We need to ensure that in today’s world our children understand what it means to be a member of a multi-cultural society, we need to have children understand that in today’s world it is peace which will see us through in the coming decades and so today it is my pleasure to see the ACE Foundation and the Tzu-Chi Foundation and their partners realize the completion of this school, where we may offer the education necessary to continue to develop our country," the Prime Minister noted.

Education Minster Patricia Lourens-Philip congratulated Tzu Chi and ACE on the collaboration. She also lauded the way in which the initiative was done with volunteers, businesses and groups in the community. She underscored the importance of educating youths in the community as this guaranteeing the future. The Minister said while she is not making any promises, she urged ACE Foundation to regulate matters so that it can obtain government subsidy.

Sonesta Maho Group of Companies General Manager Armando Pizzuti, one of the major donors, said Maho was more than happy be involved in this initiative and that Maho was looking for more education projects to sponsor.

Other dignitaries at the ceremony were Health, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Cornelius de Weever and VROMI Minister Maurice Lake.

Pastor Wycliffe Smith performed the blessings of the building. During the ceremony ACE pupils sang a song in Chinese and another in Dutch and delivered a sign language performance of the song "Three Nos."

Tzu Chi also donated relief packages to several underprivileged persons in the community as well as had a "Bamboo Bank Return Ceremony" in which persons with bamboo donation boxes emptied the boxes at the event. Many in the audience also donated in support of support the foundation.

ACE Director Claire Elshot, who is also a Tzu Chi volunteer, said the institution was thankful for the gesture of all those who were involved in this project. She said it was ten years ago this month that ACE had moved to its former location. Elshot used most of her speaking time to highlight some of ACE’s success stories and said it was of utter importance that all children get a chance to be educated.

Tzu Chi thanked its donors, the Sonesta Maho Group of Companies, the foundation also thanked donors the St. Maarten Timeshare Association, the St. Maarten Harbour, the American Navy League, American Coast Guard vessel ‘Eagle,’ Cake House Supermarket and Bakery, American University of the Caribbean, the Filipino and Haitian Communities, Key to Freedom, Prins Willem Alexander School, Eric Vlaun, Euro Caribbean Linkup NV, WIB, S & R Construction, LU, ACE, construction workers Culture, Victor and Fabin and all the numerous volunteers from the Tzu Chi Foundation and from all over St. Maarten who assisted.