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Soualiga Newsday Features (1020)

HOPE LIVES....(I think)....

COMMENTARY, SINT MAARTEN - After 9 months of a new Parliament, I read about the DP faction's intention to lobby the opposition to investigate the contract between the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies and Checkmate Security Company.

While I am not sure how many MP's will have to go along with MP Sarah's idea for this investigation to actually happen (the 5 in opposition??.. a majority of at least 8??.. or at least of 2/3 of Parliament, so 10??..), or HOW the investigation will take place (using the General Audit Chamber, or the use of a Parliamentary Enquiry), fact is that maybe, just maybe after these past 9 months,  hope may still be alive and all was not for naught. 

Possibly, just possibly, there may be a glimmer of hope that the rumors and whispers about the fleecing of Government-owned companies will be given the attention that is needed.

Maybe, just maybe, talk about outrageous salaries & benefits given to members of managements, members of Boards, not-too-shabby retainers to "insider/friendly" lawyers and other professionals, lucrative contracts to friends and family, stupid money being spent (such as moving Great Bay harbor sand to the Simpson Bay Lagoon, then watching it wash away into the lagoon), will at long last be looked into as Parliamentarians are supposed to do.

These are all items that should be every tax payer's concern. If all companies and entities that have been established by and for Government would be run in an open, transparent and business-like manner and if these entities would  truly endeavor to maximize profit-making, that would then in turn be paid to Government in the form of dividends and concession fees (instead of buying expensive automobiles for executives, handing out company credit cards with outrageous spending limits -if any- and having bloated payrolls), maybe, just maybe Government could get closer to balancing its budget every year.

Government could then ensure that sufficient sums of money could be allocated AND paid out to market this tourist destination, that relies just about 100% on tourism. Is it at all possible that "dem tiefin" from us in broad daylight, while we have our eyes wide open, knowing what is happening?

Do we care, or is it that some favored few amongst us (way too many in my opinion) are in some form or fashion benefitting from the corruption on all levels, so we do nothing more than grumble, while continuing our ranting & raving against "foreign" intervention?

And oh yes, let us NOT even THINK about increasing the TOT again to solve Government's fiscal problems.... The last increase has properly "screwed up" the regular economy while boosting the underground business, causing the actual amount of TOT guilders collected by Government to fall way short of expectations, while GDP is up!

The Dutch would say: "Ra ra, hoe kan dat"??? But I started by saying that "hope may still be alive". So open the books! Let in the light! Stop the double talk! Tell the tax payers WHAT is what, WHO gets what and WHY they get what!

Michael J. Ferrier

COMMENTARY

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INDIAN MERCHANT ASSOCIATION (IMA) DONATES TO FUNDUS CAMERA PROJECT

PHILIPSBURG - The Rotary Clubs of Sint Maarten together with local and regional partners launched a national eye screening program at the White and Yellow Cross Foundation in April of this year. The purpose of the screening is to prevent blindness due to Diabetes Retinopathy.

Dr. Virginia Asin, President of the Rotary Club of St Martin Sunrise in the presence of Treasurer Sidarth “Cookie” Bijlani, on behalf of the organizers, received a cheque from Prakash Mirpuri, President of the Indian Merchant Association (IMA) on Sint Maarten with respect to the very important Fundus Camera community project.

“The IMA will always support health prevention programs that benefit the population of Sint Maarten and gladly support the program,” said Mr Mirpuri. Now that the machine is purchased and set up at the White and Yellow Cross, it is important that it is sustained and well maintained. With this donation the IMA contributes to the sustainablity of the program.

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9th Believers Convention Triumphs. Case made for Faith-based Tourism

PHILIPSBURG/MARIGOT- It was a spectacular end to what may have started as the usual gathering of the St. Martin Believers’ Connection Convention (SMBCC). The 9th Edition of the local church’s calendar activity was hosted at the L.B Scot Sports Auditorium under the theme “Out of the Ordinary comes the Spectacular!”

