PHILIPSBURG:--- Today is the international day for people with disabilities. Thus this whole week, the Sister Basilia Center (SBC) has dedicated itself to spreading awareness about this topic to Sint Maarten by organizing several activities with and for their clients and stakeholders.
People with disabilities (one billion people) are among the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this pandemic in terms of fatalities worldwide. This is perhaps even more relevant on St. Maarten, where the topic doesn't get enough attention, and the societal participation of people with disabilities is not yet where it should be. This is unfortunate because it doesn't show the many unique qualities people with disabilities have and their valuable role in our society.
As with most stigmatized issues, the root lies in a lack of knowledge about disabilities themselves, but also about how common they are. Did you know that an estimated 46% of persons aged 60 years and over have disabilities? And that one in every five women is likely to experience disability at some point in her life while one in every ten children has a disability?
On Monday, the Sister Basilia Center was visited by students from MPC, who were given a tour around the facility, and played several games where they experienced how it is to live and play when you have a disability. On Tuesday, a group of SBC clients took on the road with a motorcade through town and around the Pondfill. With flutes, drums, shakers, and a big banner, they let everybody know what we are celebrating this week. Wednesday, the clients had a water activity fun day at Kimsha Beach, with the help of Excellence Learning Academy students and Kayaks provided by TriSports. Today, on International day for persons with disabilities, they enjoy a fun day in the sun and a Zumba class with their parents or caregivers.
Mimi Hodge, SBC Department Manager, says:" I'm pleased with how the week went. The clients loved it and had a great time, as it is something completely different from what they're used to. But besides doing something fun and different for our clients, I'm happy that we've been able to spread some awareness about disabilities on St. Maarten. This is really needed as we see that there isn't enough attention for persons with disabilities."
The MPC and ELA students were, for example, really impressed with how people function every day if they can't see or don't have complete motor control. We can see that the awareness is slowly growing as more persons and organizations offer to help, support or assist our clients with several things. However, we are not there yet, and we won't stop until persons with disabilities on Sint Maarten have the same opportunities as anyone else!