PHILIPSBURG:--- On 14 September 2021, the Island(er)s at the Helm program hosted its first Kingdom-wide event with societal partners and other stakeholders. This meeting is the start of a five-year collaboration that brings together researchers and societal partners to use technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices to study climate change adaptation. Working closely together, the Island(er)s at the Helm program will co-create sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean.
In this event, participating organizations and researchers exchanged ideas for collaboration within the Island(er)s at the Helm research program. The thirty participants emphasized the importance of considering traditional architectural practices, the impact of climate catastrophes on mental health and the role of children and community engagement in research design.
Strengthening the Dutch Caribbean knowledge infrastructure
The online stakeholder meeting was introduced by program chair Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, who described the goals of the research collaboration: "We are not researching the islanders, but researching with the islanders. The outcome of the project is a strengthening of the Dutch Caribbean knowledge infrastructure. For this reason, we tried as much as possible to hire people with a Dutch Caribbean background. We hope that our intensive collaborations lead to community development initiatives and social cohesion between government organizations, NGO's and the rest of civil society, to deepen the awareness of the importance of adaptation in relation to climate challenges."
Three new PhD research projects
The introduction was followed by project presentations by the newest members of the research team. Harold Kelly, who will be based at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba, presented his archaeological research on social adaptations to past habitation and climatic challenges which will start in Aruba; Lysanne Charles, whose research will be conducted from the University of St. Martin, spoke about her plans to co-create a policy and strategy roadmap for Sint Maarten, Saba, and Statia; and Sharelly Emanuelson described her research project about natural disasters and leisure time as moments of freedom in the Dutch Caribbean, which she will conduct from the Royal Institute for southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.
An open invitation
The results of this meeting will be incorporated in the research design of Island(er)s at the Helm. This will contribute to building long-term collaborations between the researchers and the societal partners on the islands where the research projects will be conducted. The event was closed with an open invitation to societal partners to collaborate in the Island(er)s at the Helm program. Artist and PhD researcher Sharelly Emanuelson explained: "The project offers us an opportunity to get a better understanding of who we are and what is important to us. In this, art not only offers multiple perspectives, but also helps us reach out to a larger group, and I see that as my role as well. This event is meant as an introduction. It's really important to continue our collaborations, so we will continue having these meetings. We need to keep asking ourselves the difficult questions and engage in conversation."
The Island(er)s at the Helm project team
The research program starts this month with a transdisciplinary team that consists of program chair Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (University of Amsterdam/KITLV), co-applicants Prof. dr. Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University/KITLV) and Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez (University of St. Martin); PhD candidates Lysanne Charles, Sharelly Emanuelson, and Harold Kelly; science communication & community engagement coordinator Tibisay Sankatsing Nava and project manager Emma de Mooij. In January 2022, 6 postdoctoral researchers will join the project and the official project kick-off event will be held in the Caribbean.
Twenty participating organizations
A variety of non-governmental organizations, government, and industry representatives participated in this first meeting. This included the Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten Mr. Rene Violenus, Saba Government, the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure (VROMI) in Sint Maarten, National Archaeological Museum Aruba, Monumentenraad Curacao, Terramar Museum Bonaire, The Quill Foundation Statia, Arte Sano Foundation Aruba, National Archaeological - Anthropological Memory Management, FuHiKuBo, Saba Heritage Center, SXM development fund, Mind Venture International, Spaceless Gardens, and World Wildlife Fund Bonaire, in addition to a number of academic partners.