The godchild of the St. Martin United Ministerial Foundation (SMUMF) and the French Federation of Churches (FEDOC) saw participants converging from both sides of the island, as well as neighboring Anguilla, St. Kitts, as far south as Aruba and Trinidad and Tobago and up north in the mainland United States and Puerto Rico.

“The church’s participation continues to be more significant with each passing year and it is not so much on the quantity of attendance but the quality and diversity of attendees, all of whom want to model morally sound, peaceful and prosperous lives,” visionary Apostle Leyland G. Sam said.

He added that he was heartened to see that so many international participants had accepted the invitation to “fellowship with St. Martin” and made a case, once again, for a stronger focus on ‘religious tourism’.

“Many people come to the island for Carnival, SMBCC is an alternative to Carnival and religious leaders who visit our shores are always in awe of the natural beauty and passion for Christ displayed in this nation. We know that this territory is special to God and we can anticipate him doing something uncommonly wonderful for our 10th anniversary as we avail ourselves.”

Fresh off of a weeklong conference that was headlined by Bishop Robin Dinnanauth of New York’s Robin Healing Ministries, the steering committee of SMBCC has already begun preparations for next year’s event, with some minor changes such as venue and acoustics.  Apostle Sam sits on the steering committee along with Apostle Lewis Constant, Apostle Edwin Arrindell, Prophetess Marva Sam, Pastor Jerome Thomas, Ministers Dian Douglas, Angie Pantophlet and Donna Morrison-Wilson.

Public relations officer Torana Granston said that the number nine (9) has special significance naturally and spiritually; often associated with the preparation for new birth. She said that this year, SMBCC 2015 was able to realize the installation of its official Secretariat, the hosting of the first gala dinner at Port-de-Plaisance, the opening of a resource centre for convention materials and published spiritual and educational works, a mini exhibition during each day’s activity and a strategic partnership with the Ultimate Fitness Gym for the launch of a Christian aerobics gym.

“All of these achievements were realized at a significant time in the Convention’s development, our 9th anniversary. Our aim is not only to meet in a mutual setting with the collective goal of worshipping God and interacting with fellow believers. It is also to meet the needs of the total man; physical, spiritual and mental. I believe that we are well on our way to building bridges in the society. It is all about empowering, equipping and fellowship opportunities,” she stated.

As is customary, the opening ceremony of the Convention featured a parade of nations with the Christian flag leading, a youth talent night, singles and marriage seminar, healing and deliverance services, a unity service and mini expo.

Awards of appreciation were also handed over to Dian Douglas for her long and dedicated service in the hosting of Convention and Roberto and Arlene Wilson of 98.1 Pearl FM in the area of community development.

“I was especially pleased with the level of expertise and wealth of experience that Dr. Annette Lazarus-Rose of Bethesda Healing Centre in New York brought to the singles and marriage seminars. As a trained counselor she really gave sound guidance and direction to the lives of people. No area was neglected as she discussed the financial, emotional, social, spiritual and clinical factors that accompany living single or living married. We all left feeling empowered,” Morrison-Wilson said.

The Convention steering committee thanked all those who made the 9th Annual St. Martin Believers’ Connection Convention a success, especially the numerous volunteers, sponsors, governmental agencies and churches who showed unwavering support for the vision and mission of SMBCC.

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Family Reading Evening at the library

PHILIPSBURG - The Philipsburg Jubilee Library, in collaboration with the department of Social Services and Section Labor Market (SOD/SLM) have officially launched a new literacy program with a family reading evening that was held in the library.

The family literacy evening was initiated to involve parents as well their children in a literacy event that is aimed toward promoting reading in general and encouraging parents to read to their children. Under the slogan: “SXM reads!” a variety of activities will be organized to support persons with low literacy skills.

There were 11 families present at the Family Reading evening and a total of 25 children. The literacy evening started off with presentations by the program coordinator Cherida Creebsburg and library Director Monique Alberts. Literacy expert, Ms. Patti Maier followed up with a discussion about how important reading is and she also discussed different ways of how reading can be made more fun, using different creative methods to do so.

