Governor calls on businesses to support the disabled

POSTED: 02/2/12 2:31 PM

From assistance to independence

St. Maarten – Governor drs Eugene Holiday has called for more businesses to provide job opportunities for persons living with disabilities. The call is part of a speech to a gathering of volunteers, governmental officials and clients of the Sister Basilia Centre at the first anniversary of the organization’s Guided Living program on Wednesday evening.
“There should be more of us who make job opportunities available for our brothers and sisters because in terms of independence it is critical for someone to have a job in our economic driven society. It is testimony to our character as a St. Maarten society. The true moral makeup of any society is measured by the way we treat the most vulnerable groups,” Holiday said.
The program successfully nurtured 10 clients through the process of living alone in ground floor units at the Hope Estate. Holiday believes this in itself was of immeasurable significance to the lives of those involved.
“Being in a position to be self-reliant is one of the greatest goods any individual can have and when I look in the eyes of (the clients) you can see what it means to each of them, it increases their level of confidence.”
The Sister Basilia Centre is a department of the White and Yellow Cross Foundation which exists to strengthen clients’ safety, improve the quality of healthcare and promote independent living. The governor said that he was heartened to see the efforts being made by the organization to broaden the level of care from “assistance to independence.”
Governor Holiday was also given a guided tour of all ten units by the owners themselves. They appeared neatly appointed, quaint and attractive. He however expressed concerns about the safety of clients. Sheriff Security Force N.V is responsible for the physical and electronic security at the location. The one and two bedroom apartments are rented from the St.Maarten Housing Foundation by the White and Yellow Cross Foundation for 450 and 550 guilders. The clients themselves do not have any major home expenses but are allowed to work and purchase personal items while being encouraged to save. Lydia’s Flower Shop, St. Maarten Medical Centre, the St. Maarten Home and Shop 4 Less are some of the businesses that have already taken on members of the Guided Living Group. Within the next three years, the governor hopes to see 10 more units added to the program.
Department Manager Carlson Richardson beamed with pride at the one year milestone and declared that “the world will learn from the shining example of the Sister Basilia Centre.” He encouraged the participants in the program to remain focused and always seek to overcome their challenges.
“After one year of hard work, challenges, hurdles and difficulties…you saw the possibilities within you and have conquered your fears and skills to prove that you could have done it. You have made me proud and St. Maarten proud,” he said to roars of applause from the clients.
The guided living group also took the opportunity to present photo collages of all of their activities to Governor Holiday, Health Minister Cornelius DeWeever, SZV Chief Operations Officer Reginald Willemsberg, chairman of the White and Yellow Cross Foundation board Michel Soons, project designers Pete Lucas and Gabby Fuchs and the owner of Mr. K’s Cigar Lounge Elso Kraai
Special Olympics Gold Medallist Linda Richardson enthusiastically showed off her family portraits and computer artwork that adorn her home. Feisty Willemijn Verloop recited a poem on why she loves the sun, sand and sea of St. Maarten. She said that she treasures her independence. A shy Leo Violenus admitted that he stills need help in sharpening his housecleaning skills, “everybody tells me to clean my bedroom but I get help sometime”. Roger Jeffers thanked his neighbors for making his stay comfortable while Melinda Rogers said she has made even more friends from living at Hope Estate.
“I use to sit in my house and cry long tears everyday but then I was encouraged to come out and make friends and get active and now I love it here,” she exclaimed.
The Hope Estate unit leader, Sherritza Peterson said that efforts are being made to have more clients join the Guided Living program with 30 existing clients being trained to function independently. A moment of silence was observed for former client Cassandra Carty who would have been the first apartment owner at Hope Estate had she not died in 2010. Peterson said that her clients used Carty’s passing as an example to live meaningful and independent lives to the best of their abilities.
Eileen Healey of the Mental Health Foundation also presented 2012 calendars with the artwork of clients to the group.

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