SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) – The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) Quick Impact Projects recognized under the theme “Building Back Better St. Maarten” focuses on Community Clean-up, fixing of community structures and roof repairs.
UNDP has been actively working alongside The Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) for the execution of the “Cash for Work, Community Clean-up project”. A project that allows persons who are unemployed or underemployed the opportunity to participate in community clean-up and be paid for their work.
With VROMI’s assistance, UNDP has been able to identify areas within communities that still has hurricane debris lying around. This can either be private yards or open spaces. Once locations are identified, contractors are selected by VROMI from their inhouse listing and is then designated to a specific site. Contractors are expected to use their current staff and hire additional staff for the execution of the clean-up. These additional staff are identified by UNDP using lists of people looking for work. This is the cash for work element, where around 400 people have benefitted from the program.
One identified site is Cay Hill’s multi-facilitated Raoul Illidge Sports Complex which was cleaned-up by contractor 3MD Construction.
Ever since the 1980s, The Raoul Illidge Sports Complex has served the St. Maarten community as the main sporting facility on the island for swimming, track and field, football, netball and basketball. The complex is accessible to various sporting clubs and associations and for several years has been the home of the Annual Public Schools’ Sports Day.
The facility, which is utilized by thousands of people, was modernized and upgraded in 1999 just in time to host the Kingdom Games, with High School Athletes from the then Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and The Netherlands.
With a team of young men from various districts on the island, 3MD Construction led the clean-up exercise where a vast amount of scattered debris was collected by a “cash for work”-team who pooled themselves to dedicate their time and services for this exercise.
With the passing of Hurricane Irma on September 5th, 2017 The Raoul Illidge Sports Complex was severely damaged. With damages ranging from the loss of an entire stand, steel beams, damages to the track (though still currently utilized) as well as damages to lights, field, protective mound, playground and the concrete wall at the pool ground.
This, of course, caused a major setback to schools and different sports’ organizations, while adding that games are still not able to be played at night as the lights are still not up and running. These light polls can still be seen at the Sports Complex today. They serve as a reminder of the catastrophic storm we all endured eight months ago and rose resiliently from.
Before the hurricane, the Complex’s facilities were utilized as early as 6:00AM with some days until 11:00PM as they also cater to law enforcement or Government agencies such as the Fire Department, the Police Department and the Marines. The facility is usually utilized all day, on a daily basis.
“After the hurricane, the facility was closed for approximately two months due to extensive damages with debris spread all about the grounds. The initial debris removal was done by the staff of the National Sports Institute (NSI)”, said Sigfried Hodge, facility’s Manager.
Though NSI staff catered to the initial clean-up of the widespread debris, the field’s protective mound remained a debris haven. This site was assigned to UNDP/ VROMI contractor 3MD construction.
The protective mound, located entirely around the field, protects from the brunt of weather. The detouring of water during rain falls protects against erosion. Ensuring the protective mound is debris free and completely cleared can go a long way towards securing the maintenance of the field’s surface.
“The contractor and his team were very instrumental in the removal of debris and clearing of all trees and grass”, said Siegfried Hodge, Raoul Illidge Sports Complex’s, Facility Manager.
The months following hurricane Irma, served as a safe haven for rodents on the mound. Trees and grass served as their home and shield; their breathing ground.
Having the area clear helps to eradicate most of the rodents.
In a recent interview with the contractor, he stated, “I was always in the construction field. I was able to do certain things like building houses, but the hurricane took away from my job as a construction contractor. Before, my company was hired to just build houses but now persons would first need to clear away hurricane wreckage, and very few had the financial means to do so. Which means, I was without work. Though after the hurricane we willingly volunteered to clean family’s and some of our neighbour’s yards, we were still not making an income.”
Becoming a listed contractor in UNDP’s “Cash for work”-project actually brought me to say, “okay fellas, we can actually clean up and get money for it”, We can now earn an income to feed our families. It’s a plus. Joining the working team, as an additional worker, skilled mechanic B.B. had no prior knowledge or experience in hurricane debris clean-up. “This was a whole new experience”, said B.B.
With the mound surrounding the facility, the contractor and workers engaged in extensive work and laborious days spanning over a period of four weeks.
One additional clean-up area tackled at the Complex was the large open space beside the swimming pool.
“It’s key that this area be kept clean because fallen leaves from surrounding trees can be blown into the swimming pool. If leaves are caught in the filter, it will be very costly for The National Sports Institute (NSI),” said facility manager, Siegfried Carty.
Though the open space is currently not being utilized, the forest-like space also harboured hurricane debris and rodents. Having the space cleared also assist in maintaining proper access from all points (in cases of emergencies) as well as security for the complex’s users as well as NSI staff members.
“In my personal view, I find everyone was passionate about the work. Not only because we were being paid but because we were out here doing something, making a change.
Do you know how good it feels? Sometimes we pass on link 1 and look over Raoul Illidge and say to ourselves, “we clean this, we cleaned Raoul Illidge. It’s a sense of pride”. B.B. said in a recent interview.
“When he, B.B., joined our team, he did not know how to use the chain saw or the weed Wacker but now I am proud to say that’s one of my best worker to handle these machines”, said company owner, D.O.
“I am now very proud to say, because of my participation in the UNDP’s cash for work project, I have gained a new skill” said B.B.
The United Nation Development Programme is very proud of their participation in St. Maarten’s recovery process. Through partnership with the St. Maarten Government and funding from the Dutch Recovery Fund for St Maarten, UNDP’s Quick Impact Projects recognized under the theme “Building Back Better St. Maarten continues to make positive strides.
Through the Cash for Work initiative, UNDP is able to engage in agreements with local contractors, who then hire persons who are unemployed or underemployed to participate in the hurricane debris clean-up.
By the number of bins used, UNDP notes 600 m2 debris was removed from Raoul Illidge Sports Complex by contractor.
This is one of the early recovery projects financed from the Dutch Recovery Fund for St Maarten, under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. €7 million has been made available during the early recovery phase for projects that will have a direct impact on the population of St Maarten.