After her presentation, Ms. Maier invited all present to gather in a circle for an interactive group reading session. After the first session, attendees were split up into groups for a more individual reading session. Social worker Rachel Doorzon who assisted in the program noted “This activity had a big impact on both the parents and the children…In one family, the mother could not read nor write, and during the reading session it was heartwarming to see how her children were encouraging her to participate with them in the reading”. 

The literacy program is sponsored by the office of Representation of the Netherlands in Sint Maarten, the Windward Islands bank and Seven Seas Water Company.

The next family reading evening is scheduled for June 17th, 2015. Persons interested in attending can call the library at 542-2970.

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New Anguilla poetry book launches at Governor Christina Scott’s reception for Literary Festival 2015

GREAT BAY—Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in Anguilla, A New Anthology Edited by Lasana M. Sekou, will be launched at Government House in Anguilla on Thursday, May 21.   

Her Excellency, Ms. Christina Scott, the Governor of Anguilla, will host “the official launch of the book” at the “reception to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the ‘Anguilla Lit Fest,’” according to the invitation issued by the Governor’s Office. The literary festival runs from May 21-24.

Where I See The Sun has already met with bold comments from new generation poets and authors, said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP, the book’s publisher.

This is pure poetry: critical, sincere and plain. The glorious and convoluted history of small island nations sits heavily on the shoulders of so few. This may be your only chance to hear them speak like this,” writes Wena Poon, award-winning Singapore-born American author.

The Guadeloupean author and hiphop artist Fola Gadet finds that the poetry of the collection is “rooted in a strong desire for real freedom.” There are over 90 poems by 43 poets from the 35 sq. mi. island in the book. Most of the poets and the poems were never published before.

The anthologized poets include: John T. Harrigan, Bongo Joe, Medora, Tyrone James, Vanessa Croft Thompson, Catrina Jones, Alexis Ryan, Sharleen Gumbs, Fabian Fahie, George Hodge, Zipporah Bannister, Marvin Gumbs, Kay Ferguson, Davon Carty, Magueda Jackson, Wendell Lake, Gregory Maye, and Bankie Banx.

“Their names may ring hollow to many a literary critic or student of Caribbean Literature, (with the exception, perhaps, of the venerable Bankie Banks, a true musical legend who has stuck to his Anguilla roots through thick and thin),” wrote literary critic Fabian Adekunle Badejo in the preface to the book.

The other writers are: Mikael Mussington, Teresa Richardson, Vernon Webster, Sharon Lake, Clemvio Hodge, Jemmisa Graneau-Gumbs, Rolandito Richardson, Akeem Rogers, Amethyst Davis, Leroy Hill, Iain Bibby, Rita Celestine Carty, Cassilda Carty, Patricia Adams, Reuel Ben Lewi, Marnair, Alvin Payne, Romeine Browne, Delano Smith, Hyacinth Hughes, Akeem Rogers, Jervayne Daniel, Jason Richardson, Dollynell Best, Rennetta Lewis, and Oluwakemi Linda Banks.

The important thing about the budding and seasoned poets in Where I See The Sun “is that they now will be heard throughout the region and beyond and the story they tell, a reminder that size really doesn’t matter when it comes to human experience and existence or for that matter where it concerns creative output,” said Badejo. 

Where I See The Sun will be available at the Anguilla Lit Fest, the 13th annual St. Martin Book Fair, IrieLife, Van Dorp, Amazon.comSPDbooks.org, and other bookstores. 

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Africa Resource Center prepares for St. Martin Emancipation Day Festivities. Poetry Competition Open to All Ages

PHILIPSBURG - As part of their action plan for 2015 and on the occasion of the upcoming St. Martin Emancipation Day festivities, the Africa Caribbean Heritage Alliance is hosting a poetry competition. The contest is open to all ages ranging from 10 years and up. The deadline has been extended to June 25, 2015. Students and adults are encouraged to partake in the competition.

The theme for the competition "The African in Me" seeks to give contestants a chance to explore the St. Martin heritage that goes back to Africa. With thought provoking questions, as what will you like to experience from Africa? What do you find interesting about Africa?

