Signing of the agreement. From left: SESSAD Director Fernand Semedo, Coralita Association President Rose Nicolas, APF Director-General Prosper Teboul and APF Director Arnaud Goasguen. (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT–The Coralita Association received morale-boosting support from Association des Paralysés de France (APF), the national association of handicapped persons, when a partnership agreement was signed Thursday afternoon between the two entities.
The signing will see APF assist the association in its bid to manage a new facility catering to those with a handicap, one of the Collectivité’s future projects.
Coralita Association was created by the Soroptimists Club of St. Martin and manages the special needs school for the handicapped, Service d’Education Spécialisée et de Soins a Domicile (SESSAD), the main specialized structure that caters to children and adolescents with disabilities and learning difficulties in St. Martin and St. Barths.
The convention was signed by Coralita Association President Rose Nicolas and Director General of APF Prosper Teboul, and witnessed by his associates APF Director Arnaud Goasguen and Development Director Olivier Dupille.
Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher, Députée Claire Guion-Firmin, SESSAD Director Fernand Semedo and the board of the Soroptimists Club were all present for the occasion.
Rose Nicolas explained that the Collectivité’s new handicap and medical facility will be a fully-integrated one catering to all age groups, – but each age group under an individual management structure –, for example, zero to six years, from six to 20 years, which is the case of SESSAD, 20 years and up, another for children who are severely handicapped, and one for adults who are severely handicapped.
“Our association wants to be part of this new facility, to manage it, since we have the experience but not the resources to make a feasible bid,” she said. “But APF is a huge organization in France, existing since 1933, which has the technical know-how and experience, 15,000 employees, 12 regional offices and over 450 facilities in France.
“We contacted them and others to seek help to manage this structure that we have to bid for. It is not certain that we will win the bid, because we are going up against other handicap organisations, but having APF with us to submit a good project we stand a much better chance. Also, we do have the experience of the past 12 years, knowing the local economy and looking after handicapped children in St. Martin.”
Nicolas added that having APF on board was the best news the association had received in a long time. “They are the big brother we were looking for,” she quipped.
Contact was initially made with APF when SESSAD Director Fernand Semedo met Arnaud Goasguen on a training course in France. Despite being discussed for several years already, it was not clear when or where a ground-breaking for the new facility would begin and if the Collectivité had the financing for it.
Semedo disclosed some 500 applications were made to the Collectivité in 2018 for handicap assistance – for 200 children and 300 adults. He noted currently there are 158 handicapped children in the schools.
SESSAD in Marigot accommodates some 47 children with various handicaps, looked after by specialized teachers. Another 60 are on a waiting list. Seven handicapped children are in St. Barths and they are visited every week by a psychologist and specialized teacher.
Nicolas lamented the slow evolvement or development of facilities for the handicapped, which she puts down to lack of financing. Despite efforts to bring awareness at events such as Handicapped Week, little has changed in Marigot as far as accessibility for the handicapped is concerned. The main Post Office, for example, still cannot be accessed by wheelchair.
She is thankful, however, at what is being achieved at SESSAD. “You do get satisfaction when you see the children are happy and making progress, and the parents are happy.”