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Aid after hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten

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Sint Maarten was badly hit by hurricane Irma in September 2017. The damage was enormous: 92 percent of the buildings were damaged or destroyed, including many schools and daycare centres. After the first emergency aid, reconstruction has started. UNICEF Netherlands has provided support to children in close cooperation with the government of Sint Maarten and local organizations. 

Sport is an effective way to process bad experiences. In addition to exercise, children and young people learn life skills from UNICEF and the KNVB.

Stronger through collaboration

Psychosocial support is important to help children process their experiences.

In 2018, 150 teachers and other professionals in the education sector were trained to provide psychosocial support using the “Return to Happiness”-method. 120 sturdy kits with materials such as hand puppets, musical instruments and other creative materials, were supplied.

650 teenagers received training by The Dutch football association (KNVB) World Coaches programme, together with the St. Maarten Soccer Association and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and the National Sport Institute. Life skills such as dealing with loss and other emotions, social skills, respecting others and public spaces, dealing with alcohol and standing up for yourself were taught through football.  

Football fun

The main purpose of the World Coaches program is to have fun. Desreena (15) “The coaches are always happy, that makes playing football even more fun. They teach us football techniques, and that you should not scold if you disagree with each other.” . ”

Also Gabrielle (12) can be found on the football field as often as possible: “I really love football, I train twice a week and my techniques are getting better. For example, after the warming-up we practice attacking and defending, and the coaches teach us tricks with the ball. They teach us other things too; like discipline. And to talk in a friendly way to each other when you disagree instead of arguing, but I actually never get angry. We have a lot of fun together, we laugh a lot and make jokes. ” 

Hurricane resistant schools and disaster preparedness

Schools needed to be better prepared for disasters like hurricanes. Together with the Ministry of Education, schools created a "roadmap" to better prepare the education sector for disasters and their aftermath. Guidelines for school safety and emergency plans have been drawn up and all schools participated in a workshop on this. Subsequently, all schools drew up their school safety plans with the help of an expert. At the same time, the Ministry of Education has arranged for all schools to put together a “Safety and Emergency Team”. UNICEF Netherlands provided materials. 

The Too Cool To Loot logo. The campaign was visible throughout the year at events, at school, in media and on social media.

Public campaigns

After Hurricane Irma, schools and shops were looted. This made had an even bigger impact on many children and parents than the hurricane itself. In response, the “Too Cool to Loot” campaign was set up. For two years, children participated in workshops, debates and they were educated on the subject at school.

As part of the hurricane preparedness campaign, UNICEF has developed a number of tools especially for children, such as the “Ready-kid Go-bag game”. Children choose cards to identify which 10 items should be ready in the flight bag. Families and children were also given tips for hurricane preparation via the newspaper, radio, social media and brochures.

Child protection

During Hurricane Irma, hundreds of children were evacuated to neighbouring islands or relatives in the United States or the Netherlands. This did not always happen flawlessly. A protocol has been drawn up to keep track of all children in the future and to ensure that they receive shelter, healthcare, safety, supportive environments and education during their evacuation. UNICEF has facilitated the drafting of the protocols for the 6 islands of the kingdom.

Two issues of the Growing Up Safe Sint Maarten Magazine have already been published in collaboration with the Augeo Foundation. The magazine contains interviews with child protection professionals on Sint Maarten and technical information on how to prevent violence against children and better support children affected by various forms of violence.