What does the Caribbean have in common with Africa?, the contest aims to raise awareness about the continent and the still existing similarities between the Caribbean and Africa. Many people want to learn and connect more with Africa for historical links, business opportunities, tourism, fashion, etc. Through your stories as reflected in your poetry and art, we can work together to raise that awareness and connect the continents. 

Ms. Brook noted that in keeping with ACHA’s vision towards positively reconnecting Africa and the Caribbean through the areas of heritage, culture, economics, education, travel, transport, etc, it is opportune that the UN General Assembly through it’s (resolution 68/237) has designated 2015-2024 as the ‘International Decade for People of African Descent’.

With the theme of ‘recognition, justice and development, the Decade aims to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to support the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent, and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society. 

The successful applicants will have some nice prizes to take home. They will also get a chance to participate in some of ACHA's upcoming exciting projects in Africa. All winning entries will be displayed in the ACHA Resource Center which was recently opened up at the library.

The foundation was started by Drs. Okama Ekpe Brook who is also the president. The competition is being held as a continuation of getting more people on the island aware of their heritage and ancestry, especially as we prepare to celebrate Emancipation Day on July 1st. 

Are you ready to unleash your emancipated mind? Apply now by filling out this form to send along with your poetry or art piece. Email it to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

You can also download the file by visiting our website: 

www.afrocaribbeanalliance.org

Facebook: Africa Caribbean Heritage Alliance

or email for more information on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A Tourism Game Changer

SINT MAARTEN/CUBA - A Game Changer is a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. Who is the Game Changer? Cuba! You may turn your head and say, ‘I don’t have to read that nonsense; I don’t believe it and we’re just fine anyway.’

That for itself may mean that you are not in tune with your audiences and it means that you are not capable to understand the importance of market intelligence. Subsequently you will not be competent to plan effective marketing strategies. Maybe you should read and know what is written about the competitors you are up against. If you don’t, fine. The people that you would hope to be your clients, do read it.

Only five months ago, The International Monetary Fund published a study called “Revisiting Tourism Flows to the Caribbean: What is Driving Arrivals?” In it were some conclusions that should be interpreted as “Hey you guys in the Caribbean, you are losing since you are becoming too expensive!” The study finds that the nominal cost of an average one week beach holiday in the Caribbean is higher than in other beach destinations around the world.

Tourism arrivals and expenditure are sensitive to both price and income factors in source markets. That simply means that people abroad who are planning a vacation are making price comparisons. Are you surprised about that? Wouldn’t you compare? They actually have to work to save the extra money to go on a vacation. Mind that the EURO has lost significantly against the dollar and you might say that dollar prices are 20% higher now.

Do you know what you find in every grocery store chain in Europe? Travel brochures. Many travel agencies are affiliated with grocery chains. It is their way to get to the masses. If someone trusts his favorite grocery store, they’ll trust its travel agency also for also having good deals. By picking up a vacation brochure with lots of offers for destinations around the world, in the shortest possible time, one can conclude how long one can stay somewhere at the lowest cost.

If your Caribbean destination is not in that brochure, you may be missing out on something or you may be doing something wrong. The Dominican Republic usually makes it big time in those brochures. But St. Vincent? Ask a European where that is. Or ask an American; they are famous for not knowing the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. Ask where St. Vincent is, or St. Barths.

If you’re lucky, they think it is one of the US Virgin Islands. When they find out it is not, well that’s bad news. Dominica? Isn’t it called the Dominican Republic, a common questions is? Cuba? Everyone knows about Cuba for decades because it was always in the news for something or other. Now, the country is not only in the news, it gets free tourism publicity which budgets could not cover in the wildest dreams of any tourism board executive in the Caribbean.      

‘Yeah, but Cuba is not all that attractive, because not everyone wants to buy cigars, and you can buy rum anywhere in the Caribbean.’ You’re right. So, let’s compare something else that you have in common: beaches. Just read what audiences read in the media and maybe especially online. By the way, did you know that Cuba also has a Trinidad? It is a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus, in central Cuba. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites since 1988. So, there is more for tourists than cigars, rum and vintage cars. 

