Red Cross Sint Maarten

Red Cross is putting some activities temporarily on hold

Due to one of our workers testing positive for COVID, we have temporarily suspended roof repair activities and micro entrepreneurship classes. For most of these activities and for the work sites, chances are very low that COVID was spread. As the Red Cross, we do everything we can to prevent the virus from spreading and want to guarantee the safety of our beneficiaries, volunteers and workers.

Due to the fact that the positive cases was not an administrative position and the COVID measures already in place at the Red Cross, the Red Cross building has not been infected. Some of the roof repair work sites that have not been exposed will continue with the work. The micro entrepreneurship training will resume as soon as it is safe to do so. Other activities have not been exposed.

We do have a policy in place already for a number of weeks to protect volunteers and staff that we ask people to contact us via phone, Facebook, or email instead of coming to the Red Cross office in person. 

Three years after hurricane Irma: Red Cross assisted hundreds of families

Three years ago, hurricane Irma had a devasting impact on Sint Maarten. Through a fund raiser in the Netherlands, Red Cross raised 18.7 million euros for projects. With the projects, Red Cross aimed to contribute to the recovery of Sint Maarten and to contribute to the empower to populations to become more resilient in case of future disasters. So far, Red Cross has spent 14,483 million euro on the Irma response and recovery programme. 

In 2017 and 2018, 4.386 million euros were spent on emergency response. Right after Irma, Red Cross imported and distributed for example 11.828 tarps, 8.088 food parcels and 116.738 liters of water. In addition, 4222 families received vouchers over multiple months to buy groceries. Red Cross spend 1.269 million euros in a school meal project in which 3116 students of 23 schools were assisted with breakfast and/or lunch. This project ran from October 2017 to July 2018. In total, 875.785 meals were prepared.

In the past year, Red Cross closed off its home repair project. With 4.636 million euros, Red Cross gave assistance to 675 families who were able to make repairs to their houses. Most of the aid consisted of a contribution of building material so that repairs could be made. Based on vulnerability criteria, some families also received construction assistance. During the project, we have trained 67 persons to be part of the construction crews. At the moment, Red Cross is running a Roof Repair project with additional funding of the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency Trust Fund. Registration for this follow up project is closed. By the end of 2020, Red Cross will have repaired 150 extra roofs.

In collaboration with local partners that included the Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals (APAP), and Student Support Services Division, the Red Cross organized training programs on psychological first aid and self-care in situations of disaster.  92 individuals from 16 different organizations participated in these trainings.

In the livelihoods project, Red Cross provides training for persons to learn different skill sets. 59 persons have been enrolled in different trainings from air-conditioning maintenance, bakery, sailing and hair dressing courses. Some of the graduates have been enrolled in either an internship or a micro entrepreneurship programme.

“We like to take this opportunity to thank all the organizations that we have collaborated or coordinated with in the last three years.” says Fanny de Swarte, Head of Mission of Netherlands Red Cross. “We could not have done our projects without them. Special thanks to Sint Maarten Development Fund, NIPA, Fire Department, CIFSEF, Ministry of VSA, Kidz@Sea, APAP, Nature Foundation, Waste2Work, UNICEF, VNG-I, VNP/BZK, Ministry of Education and Ministry of VROMI and many other organizations.” In the upcoming months and year, Red Cross will continue with a number of Irma and COVID related activities. The aim is to continue the collaboration with the NGO’s in the current food assistance project until December. At the moment, over 3000 households receive food assistance. In addition, Nature Foundation and Red Cross will be starting to replant trees in Betty’s Estate as part of the disaster risk reduction project in September. Together with Sint Maarten Development Fund we are hoping to develop outdoor community spaces in various areas together with different communities and local stakeholders. Red Cross will continue with their regular activities on Sint Maarten such as first aid at events, clothes drives and providing first aid at shelters in case of hurricanes.

NGOs open registration to provide food support

~ Cooperation between SMDF, the Netherlands Red Cross, Freegan Food Foundation, K1 DIRECT, COME Center and The Captain’s Rib Shack ~

SIMPSON BAY— The Netherlands Red Cross, Sint Maarten Development Fund, Freegan Food Foundation, K1 DIRECT, COME Center and the Captain’s Rib Shack will be rolling out a food assistance project for those who have been severely financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis for the next 3 months. Last week, the partners reached an agreement about the program. Agreements have also been reached with government for cooperation.

The Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK ) is providing the means to support this project. It is one of the various assistance programs to help those with no- or low-income on Sint Maarten, Aruba and Curacao to cope with the economic fallout due to the pandemic. BZK granted 16 million euros to the Netherlands Red Cross that will be shared across the three islands based on population and between six organizations. In total, 3,145 million euros is available for Sint Maarten for food assistance.

Sint Maarten Development Fund and Red Cross will be providing the coordination of this joint effort. “We are looking forward to a close collaboration with all partners”. Makhicia Brooks, director of SMDF, said. “As SMDF, we will also provide a linking pin between other initiatives on the island regarding food assistance to avoid duplication as much as possible”.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is causing that humanitarian assistance is needed. Humanitarian assistance will be aimed at all persons in need on Sint Maarten. The project will offer various types of food assistance in an effort to cater to the personal situation persons find themselves in. After registration and screening, the person or household will be appointed to a particular organization based on their needs and challenges.

For example, Red Cross and, eventually, K1 DIRECT, will focus on evouchers. “K1 will continue with food boxes and transition into the voucher system” Alan Schet of K1 DIRECT indicates. “Recipients can use the vouchers to make their own choices based on their own needs”. Fernando Suarez Jimenez of Red Cross explains. “Households will receive a sort of debit card and every two weeks funds will be transferred to the card”.

“We will providing hot meals.” Dino Arindell of Captain’s Rib shack and Marva Sam from COME Center explain. “Our focus lies on those who have lost their homes, do not have the ability to cook or have mobility challenges. We will provide pick up and delivery services”. Both organizations also provided hot meals in the months after hurricane Irma.

Freegan Food foundation will provide food boxes with fresh food. “For Freegan, this is a continuation of what we have been doing since 2017. With the funding, we can reach more households than before. Organizations such as Freegan Foundation and K1 DIRECT will also continue with their efforts outside of this project.

In total, 3200 households can be assisted by the project. Registrations will be possible via different channels. All participating organization have posted the registration form on their websites and social media sites. Those in need can apply online. In addition, the people can send a WhatsApp to the following number +1721 5532905. One of the volunteers or staff members of the participating organizations will call back to ask for any required information. “The partners (SMDF, Red Cross, K1 DIRECT, Freegan Foundation, COME center and The Captain’s Rib Shack) are sharing a system. Persons only have to register once.” Fanny de Swarte of Red Cross explains. “Beneficiaries will be appointed to each organization.”

Persons are encouraged to register if the following criteria are applicable to them:

  • Persons are not receiving food assistance through other organizations.
  • There is a significant drop in income due to COVID 19.
  • The combined income of the household should not be more than minimum wage.
  • Individuals registering should be 18 years and older and register for the entire household.
  • Other criteria can be found on the website of all partners.

There have also been discussions with Government about the food distribution program. Red Cross, SMDF, K1 DIRECT, Freegan Foundation, COME Center and The Captain’s Rib Shack have agreed with the Ministry of VSA to collaborate as it pertains to the food distribution and to have the same amounts of assistance available per household. They have also agreed to have a referral system in place for possible other types of assistance from government such as onderstand or assistance from the SSRP, where relevant. The aim of the NGOs and government is to help as many people in need as possible under the separate programs.

Important to note is that information on beneficiaries without legal status will not be shared between the  NGOs and government.

For those that have not registered yet for this project please visit: social media, and website(s) with registration forms Red Cross, K1 DIRECT, Freegan Foundation, COME center and The Captain’s Rib Shack.

Red Cross to provide food support in pilot project

~ First recipients already identified, wider registration not yet open ~

SIMPSON BAY—Red Cross launched last Friday a three-month voucher program to provide low-income residents with funds to purchase their groceries. Red Cross will distribute the first of six, bi-weekly grants to households that have been pre-identified as having high need for support.

The Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK is providing the means to support this pilot project, one of the various assistance programs designed to help low-income people living on St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao to cope with the economic and social fallout from the pandemic. BZK granted 16 million euros to the Netherlands Red Cross that will be shared across the three islands based on population.

The implementation of the grant will be done in collaboration with other NGOs. Red Cross met with other organizations last and this week to plan for future support. “We will work together closely as NGOs and government to provide assistance to those in need,” Red Cross St. Maarten Branch Manager Mitchell Horsford said. Among other things, decisions have to be made on how to select future recipients as well as when and how to expand the project to reach a larger group of people.

