A class act of support

A class act of support

When Hurricane Wilma reached the Yucatán Peninsula, it possessed its full destructive power. With wind speeds of more than 155 mph (250 km/h), the tropical storm raced toward the Mexican peninsula in October 2005, devastating everything in its path. Only a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina had flooded New Orleans and large parts of the southwestern U.S., Wilma, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin, destroyed numerous buildings in the Mexican vacation paradise, uprooted trees, and flooded streets, through which rubble and debris subsequently floated. After a tidal wave hit the vacation spot Cancún, the water rose to heights of several yards in the hotel district.

But while tourists were evacuated after spending a few days in emergency accommodation, the local population had to deal with the aftermath on its own. The Mexican government provided aid only hesitantly. The top priority was to rehabilitate hotels and beaches so that tourists would return quickly. But other facilities were not so fortunate. Yalahau elementary school in Cancún, for example, remained scarred by the disaster.

Absence of professional support

“Almost three quarters of the classroom furniture fell victim to the hurricane,” says Lindsay Oddo, the marketing coordinator of BYK USA. “And the sanitary facilities, the library, the music room with the instruments, the kitchen, the technical equipment, and the computer of the school’s administration were destroyed.” The schoolyard and many windows and doors were also affected by the hurricane. But the school, which was founded in 1987, was not given any professional support during the clearing and renovation work. Only teachers and parents of schoolchildren lent a hand, doing everything they could to enable classes to be held again as soon as possible. “But without outside assistance a small school, where 90 children from preschool age to second grade are taught, cannot repair damage on this scale,” says Oddo.

So it was a godsend that 50 BYK staff members from Germany, Canada, Mexico, and particularly the U.S. attending a BYK NAFTA sales meeting in Cancún in 2012 volunteered to help renovate the school and made donations for new furniture. “In three hours, we painted fences and facades, planted green areas, and regravelled the schoolyard,” recounts Lindsay Oddo. “So much solidarity elicits a great feeling.” In gratitude for all the help, the students sang for the assiduous helpers and gave them presents they made themselves.