A Look Back at How SXM Strong Got Started and a Few Thoughts on Where We’re Heading

If you’ve been reading SXM Strong for long then you probably know that I originally started SXM Strong on Twitter on the morning of September 6, 2017, with two simple tweets to show my support for Sint Maarten.

Following those tweets, I continued to post any and all updates I could find about what was going on as Hurricane Irma slammed into Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. I could never have anticipated the outpouring of love and concern I saw throughout the day as my home office turned into a type of mission control center. It was overwhelming to say the least.

That day, I received so many inquires that I decided to start a website on September 7, 2017, with links to news and information about what was happening, how to find people, conditions of different areas around the island and so much more. This is that website I started on that day.

Those first few days were a whirlwind of emotion, activity and lots of hard work. I can remember so many times, typing an update with tears in my eyes. I had gotten so emotionally involved in everything that was happening on the island, seeing people find their loved ones, all the good and bad stories that went along with it.

Honestly, I had no idea what that first tweet would turn into.

The funny thing — at least to me — about all of this is that I live approximately 5,200 miles away from Sint Maarten, in Phoenix, Arizona. My wife and I have always loved the island and it’s people and so, even though it’s pretty far out of the way for us, we’ve gone back time and time again. Year after year we travel to Sint Maarten like we’re going to see a dear old friend.

And so I’ve worked hard to keep SXM Strong going and to continue to provide daily updates. I’ve raised over $3,000 to help the island, have partnered with a number of organizations — like Rebuild SXM and St. Martin Lowlands Hurricane Relief Project — and have meet and worked with a number of individuals both on and off the island. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

The words “SXM Strong” have turned into a national slogan for Sint Maarten. I couldn’t be more proud to be on the leading edge of a slogan that has come to take on so much meaning for an island that we love so much. And now, I have to look to the future.

I want SXM Strong to provide more and more local updates about the island. I do my best to find and publish local information, but being so far away makes it challenging to keep doing it well. Of course, the vast world of social media certainly helps, and it’s where I get a lot of my information. Well, there and through the wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with through this incredible adventure.

I’ve begun to reach out to locals on the island to ask if they’d be interested in publishing their own updates right here on SXM Strong. Admittedly, it’s not always the easiest process. Most people don’t know me and are cautious about committing to someone they don’t know. I get it. My business card is this website, and the SXM Strong Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

In the end, I want SXM Strong to publish updates by locals about everything that’s happening on the island, in the communities, among the people. Whether they’re updates on the rebuild and recovery, new restaurants that are opening, insight into local beach bars, or just beautiful stories about the island. That’s my vision for SXM Strong.

Soon you’ll start to see posts with material from other people. At first, it may just be a few posts, but hopefully the number of people who want to write for SXM Strong will grow. And speaking of that, if you or someone you know wants to contribute to this website on a regular basis, just send me a note here. Include a little about you, how you’d like to contribute and if you have any writing experience. I’ll get right back in touch with you.

As always, your feedback is what keeps me going. If you have any ideas about the direction you’d like SXM Strong to grow, please send me a note here or leave a comment below. Together we’ve done some pretty great stuff, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Please help rebuild SXM and give today. Click here to visit the SXM Strong donate page. Thank you!

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Jon Ferlise

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited to celebrate my 40th birthday in May of 2009. Since then, I've spent most birthdays there, and have visited countless other times getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website that I started to support humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. There was no plan, it just evolved as I witnessed the devastation that Irma caused the island and the huge need to communicate and disseminate information about what had happened and how people could help support this island and its people.

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