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Key to Freedom clients participate in Tzu Chi Volunteer Training Program

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - Volunteers from the St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation took time out of their busy schedules on Sunday, April 21, to share valuable information about Tzu Chi’s principles and the work of the foundation to Key to Freedom clients as part of the Tzu Chi Volunteer Training Program.

A total of four Tzu Chi volunteers including two commissioners facilitated the training program, which was given to 10 Key to Freedom clients.

During the training session, information about Tzu Chi’s benevolent efforts were shared, including information about the foundation’s support of disaster survivors of the deadly cyclone Idai - a category 4 storm that brought weeks of rain and flooding to the poorest countries of Africa from March 4 to 21, 2019. Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi were hit particularly hard and hundreds have died, and millions were left homeless without food and water.

Volunteers also sang inspirational song “So I Stand Up” with Key to Freedom clients. The song touched many clients as the lyrics seemed to describe their situation. The lyrics helped to inspire them to gather the strength needed to continue overcoming the challenges in their lives.

Key to Freedom Director Elvison Adamus had prepared a “bamboo bank” (collection boxes) and held a donation drive in advance and presented the donations received to Tzu Chi on behalf of clients.

The training was coordinated by Tzu Chi Commissioners Yamile Bastidas and Jane Sanchez as well as volunteer Antonette Clarke. At the end of the session, clients were treated to snacks.

One of the participating volunteers said she was happy to take time out of her day to help share information that she had. She said the participants listened keenly and seemed eager to learn and she is hopeful that the information was beneficial to them.

One of the participating Key to Freedom clients said although St. Maarten is still standing after Hurricane Irma, there are many places in the world such as some parts of Africa, where people are suffering badly and have noting. “What really touched me is that we are here and we have to thank God for what we have because there are many people out there who are suffering and have no food and nowhere to stay - at least we have a roof over our heads and we can be thankful and make the best of it. We have to pray for others and donate even if its five cents to help others because we don’t know where we will be tomorrow,” the volunteer said adding that Tzu Chi is an organization that is full of love and compassion. “It touches our heart, that even if you are a mean person, you can change because it is with love and peace in your heart that you can give to others.”

Another client said the information received had been very educational and informative and will help him to remain focused on his future. He is grateful to Tzu Chi for taking the teaching to Key to Freedom clients.

Adamus said he is happy that Tzu Chi considered Key to Freedom for its volunteer training program. He said the lessons learnt in the teachings and in the song, were inspirational and educational. “I learnt a lot today, especially in the song. It touched me and I can relate to it because it is about thinking good and doing good and this is something that I am always trying to practice,” Adamus said. “Every day, every moment and every second, you must try to purify your mind to think good, talk good and do good to others and to respect them. You should do good to everyone no matter what. I am thankful… that everyone can learn something, and I know it will be helpful to us.”

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung said clients participated with their eyes and hearts opened to learn all the information that was presented. “With pure hearts, they look forward to our next session in May,” Cheung said.

She thanked volunteers for the information provided, Adamus for welcoming Tzu Chi for the training, and the clients for absorbing the information provided.

TZU CHI WED2404 INS1

TZU CHI WED2404 INS2

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Nature Foundation Examines the Single-use Plastic Usage in Carnival Village

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Tuesday afternoon, the Nature Foundation staff investigated the usage of single-use plastics at the booths in Carnival Village. Open Carnival booths were asked if they provided any biodegradable or reusable alternative for single-use plastics and if plastic straws are given out with each drink or only upon request.

All Carnival booths in Carnival Village are found to provide drinks and food in single-use plastic items, such as Styrofoam food containers, plastic cups and plastic cutlery and all booths have plastic straws available. A few booths were found to have some biodegradable and reusable alternatives to provide food and drinks in, however none of the booths were found to be single-use plastic free.

“We were hoping to find a booth without single-use plastics; unfortunately, all of the booths had single-use plastic items available. Nevertheless, we were delighted to find that some of the booths do provide either drinks or food in biodegradable alternatives; we were also surprised to find the promotion of reusable cups at some of the booths. 

