State Secretary Van Ark and Wilson launch pilot project | THE DAILY HERALD

State Secretary Tamara van Ark and Commissioner Rolando Wilson visited Sacred Heart School on Wednesday morning.

State Secretary Tamara van Ark and Commissioner Rolando Wilson on a visit to Whitcliff and Mary Rawlings

SABA–State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark and Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson on Wednesday launched the pilot project to increase cooperation between the public entity Saba and the Social Affairs and Labour SZW unit of the National Government Department RCN.

The agreement entails that the SZW unit will work at Saba’s Community Development Department for a few days per week, providing a one-stop-shop window for residents who need social assistance. Residents will then no longer have to go to separate offices for assistance.

Van Ark and Wilson unveiled a poster to confirm the front office cooperation.

In her short address, Van Ark spoke of strengthened cooperation. “Today, we are symbolically confirming the cooperation between SZW and the public entity Saba.” She said it was good to combine forces because the social assistance and poverty-related issues are almost always multi-faceted.

Prior to the unveiling, Wilson informed Van Ark and her delegation about the start-up of the Community Development Department, which is housed in the former day-care building.

“The opening of this department was a dream come true,” said Wilson. “I am grateful and happy to see that SZW will be in this building, so our senior citizens can come here. It is better accessible and they have more privacy.”

House visits

Van Ark, who had stated on earlier occasions that she is committed to help eradicate poverty, visited the home of an elderly couple, Whitcliff and his wife Mary Rawlings at the Under the Hill social housing project. She also went to the home of German Nicholson.

Rawlings explained that his income barely covered the rent, the cost of utilities and food. “The house rent is too high for us. The cost of living is very high in Saba,” he said.

Wilson said the rent prices should go down once the rent subsidy goes into effect, possibly per January 1, 2020. “Assistance is needed, because things are very tight for many people, especially for the elderly and single mothers,” he said.

Nicholson, who has her handicapped son living with her, said she needed “help all around.” She and her son go to the Life Plus senior citizens programme.

Cost of living

Van Ark told the two families she visited that together with other ministries, she was working on ways to bring the cost of living down. On the income side, the SZW Ministry has raised the social allowances, the elderly pension AOV and the minimum wage per January 1, 2019.

At both house visits, Van Ark asked many questions about their daily lives and the challenges they are facing.

Wilson said it was good to see Van Ark’s involvement. “She obviously cares and she is willing to listen.”

Van Ark also visited the construction site of the phase 2 Under the Hill housing project, where 18 apartments are being built. Govert van Noort of construction company Van Boekel gave an explanation of the project which should be ready early 2021.

Sacred Heart School

Van Ark started her working visit on Wednesday morning at Sacred Heart Primary School, where she joined a group of pupils and teacher Jarmila Wilson-Berkel to hear about the benefits of the Opportunities for All Children (Kansen voor Alle Kinderen) programme.

Through this programme, children receive a healthy breakfast at school, and those pupils who need it are supplied with a laptop for their schoolwork, a school uniform, shoes, clothing, and a package with food for the summer vacation.

Pupils of different classes were present in the classroom to share their stories with Van Ark, who was clearly very interested. She was very attentive to the pupils’ stories and the explanation by teacher Jarmila, and asked several questions. Van Ark said the information was very helpful in the discussions about programmes such as Kansen voor Alle Kinderen and the BES(t)4Kids, which focuses on strengthening the local day-care and afterschool-care facilities.

School breakfast

Teacher Jarmila said the school breakfast helps the children to be more alert and more focused in class, and enhances their participation. And, to make sure that no child feels left out, the school, through the Kansen voor Alle Kinderen programme, helps to provide clothing, a school uniform and shoes for those who need it.

Just before leaving for St. Eustatius early Wednesday afternoon, Van Ark said that during her visit to Saba in January this year, the people had made a “big impression” on her.

“People struggle with the high cost of living. I thank them for sharing their stories with me,” she said.

She said she had had a good meeting with the Executive Council about work permits, and acknowledged the troublesome procedure to get a work permit for a person from the outside.

“We have made an agreement to work things out and to meet again on this issue in two months,” she said.

Source: The Daily Herald