Red Cross will be providing financial aid through e-vouchers. The e-voucher works as a refillable debit card, that residents can use at participating supermarkets. The humanitarian organization will assist several households with primary needs by providing support as the island and world respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. According to project manager Fernando Suarez-Jimenez: “This way participants will be able to buy the products that better meet their needs, only alcohol and tobacco will not be allowed. On Friday, we started with a pilot group of 142 households”.

The first voucher recipients were chosen from a database of people who had expressed needs during the various Hurricane Irma recovery projects, which had been ongoing since September 2017. These recipients are particularly single-parent households that have little to no income and are not getting help from other organizations.

Red Cross has implemented various COVID-19 response projects including awareness campaigns: online, in print and on radio and food support to the homeless. Red Cross volunteers distributed flyers on hand washing and hygiene, assisted government with food packaging and delivery, the shuttle services for the elderly and led Facebook Live events to help inform the island about the pandemic and things residents can do to protect themselves and their families.

Together with other organizations, Red Cross plans to inform the community on developments through print media and online in the coming weeks on the further assistance program.

To stay informed about Red Cross projects, visit Red Cross on Facebook (facebook.com/RedCrossSXM) or the website (redcross.sx).

Red Cross COVID-19 activities

SIMPSON BAY—Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Red Cross has developed multiple activities to prevent the spread of the disease on Sint Maarten and to assist with mitigating the impact of the economic effects on Sint Maarten.

In order to prevent the spread of the disease, Red Cross has temporarily suspended her normal activities such as first aid at events, first aid courses, and her Irma Recovery projects such as Roof Repair, vocational trainings and workshops. These projects will restart once the lockdown is lifted and new hygiene measures will have been put in place.

Red Cross has launched an awareness and communication campaign via facebook, website, radio advertisements and flyers. “Every week, we changed the focus of the topic” says Esther Henry, coordinator of the Red Cross communication group. “We have spread information on how to wash hands, on how to cope with the lockdown measures and how to assist family or friends without putting them at risk”. Every Tuesday, a volunteer hosts a Facebook Live event at 11 am discussing the particular topic of the week.

In addition, together with many other organizations such as K1, Community Councils, Freegan Foundation, Red Cross has assisted government with the distribution of their Food and Hygiene parcels. The beneficiaries of the food and hygiene parcels were selected by government.  “The coordination and cooperation went well.” According to branch manager Mitchell Horsford. “Only together, we can help to alleviate the impact of the public health crisis on Sint Maarten.”

Furthermore, Red Cross brought in a hygiene specialist who has been advising CPS on community outreach, training volunteers of government and advising on necessary hygiene measures for businesses to reopen. “If we all work together, we can minimize local transmission and, hopefully, avoid a second outbreak on the islands”. Henk Veerdig, hygiene specialist, stated.

Red Cross is raising funds internationally to prepare for additional food security assistance. Netherlands Red Cross is coordinating this effort for their   following Branches on Sint Maarten, Saba, Statia, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. With funds already available, Red Cross will select 400 households from the Red Cross databases to provide them with cash assistance. If more funds become available, registration may open. We will inform the public when that will be the case.

Red Cross launches song contest to promote disaster awareness

SIMPSON BAY—Aspiring singers, rappers and other musicians can jumpstart their careers and help St. Maarten’s become more disaster aware. Red Cross launched its Be Ready Be Safe song contest this week to promote awareness and help minimize risk.

Registration is now open for performers of any skill level to register for the chance to create an original song, have it produced and mixed and possibly, have a video made for the song. The Be Ready Be Safe song contest is the latest offering from Red Cross’s Disaster Risk Reduction project, which plans to also host cleanups and other community-focused events.

The song contest is a fun new approach to help communities on the island become safer and more resilient in the event of hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes, said Shanyra Richardson, event coordinator.

“People should register because St. Maarten/St. Martin Is filled with lots of talented people,” Richardson said. “This contest will be a great exposure and another push for our island to raise awareness and getting the message out about hazards and disasters.”   

Performers can register online at Red Cross St. Maarten’s website, www.redcross.sx/beready, by completing the form on that page and submitting a one-minute video of their performing any song of any genre. Applicants can submit their video either by uploading it using registration form or posting it to social media with the hashtag: #bereadybesafe. Selected contestants will be invited to audition in front of at least three musical experts and those who get passed this round can select one of those expert judges to help train them for the preliminary performances and for the final contest on June 13 at Port de Plaisance, featuring the top contests and at least one major international act. Apart from the finale of the song contest there will be a whole day of activities and demonstrations organized around disaster preparedness. The entire event, including the concerts, will be free to attend.