“The Nature Foundation recommends the usage of reusable cups for parties and festivals, as it decreases the already enormous litter and waste output created by Carnival. Therefore, make sure to take your own reusable cup to carnival and keep hold on it for refills. We would like to applaud the booths which decide to have some biodegradable items available and hope to find more environmentally friendly items next year,” stated Nature Foundations Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Reusable cups were found to be available by the purchase of certain drinks at the booth numbers 18, 46, 48 and 76, if you receive a reusable cup, make sure to hold on to it as it will give you a discount on your next drink at the same booth. Choosing reusable items is always the most environmentally friendly way, as these items can be reused many times, which reduce our waste output on the already overfull landfill.

A few booths were discovered to have either biodegradable cups or papers cups, such as booth number 6, 7, 40, 44 and 76. These cups put less a burden to our environment as they do biodegrade, although some of them only do under certain circumstances. The Foundation also located compostable, fiber and paper plates or food containers to be present at carnival village, the plates and bowls are only distributed by booth 6, 13, 27, 44 and 50, 51 when customers are eating at the booth (not for takeout).

These biodegradable plates and food containers have a natural breakdown process and will not impact our environment and nature. The Nature Foundation recommends booths, businesses and residents to choose environmentally friendly and to go for the food and drink package options which are either reusable or biodegradable.

‘Beside the single-use plastic inventory we also asked booths about their habits of providing plastic straws, several booths stressed out that they only provided straws upon request. Plastic straws can have large detrimental impacts on our marine and wildlife, therefore we ask all carnival goers to refuse plastic straws and bar tenders to only provide straws upon request. If we all contribute, we can decrease the single-use plastic output on our environment and keep St Maarten cleaner’ explained Melanie.

All booths in carnival village also received a flyer from the Nature Foundation explaining the impacts of single-use plastics on our environment, marine and wildlife, and showing the steps how to decrease single-use plastics at their business. Nature Foundation already located large amounts of single-use plastics being littered around Carnival Village and stresses out the importance of disposing your trash responsible, which means in a garbage bin.

nature plastic pollution

Plastic polution of our drainage systems which washes out into our sea.

nature plastic containers

Plastic containers.

 

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Dr. Pedro Delgado Joins AUC Leadership Team

SINT MAARTEN (CUPECOY) – American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) is pleased to announce the addition of Pedro L. Delgado, M.D. to the school’s leadership team. Dr. Delgado will serve as AUC’s Senior Associate Dean on the Sint Maarten medical sciences campus, responsible for Sint Maarten-based faculty and serving as the senior local leader from AUC to the broader Sint Maarten community.

In his new role, Dr. Delgado will direct AUC’s medical science faculty, supporting the ongoing development and delivery of AUC’s quality medical education curriculum and furthering AUC’s focus on social accountability and community engagement. Dr. Delgado will support AUC’s engagement efforts on Sint Maarten as well as develop new collaborations on Sint Maarten and in the region.

Prior to joining AUC, Dr. Delgado was the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where he was also a Marie Wilson Howells Professor and Director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI). 

“Dr. Delgado’s expertise in research and education will be invaluable to AUC’s faculty and the students we serve,” said AUC Executive Dean, Heidi Chumley, M.D. “He will play a crucial role on AUC’s leadership team, helping to deliver the highest quality medical education to our students, while maximizing our impact in the Sint Maarten community.”

“I am honored to have been chosen to join the outstanding leadership team and world-class medical school training program at AUC,” said Dr. Delgado. “I was drawn to AUC’s strong commitment to empowering students that I encountered in all the faculty and staff.”

Delgado earned a BS in biology from the University of Houston in 1979 and an M.D. (AOA) and MA (Pharmacology) from the University of Texas (UT) Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas in 1983 and 1984, respectively. He completed his internship and residency training in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut in 1987 and was on the Yale faculty, leading research programs investigating the neurobiological basis of depression and the mechanisms of antidepressant drug action, until 1992. He subsequently served on the faculty of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Delgado has served in a variety of leadership positions, including Vice Chair for Research in Arizona, Douglas Danford Bond Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (2000-2005) and Dielmann Distinguished Chair and Chairman of Psychiatry at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio (2005-2014).

