SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “It is important to involve your kids during hurricane season,” is the main message that UNICEF Netherlands (NL) has been sharing on Sint Maarten during this hurricane season. The children’s rights organisation has been conducting an awareness campaign with the support of the Netherlands Red Cross since May 1st.
The campaign so far has included presentations by UNICEF NL at various government-hosted community evenings, the hurricane expo, a video-workshop and competition, dissemination of hurricane preparedness information brochures, as well as wider media outreach.
“Parents often think that kids can’t or shouldn’t be involved with hurricane preparations, however it’s actually very important as it helps kids be prepared and feel safer,” says Suzette Moses-Burton, UNICEF’s community mobiliser.
“Involving your kids can be as simple as talking to them about hurricane season, taking them shopping for hurricane supplies, helping prepare the house, such as taking the plants inside in case of a storm, and discussing the plan of action in case of emergency,” she adds.
In addition, over the last year, UNICEF Netherlands has worked closely with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (MECYS) to take much-needed steps towards improving the safety of children in case of emergencies with an emphasis on hurricane season preparedness.
School Safety Plans
23 primary and secondary schools on Sint Maarten have completed their School Safety Plans ahead of the 2019 hurricane season. UNICEF Netherlands provided technical support and guidance to the schools in close cooperation with The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (MECYS) and Student Support Services Division (SSSD). The School Safety Plans identify potential emergencies that could happen in the school and outline preparedness and response actions to be taken within the school.
In connection to these plans, each school assigned a Safety and Emergency Team (SET). The team members support the implementation of the School Safety Plans and mobilise the students and staff in case of an emergency, as well as help get the school back on track in the aftermath of an emergency.
Return To Happiness
Recently UNICEF, in collaboration with SSSD facilitated a Return To Happiness (RTH) refresher course. The refresher was a follow-up to the extensive RTH trainings held last year involving hundreds of participants from various schools and organizations that work closely with children.
RTH is a method for psychosocial support to children aged 4 to 12 years. The method utilises multiple creative tools such as drawing, singing, puppetry and more, to provide children the opportunity to share their stories in order to express their thoughts and feelings. . In addition to the trainings, each school received a ‘RTH kit’, which contains all the needed supplies to properly implement RTH.
Too COOL To Loot
The anti-looting awareness campaign called ‘Too COOL To Loot’ (TCTL) has continued its efforts to address the issue of looting in a positive way within the community, especially in regards to youngsters. Some of the actions that have been ongoing are school-visits, an art-competition, debate and presentations.
Leading up to hurricane season the TCTL team collaborated with The Waste Factory to add an anti-littering message to the campaign through creative workshops geared towards adolescents. In the coming weeks a mural will be created inspired by designs that the students of various high schools created during the workshops.
Other ongoing activities include community-based child protection mapping activities, strengthening the child protection system as well as an extensive situation analysis regarding the rights of children on Sint Maarten.
“We would like to congratulate the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport for their excellent achievements. We are proud to work together with the St. Maarten Government to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and see concrete results of our collaboration,” says Marieke Roelfsema of UNICEF Netherlands.
The UNICEF Netherlands and Sint Maarten team-members would also like to wish all students, educators and parents, a fruitful and safe school year. To follow UNICEF Netherlands activities on Sint Maarten: Facebook/unicefsxm
A video workshop and competition was hosted focusing on involving kids with hurricane preparations.