Tamas Marki, project manager for Red Cross’s risk reduction efforts, said that a song contest was a great way to help people on St. Maarten stay aware and prepared for natural events that could affect lives and livelihoods.

“Our aim is to raise the awareness of the communities of St Maarten on the importance of preparing for hazards,” Marki said recently. “Don’t wait until the hurricane is on your doorstep. Know without thinking what to do after an earthquake. Besides, music is just a very appropriate approach for this context.”

Philipsburg Broadcasting’s Laser 101 station has signed on to help Red Cross promote the contest and offer other assistance. On-air talent and station manager Gary “Gee Money” Euton said he was looking forward to hearing local performers and their songs and messages, adding, the island has “some very talented voices that need to be heard.”

“This contest is a great idea to get our local artists some shine, and it’s also a great idea to get across a very important message to the public,” he said. “We want to see what the artists come up with in terms of songs.”

The event is also sponsored by the Princess Group of Companies which was also one of the heavily effected victims of Hurricane Irma. “We are pleased to get the opportunity to sponsor the event of the Red Cross. The Princess Group of Companies, as an employer of nearly 400 people understands how negatively the disaster had affected our community. We aim to keep on assisting the development and the growth of our country and its people,” said Herman J. Benckhuisen, deputy general manager of the Princess Group of Companies.

Red Cross has been undertaking various recovery projects since Hurricane Irma including roof repair, food vouchers and job support. As the efforts wind down, this DRR project hopes to advance the conversation among residents about resilience and preparedness.

Red Cross continues recovery projects in 2020

Simpson Bay—Red Cross is starting a new phase of the home repair, a roof repair project, in the coming months. In the new phase, Red Cross aims to repair the roofs of 200 more houses. Teams of Red Cross will be going from January 16, 2020 to Philipsburg to start with the selection of applicants.

Red Cross has been providing recovery aid since Hurricane Irma devastated the island in 2017 from food voucher to school meals and home repair projects. In the first Home Repair project, funded from donations from the Dutch public in 2017, Red Cross has enabled 669 households to repair the outside of their home.  The project provided material to most of the households. Based on social criteria, 187 households also received help in the form of construction crews. In this project help was given to people from Dutch Quarter, Middle Region, Sucker Garden, Over the Bank, Fort William, Cay Hill, Cay Bay, Cole Bay and St Peters.

“In the upcoming roof repair project, Red Cross will focus again on the most vulnerable. Red Cross will provide material and construction workers to fix 200 additional houses.” says project manager Esmeralda van den Bout. “We intend to work in new areas.” Those areas will be announced once selected. Social and technical eligibility criteria have been posted on the Red Cross Sint Maarten Facebook page. The project does not focus on reconstruction of houses, but on roof repair. Houses which need full reconstruction or are accepted into other repair projects  will not qualify. The project will run from January to September 2020. The roof repair project will be funded through the World Bank Sint Maarten Recovery Trust Fund, but is not the same as the Home Repair project of the NRPB.

In addition to the roof repair project, Red Cross will continue to contribute to the recovery and the resilience of St Maarten through its projects. “The aim of the Livelihoods project is to provide people with training in different skill sets” says project manager Fernando Suarez Jiminez. “These skills can provide and supplement income after a next hurricane.” Together with NIPA, Red Cross started an air conditioning maintenance course in October 2019. In January, itwill start a baking course which Red Cross is organizing together with CIFSEF, along with sewing course that is also planned to start in the same month. Also, the need of a second group of the air conditioning maintenance course is being evaluated. During the first months of the year, a micro-entrepreneurship training is planned to start.

This month, the Disaster Risk Reduction project will launch a disaster awareness song contest. All amateur songwriters and performers can enter the contest. With the help of mentors, contestants will write and perform their songs during several smaller events from February to May and one large event on the 13th of June. The final event will also feature well-known guest stars from the Caribbean and, just like all Red Cross events, will be free to attend. The song contest supplements efforts to promote household safety plans and other activities aimed to increase disaster preparedness. Red Cross is also working together with the Ministry of Education and the Fire Department to prepare school children for hazards and disasters. “We really believe that working together with multiple partners is crucial to increasing the disaster resilience of Sint Maarten” says project manager Tamas Marki. “We cannot prevent hurricanes and other natural hazards from happening, but we can prevent them from becoming a disaster in our communities.” More information on the song contest can be found on Facebook or can be gathered at the Red Cross building in Simpson Bay or at the Red Cross service point in Philipsburg.

