Unleashed Potential Group ready to better St. Maarten

THE HAGUE–They are surely not in it for the money. The Windward Islands pre- and post-graduates united in the Unleashed Potential Group (UPG) want to help back home with the social economic development and to get working experience at the same time. Free of charge.

“We want to contribute in a positive manner,” said UPG member Solange Wilson from Saba who studied international communication at Hanze School of Applied Sciences in Groningen and has a Master’s degree in communication and information sciences.

The UPG initiative was announced earlier this month. The idea came about after a workshop in June, organised by Unified St. Maarten Connection (USC), which works in the interest of students and young professionals from St. Maarten living in the Netherlands.

The facilitator of that workshop, former partner in accounting firm KPMG and turnaround specialist Raimond Nicodem, noted the enthusiasm and willingness of the some 30 participants to contribute to the development of their island. And yet, these students and post-graduates were not returning home.

“I noticed a feeling of individuality among these bright young people, but also a feeling of being trapped and underappreciated,” said Nicodem, referring to the common sentiment among St. Maarten students and young professionals who have completed their studies in the Netherlands. They want to go back, but they feel there is nothing there for them.

“Nobody has looked into the real issue why students don’t return. No student ever leaves St. Maarten with the intention never to return. We want to contribute to creating incentives which can facilitate their return, which can be of assistance to the islands, which can help these youngsters to feel appreciated,” said Nicodem.

The issue of brain drain is an important factor. “We want to help solve the brain drain which hampers the island’s development,” said Nicodem. “Our main interest is a better island, create an environment where students want to return.”

Brent Alie, who has completed his mechanical engineering studies and now studies electrical and electronic engineering at Hanze School of Applied Sciences in Groningen, is one of members of the UPG team. “The prospect of change is already a motivation. There is a lot of potential, and it is important that someone voices this,” said Alie.

Turning the negative image is one of the motivations. “We St. Maarteners living in the Netherlands are willing to work together. We all have sentimental value. We want to see our island progress. We want to be proud,” said Alie.

UPG is a multidisciplinary team where each member has his/her specialty. “In my case, my work as engineer requires a lot of planning, anticipation. We can see roadblocks and work very detailed,” said Alie, also referring to UPG member Ryan Fleming, who studies civil engineering in Rotterdam and will soon start Master’s degree studies at Technical University Delft. “We cover each other’s weak points,” said Fleming.

There are double benefits, said Solange Wilson and communication specialist Mel Lake, who has a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and has also studied international communication management. “We get to use the skills that we learn and apply them. We will be helping each other as a team and give back to our islands together,” said Wilson.

“We are learning from each other. We improve our skills as a team. We learn to do research,” said Lake.

“We will use St. Maarten projects to train our people, to give back,” said Alie.

“We have the brain power, the energy and the enthusiasm. Our people have the network; they know the island,” added Nicodem.    

UPG wants to work free of charge on projects with a social, economic and environmental dimension, projects that benefit the local community. “We took out the money aspect, an often restricting element in the realisation of projects. By removing the barrier of money, we want to take all excuses away,” said Nicodem.

UPG wants to acquire ideas, initiatives and projects. “Many projects are gathering dust. As a multidisciplinary team, we would put those on the table and get our people to work on them,” said Nicodem, who has never visited St. Maarten, but still feels very involved. He did help to set up the Programme Bureau for St. Maarten in August 2015, via KPMG.

The team’s mottos are simple: a positive attitude, transparency, teamwork and respect, with “no egos.”

“We are going for results. We don’t intend to only deliver paper. There is already enough of that. We want to work with people from the island, companies, Government and organisations. We are a company without a payroll or closing hours,” said Nicodem.    

UPG currently consists of 11 persons, but is expected to grow over time. Others who are part of the UPG team include: Albert Brooks, Leslie Rogers, Shaquille Peters, Andy Samuel, Irma Bos and Micheline Brookson.

More on the UPG group, the members, their aims and ideas can be found on the website

www.upg.one .

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/61229-unleashed-potential-group-ready-to-better-st-maarten