For his work investigating the biology of depression, he shared the international Anna Monika Prize in 1995. 

Dr. Delgado has published over 100 scientific articles and book chapters, serves on the editorial boards of many prominent psychiatric journals, is a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health and is a frequent lecturer on biological aspects of depression and clinical use of antidepressant drugs.

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SeatradeCruiseGlobal Conference Reveals 9.3 Score in Cruise Passenger Destination Experience

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Hard work and dedication from partners in the hospitality industry on St. Maarten has resulted in a welcomed increase in positive reviews from cruise passengers as the figures now show the destination scored 9.3 out of 10 for cruise passenger destination experience. The St. Maarten delegation received the “good news” during the 2019 SeatradeCruiseGlobal Conference, which was held recently in Miami.

The delegation to SeatradeCruiseGlobal Conference was headed by the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport, & Telecommunication (TEATT) the honourable Stuart Johnson and included a number of local stakeholders as part of ‘Team St. Maarten,’ such as the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, and the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The news is especially pleasing to Port St. Maarten. During the Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council Cruise Summit (PAMAC), meetings in January this year, industry partners shared information that showed the cruise passenger experiences for St. Maarten was at a score of 9.1.

A release issued by Port St. Maarten stated, “Port St. Maarten’s Management is very pleased that the destination remains in high demand and continues to grow in a positive manner where cruises passenger destination customer experience is concerned.”

Johnson said the Ministry of TEATT in collaboration with industry partners such as Port St. Maarten to create new programs to drive sales, improve the visitor experience and increase return visits to the destination as a priority. “My ministry will be working closely with Port St. Maarten Management to address the areas that need improvement.  Everyone is in agreement that to remain at the top and continue to receive positive reviews from our cruise customers, we have to make every effort to address challenges wherever they may surface, and we are committed to doing just that,” Minister Stuart Johnson said.  

As a prime destination, every effort must continue to be made where it concerns developing and enhancing current and new attractions. Additional ‘things to do' on the island are needed, which would enable the destination to increase the number of visitor arrivals.

Port St. Maarten Management says all stakeholders must continue to improve services, and shore excursions as well as the quality of their products to maintain a high score which would lead to destination growth over the long-term.

Port Management added that cruise passengers are happy with the product and experience along with the expressed warmth of the people of St. Maarten, adding that continued attention and focus is needed on product diversification.  "We will continue to work with the Ministry of TEATT and its Tourism Department on those areas that need improvement," the Port St. Maarten release stated.

"The shopping experience in Philipsburg, considered the duty-free shopping capital of the Caribbean, has increased based on information received from our cruise partners who handle onboard sales. They will be trying new techniques to drive passengers to Front and Back Street.

"The Port will continue to work diligently with cruise partners and stakeholders on how to further entice more people to shop in Philipsburg. Meetings also took place with cruise executives regarding on-going port improvements to increase demand. An update was provided, and a follow-up meeting is planned shortly with the cruise lines. Overall, SeatradeCruiseGlobal was a success,” Port St. Maarten Management said.

This year’s SeatradecruiseGlobal Conference concentrated on the ‘State of the Global Cruise Industry.’ Presenters for the conference included executives and visionaries from the world’s top cruise lines such as Adam Goldstein, Vice Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Cruise Lines International Association; Frank Del Rio, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Also presenting at the conference were Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Arnold Donald, President and CEO Carnival Corporation; Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO Royal Caribbean Cruises; and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman MSC Cruises.

Themes that were shared by cruise industry titans via a panel discussion were: Sustainable Tourism: the latest challenges in popular markets, how cruise lines are collaborating with local communities and destinations to identify solutions.

Innovation: defining what innovation means to their brand and customer Converting New Cruisers: what it will take to attract the next generation of cruisers including millennials.

Environmental Initiatives: identifying the latest developments and success stories to continue environmental advancements; Emerging Markets: the future outlook on China, what it will take to succeed in emerging markets.

The conference included 50 hours of business sessions and 95+ hours of networking that highlighted regional updates, travel trends, customer experience, key trends, port and destination ideas and itinerary planning.

