Red Cross Sint Maarten

Red Cross St. Maarten launches Back to School Backpack project for 733 Elementary students

SIMPSON BAY –  The Red Cross St. Maarten is proud to announce its Back to School Backpack Project. The project will be undertaken in the next 4 weeks and will serve 300 kindergartners and 433 students from Grade 1 – 3 from low-income families in St. Maarten. The overall goal of this project is to equip students with the necessary tools they need to learn, achieve and succeed in the classroom.

In collaboration with the elementary schools, the backpacks will be filled with school supplies such as composition books, pencil cases, water bottles, cloth masks and hand sanitizers.

The benefits of the program are threefold: [1] provide school supplies to increase students’ willingness to learn and self-confidence, regardless their family financial circumstances; [2] educate students about sanitary methods and, [3] support income families who have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parents of students have the opportunity to complete a simple and easy online registration form to enroll in the program. The application requires parents to upload a photo of a valid form of Identification (I.D., Passport, Driver’s license), and a Recent Report Card of their child/children. Prioritization would be given to the most vulnerable households.
Once the application window is closed on January 20th at 5 PM, the selection process and distribution of backpacks will take place.

If parents are unable to complete the online application, parents can also call 524-7107 or 524-7115, where a Red Cross volunteer can complete the application on their behalf.

Red Cross St Maarten completes the renovations of the Belvedere’s Senior’s Home

SIMPSON BAY – The Red Cross St. Maarten Board of Directors is pleased to announce the completion of renovations of the seniors’ home which is located in Belvedere. The external and internal repairs and renovations to the Belvedere’s Senior’s Home had been previously delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year and was able to resume at the beginning of July, 2020.

In the renovation Red Cross St. Maarten was able to repair the roof, repaint the buildings, replace and refurbish doors & windows, install new cabinets, repair the fence and paint the entrance gate and walkway. The senior’s home is now completely renovated and will provide a more esthetic look for the seniors.

A resident at the Red Cross Senior’s Home standing in front of her newly installed cabinets.

“The seniors are very pleased and excited about the home repairs, renovations, and modifications, and especially the fact that they have remained in their homes during the home repairs and improvements” said the Seniors. All safety precautions were put in place during the indoor repairs, as the seniors were asked to make arrangements for the scheduled date for inside renovation, thus to promote social distancing. “We were extremely happy to do a beautification makeover of the Seniors home inside and outside, and our next phase will be working on our home care program in the near future, which will allow us to continue to do our part in caring for our seniors,” said Red Cross St. Maarten President Nadia Chirlias.

Many, many thanks go out to our sister islands of Curacao and Bonaire whose residents generously raised the funds after Hurricane Irma, and donated it to their respective Red Crosses which was ultimately sent to Red Cross St Maarten who executed the renovation project.

Also, thank you also to the St Maarten Housing Foundation for their cooperation with the process, as well. As a committed leader of disaster risk reduction, and first Aid Care, The Red Cross St. Maarten will continue to address the unmet needs of those impacted by Hurricane Irma, and support community-based recovery services in the affected areas.

Red Cross St. Maarten provides assistance to 73 parents

SIMPSON BAY – The Red Cross St. Maarten Board of Directors is excited to announce that we have successfully implemented a first-time project that provided assistance to 73 households in Sint Maarten. The project dubbed ‘Provision of Baby Essentials to parents in Sint Maarten during the pandemic period’ targeted parents with new-borns and/or infants not older than 2 years. The parents were provided with vouchers worth $160,- to purchase baby essentials at Cost U Less & Benu Pharmacy.

The project was proposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had severe health, social and economic impact on people in Sint Maarten. Notably, parents with new-borns have been severely exposed because most of them have lost their jobs hence lack the financial resources and resilience necessary to overcome such difficulties. Moreover, more than 50 expectant mothers had visited our Red Cross Sint Maarten office and expressed their need for essential nursing kits such as second-hand clothing for their babies. As a result, Red Cross St. Maarten felt the need to assist the vulnerable population of parents who may have been overlooked.

The project beneficiaries were selected in a seven-day period through an assessment and screening process before the first day of disbursement. The selected parents had the following requirements: persons must reside in Dutch St. Maarten, and present a valid identification and baby book. All registrations were done via the Red Cross Sint Maarten Facebook page in order to practice social distancing at our Simpson Bay location. Red Cross Sint Maarten collaborated with Cost U Less & Benu Pharmacy where the parents used their $160 vouchers to purchase baby essentials. Our aim is to ease the burden of parents who are currently facing financial challenges as a result of the effects of COVID-19.

Red Cross Sint Maarten has joined the rest of the world in responding to the effects of COVID-19 through supporting parents in need of baby essentials. The funds for this project were donated by a local organization, and we would like to welcome more supporters to rally with us by joining our initiative and creating a lasting impact through giving to the vulnerable in our communities.

For more details on how to join us in helping to assist with the vulnerable, please email us stmaartenredcross@gmail.com or call +17215452333.

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.