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~In 1978 the  Atlantic hurricane season dominated the months from 1st June - November 30th.  It caused severe devastation in it’s path over a five month period. That same year the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine or AUC  was founded and went on to become one of the oldest Caribbean medical schools. It prides itself on accomplishing more together than they ever could on their own.

That statement was tested nearly 40 years later when Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean island resulting in loss of homes and for some loss of lives.

In 2017 and thanks to the overwhelming response from the University of Central Lancashire, 700 trainee medics were rescued and shipped to the UK in order for them to have a permanent residence and to continue their studies.

27 year old student Kelcie O’Dell has these enlightening words of comfort and joy,
 
“It was an interesting way to get to visit the UK and Europe in general, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. For me, it was a really terrible situation turned into a dream. Everyone here has been so welcoming and really wonderful. It’s been really a great experience.”

Pub and shop owners have also benefited from the new intake of American students too. Heidi Chumley, the executive dean of AUC, said the students had been through a traumatic experience with the storm but have allowed recreation time to help them settle in,

“They really like it here. It was a challenge for them – their education was interrupted … they spent a couple of weeks not knowing whether they could continue their studies. But they haven’t even complained about the weather. My guess is it’s the pubs that are enjoying this.”

Nearly two months after the island of Dutch St Maarten was devastated by Hurricane Irma the students had an official welcome to the Preston city centre with a civic ceremony at The Guild Hall.


The mayor of Preston, Brian Rollo, spoke of his complete honour and joy that the city had acknowledged the students crisis before it was too late,

“We were the biggest seaport on the west coast in the middle ages. We’re used to strangers coming in and settling,” he said. “We lost the port 20 years ago – we’ve got a marina now – but I’m proud Preston still accepts people coming in.”

Lewis Lukens, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in London, said the displaced students preferred a sunnier climate but the welcome they had received from the people of Preston “could not have been warmer”.

He also spoke of a potential lead for a major film which would see the drama play out on the big screen,

“I hope that someone is writing a screenplay for what will doubtlessly be a Hollywood blockbuster. Preston: the movie. It’s an incredible story.”

In just under a month’s time the University will play host on Christmas Day to a staggering 1,000 students for a festive feast and a profound reflection afterwards with the Queen’s speech.

You can view a 4 minute report via you tube by logging in :-
 ‘Storm-hit students given warm Preston welcome’   via That’s Lancashire for interviews with the students, UCLAN’S vice chancellor Mike Thomas and the mayor of Preston, Brian Rollo.

Hurricane Irma, something the US students won’t forget in a hurry.

^Alex Ashworth.

 

AUC Students Given Warm UCLAN Welcome