Gaston Boasman Help Desk opens – One stop shop for seniors and disabled

POSTED: 10/12/12 1:41 PM

St. Maarten – The fourth Community Help Desk to bring government services to the people was opened yesterday afternoon in Hope Estate. Officially named the Gaston Boasman Help Desk for the Elderly and Disabled, the facility is distinctively different from the other Help Desks in Cole Bay, Dutch Quarter and St. Peters.

Some fifteen non-governmental organizations have come together to partner with the Department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs for its daily operations.

“When I took office there was a lot of heat. Today there is still a lot of heat but when you are working and they complain or criticize then you know you are doing something. I told  my staff that when it comes to the elderly, physically and mentally challenged, don’t touch them, do whatever you can to make sure that they are taken care of…so that we don’t have the challenges of the past anymore. Therefore I urge you to please make full use of this facility,” Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Affairs Cornelius de Weever said.

To the seniors and members of the Sister Basilia Centre who were in attendance at the event, he revealed that his ministry has some other surprises in store.

“We have also been working on increasing the pension and an increase in the AOV will also come in a responsible way,” de Weever noted to cheers of approval from those gathered.

Apart from the staff of Department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs, one senior citizen and a physically challenged person will also work at the facility.

“This is a true partnership with people from the disabled communities and senior citizen communities working along with us. This shows that in the various district assessments that we have done that we have listened to you and this is our way of now physically strengthening our capacity,” said Jorien Wuite, the Secretary General of  Public Health, Social Development and Labour Affairs added.

All of the speakers at yesterday’s ceremony agreed that the center was opened at the ideal time when the world just marked International Day of the Elderly on October 1.

Vice president of the St. Maarten Senior Citizens and Pensioners Association Drs. Raymond Jessurun lauded the minister for crafting a public-private partnership for the development of the facility.  He indicated that many countries may be able to learn from the example that St. Maarten is setting in the region and the world. He said that the desk will be a welcomed relief and will also help people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s to meet important deadlines that they may forget.

“Our seniors are sick and tired of walking up and down for this paper and that paper before they can get some assistance. It means that we don’t have to walk anymore to all of the different agencies, we come to this shop and we get everything done. That is our expectation. But as seniors we also have a little experience with government. Of the years that we have been in this Caribbean part of the Kingdom, they always forgot about the seniors, their children and grandchildren. Promises and more promises but this one is a concrete promise. We will hold them to it that when we come, we will get the service in the one stop shop for immediate attention and solution. We are going to help government to remember because they too tend to forget promises made,” Jessurun declared before handing Minister de Weever three packages filled with statistical information on the needs of the elderly and mentally disabled in the community.

The centre is located obliquely opposite the M. Genevieve de Weever School and is next to the Guide Living Complex of Hope Estate where people with disabilities reside. Tenants would there be able to benefit from an ease of access to the facility which has been dubbed “a one stop shop.”

“It is since 2008 that the decision was taken to name this building the Gaston Boasman Help Desk for the Elderly and Disabled.  But nothing happens before its time,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said before joining Minister de Weever in the official ribbon cutting to open the facility.

She mentioned that in 2006 the idea for the building was launched and after many deliberations with Dutch funding, it was first financed and constructed a few years ago.

For Thursday’s opening, employees of Sector ROB had to do minor alterations to the building over a three day period and also constructed a new ramp at the bank of the building. It is located within a spacious, secured perimeter and has a wheel chair ramp to the front.

“It is about managing and collaborating with others. When we take the resources that we have in all of these foundations and put them together, I believe that we are going to have a strong place that is unimaginable if we were expected to do it on our own.  For this government, the emphasis is on service to the people,” the Prime Minister concluded.

The Boasman family up to the third generation was on hand to unveil the plaque for the facility. Gaston Boasman was born on June 16, 1929 and died on February 8, 2008. He was best known as the Captain of the third St. Martin Boy’s Brigade Company, founder and president of the Journey for Education Scholarship Foundation, a member of the Willing Workers of Orleans and a member of the Order of Oranje Nassau.

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