Other areas that were covered over the four-day conference and expo were tech, design, entertainment, cuisine, and wellness, marine safety, security, sustainability, environmental considerations and regulations, and cybersecurity. SeatradeCruiseGlobal attracted approximately 11,000 attendees representing 130+ countries; 70+ cruise line brands; and 700+ exhibitors. SeatradeCruiseGlobal was held from April 8 to April 11 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

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Empress Zee crowned as Calypso draws biggest crowd in years

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND-FESTIVAL VILLAGE) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) drew the largest calypso crowd in five years on Monday night, April 22, for the Nagico Senior Calypso Finals. An estimated 1,800 people filed into Carnival Village to hear social commentary through Calypso and watched as Zhaira “Empress Zee” Richardson won the calypso crown and became only the second woman to win the crown in the history of St. Maarten Calypso.

She beat out the reigning Monarch Ruminni “The Protégé” Rogers, who was defending his second calypso crown. Rogers took home second place honors while Desmond “Man George” George took home third place honors.

While the size of the crowd might have caught some people off-guard due to the boycott of the Calypso show implemented by many calypsonians, the SCDF said it had no doubt. “It is the 50th Anniversary of Carnival. Everyone was looking forward for this for at least two years. Nobody was going to let the date of a show keep them from enjoying what they love. And on Monday night that love was for calypso and the night before that it was the Youth Extravaganza. The crowd was bigger than when the show is placed before Jouvert,” SCDF President Alston Lourens said.

He extended congratulations to the new calypso Monarch and said the SCDF looks forward to working with her in the near future in the promotion of Calypso. He also extended congratulations to Rogers whom he described as an “honorable King” honored his title and status in the way he graciously accepted defeat.

“We are looking forward to working with Ruminni and his Protégé Project which aims to re-vive the Junior Calypso Competition by going into the elementary schools and getting them involved. We are really excited about that. But right now we have a new Queen and we are very, very proud of Empress Zee. She will represent SCDF and Calypso well,” Lourens said.

Empress Zee won the title on the heels of her tune entitled ‘Calypso Here to Stay” in which she criticized both the SCDF and the calypsonians who chose to boycott the competition. Rogers also had a similar song called “A Calypsonian” in which he told the boycotting calypsonians that their move does not translate to a stand for Calypso.

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Break in at secondary school during Easter Weekend

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - Detectives are presently investigating a break-in at the Sint Maarten PSVE School which occurred during the Easter Holidays and most probably on Easter Monday April 22nd, police announced in a report on Tuesday.

According to reports several offices including the main office was broken into and an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen. Anyone who has information in connection with this case should immediately get in contact with the Police Department by calling 54-22222 ext. 104/105. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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SMMC launches hand hygiene project

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - In an effort to continually improve its safety procedures, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has embarked on a Hand Hygiene Quality project.

This initiative was facilitated by SMMC’s Quality & Safety Department in collaboration with the Hygiene & Infection Control (HIC) Department.

Under this initiative, representatives from each clinical department were appointed as a hand hygiene champion. These champions then received in depth training by the HIC department with the objective to further facilitate trainings for all clinical and non-clinical staff throughout the hospital.

Hand Hygiene is an important intervention to prevent the spread of hospital acquired infections. SMMC is currently implementing such initiatives, like the Hand Hygiene Program, with the aim to improve its safety procedures within the hospital and, in the long run, as part of its goal to reach accreditation by the Joint Commission International (JCI).

JCI Accreditation is the international gold standard in best practices for quality and safety within care facilities. It provides the necessary tools, techniques and staff education to build and sustain a comprehensive and effective infection prevention and control program.

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MPs’ housing allowance: Where do they live and does anyone check?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 30 Dutch MPs make maximum use of an extra allowance for parliamentarians who live 150 kilometres from The Hague, but there are no checks to make sure they are actually obeying the rules, the Volkskrant said on Tuesday.

The money, over €24,000, is meant to pay for extra accommodation and expenses in The Hague and is three times the amount paid to MPs who live close to the parliamentary complex.

