An emotional Ernest Roumou looks on as Robert-Jan der Wilde of the Office of the Dutch Representative in Philipsburg, SMDF Managing Director Keith Franca and SMDF Supervisory Board Chairwoman Richelda Emmanuel cut the ribbon to welcome him to his new home (Cameron Hyman photo).
ST. PETERS–After losing his home during catastrophic Hurricane Irma in September last year, wheelchair-bound St. Peters stalwart Ernest “Sugarboy” Roumou (85) has been shuffling from shelter to shelter to get a roof over his head and for a good night’s sleep.
It has not been an easy road for Roumou, who had lived in St. Peters for 40 years in a home constructed of T1-11. Irma completely destroyed his home and left nothing but foundation and rubble where a house once stood. The destruction sent the senior citizen to the shelters at St. Maarten Festival Village, the Little League Stadium and later the Transitional Residential Facility in Sucker Garden.
It was a joyous day for Roumou earlier this week when he was handed the keys to his new concrete, hurricane-resistant home constructed by the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF).
Roumou was one of two elderly residents who received the keys to their homes in the district this week. The other resident is Esther Kivilier (94), whose home was refurbished and fitted with new furnishings
The two handovers were done by SMDF and the Dutch Ministry of Kingdom and Interior Relations BZK. Also present for the handovers were Robert-Jan der Wilde of the Office of the Dutch Representative in Philipsburg, SMDF Managing Director Keith Franca and SMDF Supervisory Board Chairwoman Richelda Emmanuel. At the small handover ceremony, the representatives of both organisations welcomed the two seniors to their new accommodations.
Roumou was visibly emotional receiving his newly constructed concrete home. As the appreciative senior took in the day, he quietly thanked those responsible for his new home. Citing his many years of championing for the St. Peters district, Emmanuel thanked Roumou for his unwavering dedication to calling out for positive change in his community. Similarly, Franca shared that it was a proud moment for the project to hand over a new home to a person who had lived in the same home as long as Roumou did.
Just around the corner from Roumou, Kivilier was settling in nicely to her newly renovated home. One of St. Peters’ oldest residents, she was all smiles as she welcomed her visitors. Kivilier, who was brought to SMDF’s attention by the Department of Community Affairs, had been living in her home for decades and was in need of renovation assistance. Through SMDF’s Elderly Project, she was able to have her house adjusted to her needs.
Senior citizen Esther Kivilier stands in her refurbished home.
Der Wilde welcomed the seniors to their homes on behalf of the Dutch Government. “We hope that your homes will be a place of comfort, where you can feel safe and without worry,” he said.
In his remarks to the small group, Franca reiterated SMDF’s dedication to supporting seniors and thanked the Government of the Netherlands for making the funds available for the project. He also extended thanks to technical supervisor of the Housing component of the Elderly Project Joseph Dollison as well as the two contractors responsible for the projects – Main Road Construction and Roland Arrindell.
Esther Kivilier’s refurbished home.
SMDF has completed works to 40 homes thus far, including seven new concrete homes. In the coming two months it will be executing works to 28 homes, of which six will be new fully-concrete structures.