PHILIPSBURG:--- The Resources For Community Resilience (R4CR) program launched Round 3 of project grants in a well-attended virtual signing ceremony.
The R4CR program includes a grant scheme as the funding mechanism for community and social rehabilitation initiatives on Sint Maarten and focuses on improving the capacity of local civil society organizations (CSOs) in reconstruction and resilience activities post-hurricane, Irma.
The virtual signing ceremony was hosted by local radio personality and R4CR communications advisor Kevin “Suppa” Petrona with his R4CR sidekick Jose Sommers.
Rolf Hunink, team leader of the local R4CR office, welcomed the online guests and the grant recipients. He issued a call for more CSOs to submit their project requests to R4CR for funding: “Our office is open and we will be here for you until 2024. CSOs with good ideas who meet the criteria are thus encouraged to make an appointment to discuss their plans” stated Hunink.
Chris Johnson, the Dutch Government’s representative in Philipsburg, was on hand to congratulate the twelve grant recipients. In his speech, he took a moment to reflect on how the Sint Maarten Trust Fund came into existence and stated: “King Willem Alexander visited Sint Maarten 5 days after hurricane Irma and was taken aback by the devastation and damage on the island. He said that being part of the kingdom has to mean something and would like to see more cooperation between the different parts of the kingdom. He pledged that the Netherlands would do something to assist Sint Maarten. That pledge was expanded upon by the Government of prime minister Mark Rutte and resulted in the creation of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund with 550 million euros for the rebuilding of the island”.
Johnson is pleased to see that the funds donated by the Dutch Government are being used in projects such as the reconstruction of the airport, the upgrading of the dump, and the removal of shipwrecks from the lagoon. Collaboration between entities is a subject that is also dear to his heart and he commended R4CR for their efforts on that front. In closing, Johnson expressed his admiration for all the volunteers involved in the R4CR program: “ I am amazed by the people involved in NGOs and CSOs who give their time and are dedicated to the island. I have never seen a stronger group of community-minded people than the CSOs on SXM who are not only strong but also very resilient”.
The second keynote address was delivered by the young Sint Maartener Nelly Blaise who is currently the Project Leader of the St. Maarten Youth Brigade and who has first-hand experience with participating in a R4CR project. Nelly explained that while growing up here and as a teenager he was indifferent to many things going on in the society: “ I was not engaged with the community or nature back then but now I have embarked on a lifelong journey to get engaged in the community and nature thanks to the Kids at Sea Project which was funded by R4CR. There I learned about the environment, underwater mapping, how to remove debris
from the ocean in a safe manner, and became an environmental advocate. In addition, I got some internationally recognized certificates. Due to this opportunity, I am now more involved with social volunteerism and try to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Each of the twelve grant recipients was given 90 seconds to present their organization and summarize their R4CR project while timekeeper Jose Sommers kept the CSOs playfully in check with her (now famous) bullhorn.
First up was SECDA who will continue the grocery shopping program from “Quick Win Round 2” for 700 children in 23 daycare centers. This program will be complemented with a food storage course, cooking lessons, and a sub-project to purchase a small deep freezer for those daycare centers that are in need of one.
Dow Music Foundation (DMF) was happy to announce plans to expand the current steel pan program for children. DMF’s students did so in “pan language” with a musical rendition of James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. Two new schools will be added to this very popular program.
Next up was Excellence Learning Academy which will continue its program of activities for special-needs children. This presentation was followed by Kidz at Sea Foundation which will use their grant to expand the current program whereby local young adults will learn how to dive, map underwater debris left by Hurricane Irma, remove small debris from the ocean while attaining internationally recognized certifications. The latter will give the participants a big boost when applying for a job in the local maritime sector.
Stichting Justitiele Instellingen Bovenwinden (SJIB)’s displayed their new video marketing their project (to expand mediation and safe home training to prevent convicted domestic abusers from reoffending) and their purpose. They also intend to rebrand the foundation in an effort to connect better with the general public.
The St. Maarten AIDS Foundation talked about their grant to cover the costs of medication, lab testing, and counseling for uninsured persons living with the disease on the island. SKOS, the Catholic School Board, surprised everyone with a nifty digital presentation for the repair and repainting of the basketball court at St Joseph School in Backstreet. They will also paint more floor games for the kids to have an enhanced playing experience. Carib Swim Team gave a summary of their post-Irma renovation project which will improve access, security, and health conditions at the pool. They will also install a pool lift to become fully inclusive for persons living with a physical disability.
After the presentations by the more seasoned CSOs in the R4CR program, it was time for the newbies. Safe Haven lead the charge with a creative video detailing the challenge they face with safely transporting their vulnerable clients and dependents and how that will be solved in their R4CR project.
The upgrading of the new daycare and after-school location to offer kids better access and a wider range of in-school activities is how Ms. Temada Shelland summarized her R4CR project for 721Kids Foundation.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) secured an R4CR grant to execute cleanups in 13 neighborhoods, collect data to better understand the garbage problem, and create a mural with recycled materials.
Last but not least was Funtopia Youth Initiative which gave a synopsis on the preservation of Sint Maarten’s intangible cultural heritage by teaching kids stilt-walking and will be organizing several creative events such as basketball on stilts and a Moko Jumbie Festival.
The launch ended with the symbolic signing of the grant agreements by the CSOs
The next step in the grant agreement process is the Pre-Disbursement Training (PDT) which is scheduled for next week. Grant recipients must complete the PDT before the funds can be (partially) released to their projects.
The R4CR program is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the Sint Maarten Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is administered by the World Bank and monitored by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB).
For more information about the R4CR program or a detailed review of all current projects please visit www.r4cr.org or the Facebook page (R4CRSXM).