Volunteers celebrate at Seaside Nature Park:  “Without volunteers, this would be a sad island”

POSTED: 12/9/14 11:21 AM

St. Maarten – The Cooperating Foundations celebrated International Volunteer Day on Saturday at the Seaside Nature Park in Cole Bay. Twelve non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made a brief presentation about their activities and the organizations exchanged information and ideas in a brief interactive workshop that offered them the opportunity to present what they have to offer and to express what they still need.

The youngsters of the New Generation STM Drumband under the direction of Yourmay Dormoy opened the celebration, one could almost say with a vengeance, given the intensity with which the band members played their instruments.

The setting at the Discovery Farm of the Intervision Foundation with its mini-animals like ponies and young goats was fitting and set the right tone for the enthusiasm and the boundless energy volunteers from all walks of life pour into their projects.

“If there were no volunteers, a lot of people would not get food, and many elderly would not be transported to where they have to go,” said Angela Dekker, president of the Cooperating Foundations in a brief introduction. “There are so many projects and if they all stopped for just one day, Sint Maarten would quickly realize what we are all doing. However, we won’t stop, we remain positive and we continue. And we need more volunteers. One hour a day, or one day a week – it could make all the difference.”

Acting Governor Reinold Groeneveld acknowledged the importance of volunteer work. “Sometimes we don’t realize just how important it is, so don’t stop and please continue. I am totally impressed with the work the NGOs are doing. Without them, Sint Maarten would be a sad island. I want to thank you all for your work and I encourage you to continue and in doing so, contribute to make life better for our people.”

Several NGOs made a presentation about their activities. Rajesh Chintaman spoke about Real Talk, a program developed by the aids foundation for boys – the alter ego of the Girl Power program for the opposite sex.

Alita Singh, representing Island Gems, said that this organization has been around for more than thirty years. An all-women club with 20 to 25 members, Island Gems funds social organizations. “We don’t give cash, we pay the bills,” Singh said.

Photographer Zulayka Peterson, founder of Voice of Our Youth and the St. Maarten Youth Brigade, explained that her organization targets youngsters in the age group 15 to 21 who threaten to fall through the cracks. The past weekend, Voice of Our Youth organized a survival camp.

Melanie Choisy, the co-founder of Be the Change, showed a video about an initiative from the Oranjefonds that will play out also in St. Maarten on March 20 and 21 of next year: Sint Maarten Doet. The initiative has a local website – sxmdoet.com – where organizations can register jobs.

“All NGOs have projects that need to be executed,” Choisy said “And many people want to help, but they do not want to commit forever.”

From that perspective, SXM Doet is an opportunity for the occasional volunteer. NGOs can register projects that could be completed in two days by a volunteer team of around ten people, and volunteers can register for participation. Choisy said that NGOs can apply for a grant of up to $650 per project.

Clara Reyes highlighted the National Institute for the Arts: “The arts transform us and connect us with our ancestors and the universe,” she said, adding that NIA accommodates 1,000 students every week and that the institute works with 17 teachers.

The Dorcas Foundation, recipient of close to 74,000 guilders in grants from the Cooperating Foundations in 2013 for the upgrading of its soup kitchen, is serving around 175 people every weekend with healthy meals in the Cole Bay, Cay Bay and Simpson Bay area. Ms. Gordon-Edwards, who manages the soup kitchen, told her fellow-volunteers that the kitchen also produces bread for people in need. “We hit the streets with them at 9 a.m. and are busy distributing bread until 3 p.m.,” she said. “We provide food and clothing, and sometimes we are overwhelmed. But we have a beautiful new kitchen now.”

Dorcas works with 40 volunteers.

Loekie Morales – Beyond Writing Foundation – said that her organization was established in 2003, geared towards enhancing reading and writing skills among children. The foundation has also published several children’s books.

Monique Alberts, Director of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, said that the library does quite some of its work with the help of volunteers. Among these volunteer projects are reading programs for kids as young as 4-5, story-telling and English and Dutch language lessons. In 2015, the library will launch its Library Café and a family literacy program.

Garth Steyn (Kids at Sea) explained that his foundation teaches kids to sail, but there are also projects in schools where students are building boats.

The Discovery Farm and Garden was the last NGO to make a brief presentation. Alexandra van Luijken-Halley gave an overview of the possibilities for children to learn and to enjoy at the same time, The farm and garden are part of the Seaside Nature Park, a 30-acre estate were founder Roderick Halley managers 50 horses based on the principles of natural horsemanship.

After the presentations and the workshop, the volunteers posed for a group picture – and then it was time for dinner.

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Volunteers celebrate at Seaside Nature Park:  “Without volunteers, this would be a sad island” by

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