Miss Lalie youth care center opened: “Here they will learn from their mistakes”

POSTED: 12/15/14 10:12 PM

St. Maarten – The name of Ms. Eulalie Meyers took center stage yesterday afternoon during the official opening of the youth care center in Cay Bay that carries her name- and rightfully so. When the project group that put the center together brainstormed about a name, Ms. Lalie came up immediately, and everybody agreed to it, Usona’s managing advisor Angela Dekker said.

Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson later offered that he had come up with the term youth care center, after dismissing alternatives like youth detention center because of its erroneous and also slightly negative connotation. “The focus is not on detention but on bringing young people back on the right track,” Richardson said.

The official opening of the facility, that has a capacity of twenty places, brought quite a crowd to Cay Bay. Acting Governor Reinold Groeneveld, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Member of Parliament Franklin Meyers, Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor Cornelius de Weever were among the dignitaries present. Acting Chief Prosecutor Karola van Nie, Solicitor-General Taco Stein, Commissioner Carl John and numerous others also attended the event.

Bernice Gumbs reflected briefly on her bond with the late Ms. Lalie. “She meant very much to me. She was my colleague, we ministered together. She loved people, and she was passionate about young people. She always wanted the best for them.”

Before any of the speakers that were to follow could make an impression, 11-year old Amy Halley became the star of the afternoon with her impressive rendition of the St. Maarten song.

Natasha Carty, the center’s team leader, announced all speakers. Franklin Meyers thanked the Ministry of Justice on behalf of his family for naming the center after their mother. “This is a great honor. She lived a life of serving others and she realized that to be great, you have to serve.”

Meyers said that his mother had ministered to inmates at the Pointe Blanche prison for more than forty years. “She always told them: you tried drugs, you tried stealing, you tried crime. Now try God.”

On a different note, Meyers said that the country needs a facility like the youth care center. “This is one of the things we have to do. We may have budgetary constraints, but this is something we must do. It is so easy to do the popular thing. My mother would have been proud to be here.”

Acting Chief Prosecutor Karola van Nie was a member of the project team. She came to St. Maarten as the youth prosecutor, a role she can assume again once the successor of Rick Noordhoek – Ton Maan – takes office per January 1.

“This center is for boys in the age from 12 to 18 who have made some wrong choices. The objective is not only to retaliate, but also to educate, to guide and to offer perspective. We are not ruling them out because they did something wrong. Here they will learn from their mistakes and we prepare them for their return to the society.”

Van Nie said that with the establishment of the youth care center, St. Maarten complies with the requirements from the Convention for the Right of the Child. “The main goal is reintegration,” she emphasized.

Though the center has “just” twenty places, Van Nie said that it will not quickly be full. “No minor should be detained – unless,” she said. “Detention is the ultimum remedy.”

The Court of Guardianship will play a key role in offering guidance to the youngsters that end up in the center. “It must get the financial means to fulfill this task,” Van Nie said.

Alternative punishments for detention are electronic surveillance and community service, but that would have to be brought to a higher level, according to the prosecutor.

The center could also become a springboard for other activities: “What works for minors, could also work for young adults in Pointe Blanche,” van Nie said.

“This project is very dear to my heart. Without a shared vision and joint action we would not have been here today,” said Richelda Emmanuel, director of the Court of Guardianship. She related how former Justice Minister Roland Duncan had moved funding agency Usona to change the use of the building from a foster care home to a youth detention center – a term his successor Dennis Richardson later dropped. Though Emmanuel is happy with the center as it is now, she underscored that the country also needs a foster care facility.

For Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, the opening of the center was one of his finer moments. “There are moments in your life when you become very proud. This is one of them,” he said. “This center is crucial. With love and perseverance it will work. That was typical of Lalie.”

The minister said that once the expansion of the Pointe Blanche prison is finished, it will be possible to separate inmates in the age group from 18 to 24 from the older prison population.

“This is just the beginning,” he added, indicating that the center cannot do it alone. “The community must also step up to the plate. “When youngsters come out of here, there must be a place in one of our schools, and later they must be able to find a job, so that they can earn their money in a more normal way instead of stealing.”

Richardson noted that the center should have been ready in June. “Delayed payments led to delayed deliveries and that has delayed the completion. Now the work begins and the confrontation with these young people will not always be easy.”

Together with a member of the Meyers family, Minister Richardson unveiled a plaque with the center’s name and the date of the opening.

Afterwards, guests had the opportunity to make a tour of the facility.

Team leader Natasha Carty said that the center would start operations on December 16. The place will not be filled to capacity immediately, but youngsters will arrive in a phased manner, also because their placement will have to be based on a court order.

Did you like this? Share it:
Miss Lalie youth care center opened: “Here they will learn from their mistakes” by

Comments are closed.