Note: When Hurricane Sandy struck last October 29th, many New Yorkers were hard-hit with serious damage to their homes and lost wages. At CSF, we knew that families already living on a tight budget would face an extra challenge in paying their tuition on top of extra storm-related expenses. Thankfully, generous CSF donors stepped in and contributed to our Stay in School Fund. Through the Fund, children from six families (three families from St. Mark School in Brooklyn and three from St. Christopher School in Staten Island) received full instead of partial scholarships this year, allowing them to remain in their schools. Here is one family’s story:
“At about 8:30pm, the electricity went out. There was no light, nothing. We could hear the water coming,” said Stella Obazee, describing the night of Oct. 29th when Hurricane Sandy hit.
Ms. Obazee, her husband, Patrick, and their twin daughters (both first-graders at St. Mark School), live in a basement apartment in the Seagate section of coastal Brooklyn. As the water flooded into their home, Stella put her daughters on her shoulders one at a time and walked them across the street, asking her neighbor to take care of them while she and her husband waited out the storm. However, soon water in the apartment was waist high, and the Obazees joined their daughters at the neighbor’s house.
Surveying the damage the next day, the Obazees found most of their belongings had been ruined. Not only was everything wet, but more than a foot of sand had made its way into the low-lying apartment and a large piece of wood from the boardwalk landed just in front of the building. To make things worse, the company Mr. Obazee works for had also been flooded and would remain closed for seven weeks.
Luckily, the family was able to move to a friend’s house in Flatbush while their apartment was cleaned and repaired. And even though it took multiple bus transfers to get from the Flatbush house to their old neighborhood, the Obazee girls returned to school the day it reopened.
“They raced into the school and hugged the principal. They were shouting, ‘We survived the storm,'” Ms. Obazee told CSF. “They were so happy to be back.”
The Obazees moved back to their apartment at the beginning of January, and slowly, things are getting back to normal. Throughout the difficult weeks after the storm, the Obazee girls and their parents truly appreciated the support they received from their school, and they are very happy the girls were able to stay at St. Mark’s with extra assistance from CSF.
“We love this school,” Ms. Obazee said. “My family cannot thank you enough.”