“Cuba may be a complex nation but one thing is clear as glass: its beaches are simply magnificent.” says LonelyPlanet. Hmmm, magnificent but that’s what some also say about the nude beach of Orient Bay in St. Maarten.

“Cuba is blessed with miles upon miles of white-sand beaches,” says BestBeaches. Now that is a different story. Can you truthfully claim that your island has miles-upon-miles of white beaches? Be careful now!  Cuba’s coastline is several times longer than that of all the Lesser Antilles together. It simply means to audiences abroad, that when you’re in for a beach vacation in Cuba, you have a choice of beaches beyond comparison.

Let’s take another example with a bit more detail. According to Destination-360, an online travel guide:

“The Cuban beaches are simply some of the best in the world. With hundreds of them to boast, Cuba is ever-becoming a top consideration for beach vacations. Canadians and Europeans have long been coming to Cuba to stay at one of the dazzling Cuba resorts, most of which can be found lining one of the country's featured sandy strips.

Choosing the best beach in Cuba is a daunting task, as it really comes down to personal preference. There are certainly beaches in Cuba to fit any and every taste, and some can be found close to some of Cuba's best attractions. Tourism at a good of amount of the Cuban beaches is growing at a healthy rate, and with plans in the making to develop plenty more beach destinations, Cuba only seems poised to continue its march towards becoming one of the world's most dynamic tourist destinations.”

You may say, ‘Yes, but we are not going to worry because Cuba doesn’t have the infrastructure.’ Fact is that at the moment many or most tourists will choose Cuba because they want to go there ‘before it is spoiled’. That means that they prefer to go soon. Did you mean infrastructure, like how to get there? Mind that Cuba has seven airports with runways longer than 3,000m/9,840ft and another ten of 2,500/8,200 to 3,000m/9840. Just to compare, St. Maarten is 2,300m/7,546, Santo Domingo 3,355m/11,002, San Juan 3,170m/10,400, St. Lucia 2,744/9,003, and Dominica 1,756/5,761. Never forget that the distance USA-Cuba is only 90 miles which tells you something about flight time difference with the Lesser Antilles. Soon there will be a ferry connection from Miami. Even Florida may now find a competitor in Cuba.  

What is the essence of my story? For years people like to put blame on the recession of 2008 if anything has not worked out. You might as well blame it on the Bossa Nova. In 2008, I was in charge of business development in an industry that was hard hit by the recession.

The first thing I did was damage control and then quickly planned strategies to move forward and upwards again.  A wait-and-see attitude doesn’t fit me. I never play blame games. There is Game Changer coming up in the Caribbean. Some may see it as if it is just a tropical storm coming and blowing over. Best is to be prepared for a hurricane situation and plan things now before it strikes not knowing how long the negative impact may last.

COMMENTARY – By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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“A selection of six dancers for the show : Forget the Popcorn. Today’s PORTRAITS of Marine and Lian”

PHILIPSBURG/MARIGOT - Last September  HeadMade Factory (HMF) organised  auditions for all the dancers on the Island. Six dancers have been selected. These dancers have been featured over the past few weeks and here are the last two, Marine and Lian.

HMF is an artist collective working on contemporary art and culture in St Martin. Dance, visual arts, exhibitions, conferences. These activities about art, illustrate an artistic movement from St. Martin willing to be recognized internationaly.

Welcoming new artists and new talents is also part of the HMF goals, and to organize an international art event in St. Martin. With the support of tourism and education authorities these artists want to organize events to prove the strenght of contemporary art here but also to promote the island in an other way for tourism.

HeadMade Factory – Marine Caillet : This French 17-year old was born in Spain. Before arriving to St. Martin she lived in Florida and Santo Domingo where she started her intensive training as a ballet dancer. Marine has been dancing for 15 years.

Marine discovered contemporary dance on the island, with Peggy Oulerich when she enrolled in the Temps Danse Academie. She is currently pursuing her training in classical, jazz and contemporary at the National Institute of Arts on the Dutch side.

Having already participated in performances choreographed by Peggy Oulerich, she knew the stakes were high. She knew she had engaged in a series of intense rehearsals, and the upcoming show ‘Forget the popcorn’ will gain her more experience for her CV.

