Beyond the palm trees, white sand beaches, and curiously strong umbrella drinks, what truly makes our beloved tropical islands so enchanting are the islanders who call them home.

With so many incredible women living in the tropics, often going unnoticed on their little islands by the rest of the world, I wanted to take the opportunity to share their stories here. This new series, Women Who Rock Their Rock, will feature island women in all their glory, inspiring others with the work they do and how they’re making a difference on their islands.

The woman featured in this first post in the series has overcome adversity in many forms (including two major hurricanes!) and is creating change in the lives of at-risk young people on her island.

 

MEET JENNY HAWKES

 

Jenny Hawkes My Brother's Workshop St Thomas Virgin Islands

 

ISLAND: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

ORGANIZATION: My Brother’s Workshop (also known as MBW)

NOMINATED BY: Christina Luton

 

Jenny Hawkes moved to St. Thomas from a tiny mountain town called Red River in New Mexico with her family. They had wanted to move away from the monotony of a small town and explore the world from a different perspective. When she first arrived, Jenny continued to run her old business from St. Thomas, though she quickly developed a desire to get involved in the local community.

It was then that she met Christina Luton at her church (another amazing island woman in her own right and the one who nominated Jenny). The two immediately became fast friends. Little did she know, Christina – who was currently the Executive Director of a growing non-profit on island named My Brother’s Workshop – was working on stepping down and was searching for her replacement.

 

Jenny Hawkes Christina Luton My Brother's Workshop St Thomas Virgin Islands charity

 

Over coffee one morning in the summer of 2014, Christina proposed to Jenny the idea of her being hired as the first paid Executive Director for My Brother’s Workshop. The position fit Jenny’s experience and her desire to get more involved in the community – it was a quick “yes” from her. Since then, Jenny has become one of the main lifelines of the organization and has transformed it into the most effective non-profit in the US Virgin Islands.

My Brother’s Workshop was created “to provide hope, faith, and purpose to at-risk and high-risk young people in the US Virgin Islands by offering mentoring, counseling, paid job training, education, and job placement. The program focuses on youth, both male and female, ages 16-24 who have dropped out of school, are marginally literate, and live in poverty or are homeless.  Many of these individuals have been involved in gang or gang-related activities and/or have a juvenile criminal record.” For more on the objectives of their program, check them out here.

 

Jenny Hawkes Director MBW My Brother's Workshop St Thomas Virgin Islands USVI charity

 

Since accepting her position as Executive Director, Jenny has grown the organization tenfold. It originally was comprised of two social enterprises: a workshop and a cafe in St. Thomas. Under Jenny’s leadership, My Brother’s Workshop has since expanded to the neighboring island of St. Croix, has opened an education center, and 18 young adults have received their GEDs through the My Brother’s Workshop accredited program.

 

Jenny Hawkes My Brother's Workshop St Thomas Virgin Islands graduation GED program

 

In 2017, when Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the Virgin Islands, My Brother’s Workshop became the fastest and most effective first responder to the local community. They served over 37,353 hot meals, delivered 180 tons of relief supplies, removed 8,500 cubic yards of debris from residences, repaired more than 280 homes, and worked with over 500 volunteers to begin the process of rebuilding their island home. Through it all, Jenny never gave up. She helped lead the organization and the kids involved to not only serve the community during its most devastating days, but to also ensure that the kids didn’t lose steam and still earned their GEDs even after being knocked down by the storms.

 

after Hurricane Irma St Thomas Virgin Islands USVI My Brother's Workshop

 

Jenny truly rocks her rock. She’s transformed the undervalued position that she accepted in 2014 into a powerhouse of island change, making a tangible difference in the lives of young people in the Virgin Islands. Despite several devastating, life-altering issues in her personal life, the 2017 hurricanes and the separation from her children that she endured during the aftermath in order to stay and run the organization, Jenny continues to thrive and serve others even when life has tried to take her down.

 

St Thomas Virgin Islands non-profit charity USVI Jenny Hawkes

 

Thank you, Jenny, for all you do for the islands you call home. Rock on!

 

Jenny Hawkes My Brother's Workshop St Thomas Virgin Islands charity

 

–   –   –

If you’d like to connect further with Jenny, you can email her here and also follow My Brother’s Workshop on Facebook.

 

Do you know of an amazing woman on your island who deserves recognition for the difference she’s making on her rock? Send us an email and nominate her for a chance to have her featured here.

Written By:

Chrissann Nickel

Current Rock of Residence:

Virgin Gorda, BVI

Island Girl Since:

2006

Originally Hails From:

California

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood’s imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

Similar Posts You Might Like

Keep in touch with the tropics!

 

Join the community & connect with tens of thousands of island-loving souls. 

 Once a week, we send you the latest posts, funniest rock life finds, and more. 

 We respect your inbox - you can change your delivery preferences anytime.

Got it! You're all set.

Pin It on Pinterest

First time visiting the site? Welcome! - START HERE -
Hello. Add your message here.