The allowance gets smaller, the nearer the MP lives to The Hague. However, no-one checks whether MPs actually live so far from parliament and the system is based on trust, the VK said.

The paper highlights the case of Dion Graus, an MP for the anti-immigration PVV, who has been given over €100,000 in housing allowances in his 12 years in parliament. He officially lives with his mother in Heerlen, in Limburg province, but rents a flat in Voorburg near The Hague.

Although neighbours report never seeing him in Heerlen, the MP told the paper that the Voorburg flat is a pied-à-terre and that he keeps to all the rules. He also told the VK he has to keep quiet about where he lives because of security issues.

Allowances

In addition to their housing allowance – which is paid automatically – and their salary of €109,000 a year, MPs also get an allowance of €4,900 to cover travel within the Netherlands and an allowance of €2,762 a year for job-related expenses.

The accommodation allowance is worked out according to a complicated formula but totals €24,278 for an MP who lives 150 kilometres from the Hague and €7,961 for an MP who lives one kilometre from the Binnenhof parliamentary complex.  (DutchNews)

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UWBC emphasizes reading to Celebrate World Book and Copyright Day

SINT MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN - United &Young United Women Book Club (U&YUWBC), will like to bring light and take this opportunity to promote reading in our community and in our schools, the U&YUWBC said in a press statement.

“Get involve in some kind of reading program or reading club. Did you know that most successful people are readers? They often share their stories about the books read in order to get them where they are today. Yale researchers who studies 3,635 people older than 50 found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. If you have children, today could be the perfect day to teach them about the importance of reading and writing.

“World book day was created on April 23rd, 1995 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“We want to tell the community today, that, books are better than movies because you get more details. Reading books help you to save money because it requires no electricity, it is cheap entertainment, improves writing skills, when reading, you come across new words, so it builds vocabulary and you become more articulate and well-spoken which of course helps in any profession on any level, your imagination increases as you try to see things in your own mind, improves your social skills, reading had led to the formation of book clubs and other forums where we get a chance to share and interact with others, You learn about other cultures and places, you travel without moving, etc. You can become a critical and analytical thinker because you tend to create your own thoughts and ideas of the book.

“United and Young United Book Clubs, Not only promote reading and writing but we are helping you to be apart of a new community that makes finishing a book a priority and having fellow book lovers holding you accountable to read more.

“The monthly discussions in social settings can expand your mind and perspectives, respect others’ views and opinions, mend bonds, create a sense of debate and get to know more people island wide. UWBC & YUWBC vision is to go behind simple reading and interpretations, this is also a community, a sphere of empowerment and a positive impact, one book at a time. So however, you choose to celebrate this day, be keen in making it fun, and an educational experience.

“You can visit us on our Facebook page: United Women Book Club & Young United Women Book Club or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Easter Holiday Message from Minister of Culture Smith

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On Thursday Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport Wycliffe Smith, released the following Easter holiday message to the nation.

“As we go through this Easter season, I pray that each of us takes some time to reflect on the mercies of Our Almighty God and the loving kindness extended to us through the life, death and resurrection of His Only begotten Son. Knowing that in Our Saviour, we have a living hope, we can walk in that faith into a brighter future.

“While we commemorate the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection, we can liken our island’s recovery process to His passion. As a country, we passed through one of the worst devastations in September 2017. Life as we knew it on our beautiful island ceased to exist for a time. Months of economic darkness entombed us. Yet, as we work together, united and focussed, we have seen the breakthrough to a time of renewal on Sint Maarten.

“It is still early in our recovery, and sometimes it may seem as though this renewal is a figment of our imagination. But as God is real and Jesus lives, Sint Maarten too is rising and rebuilding to a better, more sustainable development. We must continue in our commitment to reset and rebuild with unity of purpose and a focus on our goals.

“As you spend some time this weekend with loved ones, family and friends, may your time be peaceful and pleasant. Should troubles come, seek to resolve them without violence. Let us teach our children that we can choose to walk away from fights, pursue a path of peace, and offer forgiveness as much as we pray for forgiveness ourselves.  On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, I wish you a Happy Easter!”

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