Cakes for Sint Maarten

Every morning at four thirty, Cassandra Wilson starts baking cakes in her kitchen. She sells them, using the profits to help her family on Sint Maarten after the devastation from hurricane Irma.
By Freek Schueler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Even before she starts her shift as a cleaner at the Academy building, Cassandra Wilson can be found baking cakes in her own kitchen. The money she earns selling them goes to her family on Sint Maarten, which fell victim to hurricane Irma. We may have forgotten about that particular disaster here, but over there the havoc wreaked is still present. Wilson moved to the Netherlands in 2010, but still has many family members living on Sint Maarten.

When hurricane Irma tore across the island, her family was forced to take shelter in their bathroom. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but everything around them had been destroyed. Wilson: ‘Some people lost their roofs, others had broken windows and doors.’ Anything left after the hurricane fell prey to looters. ‘They even took the school furniture.’

Word of mouth

Reconstruction on the island is going incredibly slowly. Some of Wilson’s family members are still living in an emergency shelter. Many of them had jobs in tourism, but lost these because hotels and restaurants are closed now. ‘Fortunately, they are mentally strong’, Wilson says.

Her brother is a priest, and in spite of the limited means available to him, has been helping people with support and food.  What the island needs most, however, are building materials, so the people can rebuild their homes. Wilson contributes by baking and selling her cakes.

It’s going really well. Thanks to posters and word-of-mouth advertising, she has so many orders that she’ll be busy until New Year’s Eve. She raised approximately five hundred euros in the first few weeks, although that’s a mere fraction of the goal of twenty thousands. And so she dons a Christmas sweater to start baking cake after cake at four thirty in the morning. ‘It’s no bother’, she smiles.

Red Cross

She transfers the money she earns straight into an account her daughter set up on Sint Maarten. Her daughter then divides the funds among fourteen family members. Donating the money to the Red Cross is not an option. Not just because she wouldn’t be able to specifically give it to her family, but also because she fears that the charity organisations don’t know how to distribute the money properly. Wilson: ‘They raised 34 million euros for Haiti. But that place is still a disaster. The money goes to the government, and they don’t take care of their people.’

With Christmas coming up, Wilson’s family is on her mind even more, but she is staying in the Netherlands. With no trouble at all, she rattles off her next few orders: ‘Pie this morning, a cake for this afternoon, another cake tomorrow, an order for Friday, pies and a cake for Saturday.’

The baking doesn’t end.

Wilson’s pie-baking schedule is full up straight up to New Year’s Eve. But her cakes will taste just as good in January. Would you like to help out? You can e-mail l.hollander@rug.nl

20 December 2017 | 20-12-2017, 14:17