photo: Freegan Food foundation are battling food insecurity

PHILIPSBURG – Ripples of the first corona wave continue its impact on the quality of life on St. Maarten, while the second wave seems close at hand. One sector that remains in dire need of support is the non-profit and non-governmental organizations.

There are over 200 non-profit organizations on St. Maarten, which are providing constant goods and services in the areas of sports, education, arts, health care and other areas. They depend heavily on the assistance of the private sector and government subsidies. The high dependency on tourism has mostly affected the income of business and government coffers.

Bottlenecks in tax and funding policies
NPOwer, an organization created to formalize a network for NGOs & NPOs released a detailed survey showcasing the needs of these organizations in light of COVID-19. Jose Verschueren-Sommers, project manager of NPOwer recently made a presentation in Parliament highlighting the needs of NGO’s. Among her points were bottlenecks in tax and funding policies, more cohesion among social partners and capacity management.

The Community Outreach and Mentorship Empowerment Center (COME Center) is one organization that has been able to continue some of its operations due to support from the St. Maarten Development Foundation and the Red Cross. While their senior citizen program and literacy classes were halted, they have been able to run their soup kitchen daily, providing breakfast and lunch, six days a week to over 150 families.

NPOwer Sxm conference with stakeholders. Speaking to participants is Jose Sommers, project manager of NPOwer Sxm.

Marva Sam-Arrindell, president of the COME Center, said that the literacy program is partially online. Their biggest challenge is maintaining the demand for assistance. “Our goal is to reach as many people in need” said Sam-Arrindell. The Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK has provided the funds to assist the Red Cross with this project. Other non-profits were also granted funds to provide meals to 3200 people in need.

Less cash donations
“The corona crisis has a positive and negative side for our organization. Negative because many more people need food than we can provide. However, the positive thing is that businesses, supermarkets and wholesalers are more aware that their food waste has value for others”, says Joost de Jong of the Freegan Food Foundation. The organization collects food from which the expiration date is close.

They work with the Red Cross and other aid organizations to distribute food parcels. With their organization they now provide food every other week for 320 households.

“So we do that with the support of the Netherlands. Not from the government of Sint-Maarten. And we receive a contribution from the Cooperating Funds. ” The point now, says De Jong, is that people think the aid organization has a lot of money because of the Dutch aid millions. “That is something I did not foresee, that they say: no, we will not give you anything more, because you already have so much in your bank account. If only that were true, but that is not the case. ”

The Red Cross distributes the Dutch millions among the relief organizations on the island.