PHILIPSBURG – With job losses, redundancies and reduced income, the covid-19 pandemic could severely dampen the Christmas spirit for many vulnerable children, adults and the elderly in St Maarten.
Video by Tim van Dijk
To help ease the numerous financial pressures some will be feeling this Christmas, The K1 Britannia Foundation is spreading winter warmth and seasonal smiles through their Christmas Angels program. Vulnerable children, adults, the elderly and households affected by the covid-19 pandemic are being given Christmas gifts from the St Maarten Community through the program.
For the last 7 years K1 Britannia has organised the festive swap where gifts are given in exchange for hand-made angels. Children in foster care,vulnerable families affected by Coronavirus, and residents in care homes and the Mental Health Foundation will all be receiving gifts.
Chiara Bowers, the coordinator of the program noted that normally almost 400 gifts are distributed. This year, the organisation is assisting around 700 households who have been impacted by covid. As a result it is hoped that over 1,600 children will receive gifts this year.
Covid-19 has made some children even more vulnerable. The Court of Guardianship reports that some parents have not been able to make child support payments as a direct result of unemployment caused by the pandemic. As a result, many households have dramatically less income to spend on their usual Christmas festivities.
For families such as these, the Christmas Angels program offers a festive beacon of hope according to Coach Tom Burnett of The Player Development Programme in Pond Island. Many of the children who attend the baseball coaching and after-school programme will be receiving gifts from the community this year.
“A lot of the kids are stressed. Even the day of making the angels was something special, something different and a little bit of hope.”
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs encouraged St Maarteners to participate in the Christmas Angels campaign during her parliamentary address expressing that, ‘the angels bring much joy to the less fortunate during the Christmas season.’