PHILIPSBURG--With a new school year starting on Monday, parents of more than 400 primary school pupils will have one less expense to worry about, as #RebuildSXM and St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) will be providing school uniforms for the most vulnerable children in St. Maarten’s primary schools.

The project, which was initiated just four weeks ago, is an initiative of #RebuildSXM, a Netherlands-based foundation established after the passing of Hurricane Irma, with its core team consisting of various St. Maarteners and persons with ties to St. Maarten.

From the inception, #RebuildSXM dedicated its efforts to providing important materials and resources for St. Maarten’s most vulnerable, it was stated in a press release on Monday.

With a focus on the wellbeing of St. Maarten’s most vulnerable, the foundation made its first major donations of sports equipment to various schools and athletic programmes throughout the community in March. Now, the focus is on preparing children for the upcoming school year. With this goal to continue its support for St. Maarten’s youngsters, #RebuildSXM will be partnering with SMDF to provide school uniforms for those most in need.

“The goal of this project is to take away some of the financial burden that many parents face each school year,” said #RebuildSXM Treasurer Cyriel Pfennings. “In providing these uniforms, we can directly assist parents with uniform cost and try to bring back a sense of normalcy for the kids when they return to school.”

SMDF Programme and Development Manager Makhicia Brooks described school uniforms as being beneficial to creating a sense of equality amongst students in the classroom, but also being a source of financial strain. “Purchasing school uniforms can be costly and difficult to manage for some parents in even the best of times, so we can only imagine how challenging it is right now,” said Brooks.

With their mission to provide for 400 children firmly in sight, the organisations have been working with local vendors to secure favourable pricing for the uniforms.

“We have a fixed budget available for this project and we are trying to stretch it as far as it can go,” said #RebuildSXM Chairman John Sandiford.

“Providing these uniforms is only possible because of the discounts offered by supportive and community-minded vendors such as Penny’s Department Store and 0-14 Kids,” explained Brooks.

The two organisations said the uniforms will be presented to school officials who identified the children in need. “The intake of children for this project was done by the schools and we will be working with them to distribute to the identified children in the coming days,” said Brooks.

The #RebuildSXM and SMDF teams thanked all 17 participating primary schools and stores for their partnership and collaboration.