Red Cross will also continue in 2020 with the training of members of community-based organisations in psychological first-aid. In 2019, Red Cross has started to train 5 different organisations with the help of local facilitators. 

Red Cross is also working on other projects with other organizations. Information on those projects will be shared soon.

Red Cross signs agreement with NIPA for vocational training

CAY HILL—Red Cross St. Maarten signed an agreement with NIPA to facilitate the first course in Red Cross’ Livelihoods project, a jobs program aimed at giving people on the island with few or no job prospects more opportunities for work.

Livelihoods Project Manager Fernando Suarez-Jimenez shakes hands with NIPA chairlady Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson as Red Cross Head of Mission Fanny de Swarte looks on.

St. Maarten’s National Institute of Professional Advancement (NIPA) will be providing four months of training in Air conditioning & Refrigeration maintenance to 20 people who have already registered and qualified for the Livelihoods project. The course is being executed by the NIPA , in close collaboration with their regional partner – MIC- Institute of Technology, and offers participants an accredited  certificate upon successful completion . This course is the first in a series of training programs that Red Cross will be offering to help people here make their income sources more resilient to disasters.

“This first training launches the activities of the Livelihoods project,” Livelihoods Project Manager Fernando Suarez Jimenez said. “We plan to continue supporting vulnerable people in Sint Maarten during the next months in order to strengthen and diversify their sources of incomes.”

Red Cross began an open call recently for people who are unemployed or only work part-time to register for Livelihoods. Already more than 100 people have registered, and the Livelihoods team is evaluating all registrants to determine whether they qualify for the project. Red Cross hopes to help the people on the island who most struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Together with the NESC ( National Employment Service Center ) , a unit in the Division of Labor Affairs & Social Services, the Red Cross intends to continue the push to source the most vulnerable persons to benefit from these programs.

NIPA, and by extension MIC – Institute of Technology , is proud to partner with the Red Cross, and thereby adding consistent value to the labor market, by graduating qualified tradesman in all technical vocational areas.

Livelihoods is the latest offering from Red Cross, which has been providing aid through food and home repair projects since Hurricane Irma devastated the island in 2017. Red Cross will soon also be launching a project aimed at making residents more aware of how to reduce the effects of storms and other hazards on them and their communities.

Red Cross hopes to begin training courses in air conditioning, maritime, sewing and other areas within a few weeks. People on the island who want to boost their opportunities can still register in person at Red Cross headquarters in Simpson Bay or the Service Point at the WIFOL Building in Philipsburg or by calling 545-2333 / 545-2304.

Red Cross to raise funds for Bahamas relief

SIMPSON BAY–Red Cross St. Maarten will be collecting money to provide urgent relief aid to residents of The Bahamas who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian this week.

Concerned residents who are willing to help can donate cash at either Red Cross location in Simpson Bay or Philipsburg or provide a bank transfer through the Windward Islands Bank: WIB 83680007.

Hurricane Dorian, at Category 5, hit The Bahamas on Monday and lingered in the nearby waters for several hours, compounding its devastation. Red Cross St. Maarten has been approached by various people on Sint Maarten who want to do something for the population of the Bahamas.

 “Our hearts go out to the people of the Bahamas. It is overwhelming how many people approached us to see what they could do to help,” said Branch Manager Mitch Horsford. “The images from the Bahamas brings back our own experience of hurricanes that hit Sint Maarten and the thankfulness for sister islands that provided help at those times.”

Through the Red Cross Movement, Red Cross is already started to bring help to those affected. The International Federation of the Red Cross had already placed relief supplies on the Bahamas ahead of the storm, and these items will help with the most urgent needs. More goods are on the way to Bahamas. In the next couple of weeks and months, more help will be needed. A needs assessment will take place to determine what is needed specifically.

The money raised on St. Maarten will go via the International Federation of the Red Cross as well as The Bahamas Red Cross  to the population. Red Cross will not be collecting clothes, food items and such for the Bahamas. With the funds, the international Red Cross will be able to address identified needs such as food, water, sanitation, shelter (tarpaulins) and other needs that might arise in the upcoming weeks and months. Cash donations can be made in person at the Red Cross Service point at the W.J.A. Nisbeth Road #89, the WIFOL Building, in Philipsburg from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or at the Airport Road 34 in Simpson Bay from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online bank transfers should be clearly marked as “Dorian Bahamas” in the description of the transaction. Red Cross St. Maarten will continue to update the community about the reach of their donations.