Marine really wants to become a professional dancer and would like to continue her journey in California, as she believes her living and working in California is conducive to the development of her future career.

Marine has already won numerous awards outside St. Martin, second prize at the National Competition in classical (France 2012), second prize at the Regional Competition in contemporary, and regional first prize in contemporary duet with Lucie Corbinian.

More recently she particpated in various competitions on the island by winning a second prize at the famous Teen Times contest, first prize at Dance Mania, and was selected to participate in the finale of the reality TV dance competition Naash Meri Jaan to be held in New York. Marine is also a model for various brands and photographers on the island. (HMF)

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“A selection of six dancers for the show : Forget the Popcorn. Today’s PORTRAIT of Lian”

HeadMade Factory - Lian Chun Borsje is a very young dancer. Born 14-years ago in New York, NY from a Caribbean mother and a Dutch father. Lian began dancing at the age of three at the Motiance Dance School and continues her classical training, Jazz and Contemporary at the National Institute of Arts (NIA) on the Dutch side.

At age 11 Lian heard about contemporary dance on television and the following year met Peggy Oulerich and started taking her classes.

Today Forget the popcorn is a new experience, which pushes her to excel, and take her to the next level of possibly becoming a professional dancer. With many rehearsals behind her belt already, Lian learned to work in groups, train on her endurance and her taste for succeeding.

In 2012 at the age of 12, Lian was the youngest ballerina on the island to dance as the Snow Princess at the Pas de Deux in NIA’s  The Nutcracker. She sees contemporary dance with Peggy Oulerich as a chance for freedom to participate in the creation of movements and of the entire creative process.

Lian won a second prize at the National Competition of Contemporary Dance (Nantes, France 2013), and placed 1st in the individual category of the competition Teen Times that rewards the best dancers of the island.

From over 1,500 students worldwide, Lian has been accepted at the Alvin Ailey Dance School’s 5-week Summer Intensive Program in New York, NY.

Lian also models as a hobby and has already made her first step in front of the camera with the High End brand of Alanna Rose Swim and Resort Wear, which launched at Ce Bleu Villa Boutique Hotel in Aguilla.

Marine and Lian are both part of Art Saves Lives. They have been selected by the founder, renowned Nicole’s De Weever together with other fellow dance students, to represent Sint Maarten in Washington, DC for a dance exhibition. (HMF)

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A selection of six dancers for the show: Forget the Popcorn - Portrait of Zoé van Zadelhoff by Florence POIRIER-NKPA

PHILIPSBURG - Last September HeadMade Factory organized auditions for dancers St. Maarten/St. Martin. Six dancers were selected, and recently HeadMade Factory highlighted Clifford and Lucie. HeadMade would now like to profile Zoe and Otmar.  Zoe, Otmar and Lian (who was profiled in a previous posting under this section Features) were selected in August 2014 by the famous Sint Maarten dancer and founder of Art Saves Lives Nicole de Weever, to participate in a trip to New York that gave the students the experience in various classes at various dance institutions in the Big Apple.

This young locally born lady is only 13 years old and already has an incredible talent. Zoe began dancing at four-years at Motiance Dance School, which has now emerged with Imbali to become the National Institute of Arts (NIA). She continues her training at NIA in jazz, classical, hip- hip and contemporary dance. Zoe trains about 12 hours a week. Her objective is to audition at "Codarts" in Rotterdam.

Zoe began training as a gymnast at the gym section of NIA and Gym Club of Saint Martin on the French side. She was quickly entered to the competition in Guadeloupe.

For her to be a dancer in the show "Forget the Popcorn" is a real challenge, as she realizes that she is young and this experience gives her a taste of what professional dance is all about. The jury of the show's auditions has also made an exception due to so much talent and was selected despite her young age.

In 2013 Zoe won two first prizes in the regional competition in St. Barths ballet and contemporary. In 2014 she was selected to participate in the Dutch Caribbean Youth Art Festival in Curacao. And this year she won the Teen Times talent showdown. (HeadMade Factory)

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