St. Maarten Government prepares to launch community help desk

POSTED: 06/30/11 12:27 PM

St. Maarten — The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor had a kick-off meeting and warm up session for the members of the Community Help Desk and Integrated Neighborhood Development Program at the Government Administration Building on Tuesday. This integrated program is a first of its kind, where the various government departments and agencies come together to provide services on behalf of the same target group/ persons within our community. These projects are meant to assist the community from the initial stage that the person makes contact with government organization.

The kick off meeting was attended by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor Cornelius de Weever, Program Manager Joy Arnell, project management team members and members of the different departments that will be working on the program. The list includes Labor affairs, Social services, Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs and Police, amongst others.

“Community Development is top priority for this government. This program transcends ministries. Previously social development focused on economic development like jobs, but now it has a more social element and is also more integrated, where more ministries are involved, like Justice, Economic affairs, Infrastructure, Education, Youth among others,” Wescot-Williams said.

Minister De Weever agreed and said, “Change has to come; and it (the change) is inevitable,” when addressing community issues from an integrated approach. Our inefficiencies and short comings will be made visible but we must persist. We must move forward with determination to do and accomplish what we have set out to do. The community depends on us. We cannot let the people down. We must commit ourselves to go out and communicate and assist people with their problems, issues, and situations.”

The project comes after years of discussion and debate about the social solutions for the ills of society and offers people more holistic assistance and intimate support. The integrated approach to providing assistance for the community also provides invigorated hope. The aim is to bring social services to the people in a central, low-threshold location. Services will be provided in the community, thus eliminating transport costs and long waiting lines. The service will also be more client-focused, enhance personal interaction and it will be both preventive and curative.

The Community Help Desk and Integrated Neighborhood Development Program had a base study, from which recommendations and policy will be derived in order for there to be sound basis for the community program that will follow. The pilot study was conducted in St. Peters, where the needs of the people in the community, social agencies and community stakeholders were assessed.

The results show that while St. Peters has some problems, people are generally content to live there. The most crucial problems are a lack of activities to raise children and youngsters, parenting programs, isolation of the elderly, housing conditions and sewage among other situations. The program will officially begin in St Peters soon.

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