PHILIPSBURG--K1 Britannia Foundation’s Work, Training and Social Development programme will begin in November with the collaboration of Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten (SJIS), the Court of Guardianship, local companies and charitable organisations.
The six-month programme will provide 16 foster teenagers and five teenagers under probationary measures ages 16-18 with work placements, educational and practical training courses, ‘work-ready’ workshops and volunteer placements with social organisations.
The Foundation believes foster children and teenagers are one of the most fragile and needy groups of youth on the island. With many of them coming from backgrounds of abuse and neglect, foster teenagers need an extra support system. As they leave the foster care system at age 18, there is limited support and they may find themselves unemployed and without the skills necessary to transition properly into independent living.
Another vulnerable group, according to K1, are the teenagers under probationary measures. They are young, out of school for periods of time, and lack a positive support system and opportunities for second chances for career opportunities because of the gaps in their education and criminal records, and as such are particularly at risk of returning to crime.
Court of Guardianship Director Richelda Emmanuel commented, “The first challenge with juvenile delinquents is getting them back into school, because even if it’s mandatory for them to be in the school system, the schools are very reluctant to take them back once they have committed a crime and are in touch with justice.
“We don’t have many choices in St Maarten and most of the time you see that these are children who need hands-on training instead of just theory, they need to receive more practical education. It begins with the need to give them an opportunity to finalise their education even if it’s a training that is specifically towards a hands-on skill.”
Probation and Rehabilitation Officer Marciano Geerd of the Court of Guardianship said, “The crime numbers are not only fought with more policing and more jails. The focus should also be on changing the behaviour and the circumstances of these young offenders. This is to ensure that the young offenders do not become repeat offenders and that they don’t grow into parents with insufficient knowledge to guide themselves with the risk that they will raise kids that show the same behaviour as they did. We need to break the vicious cycle.”
Probation Officer Kharisha Foeken said, “If we want these children to turn their lives around, we all need to be able to look beyond what they did, instead of judging them and giving up on them. What reason would they have to not give up on themselves if we are not willing to invest in them and keep believing in them?”
Through years of experience working with teenagers under protective and probationary measures with the Court of Guardianship, K1 Britannia Foundation has seen the difficulties with finding employment faced by both foster teenagers and teenagers under probationary measures and the gaps that must be filled in to help them make the transition to becoming well-adjusted young adults.
K1 Britannia Foundation has developed this project with the aim to develop these youths’ employability and social responsibility. The programme comprises three important areas: work, educational training and social development, and will run from November 2016 to May 2017.
"I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Without giving these kids (those with a troubled background) an alternative and a chance to have a career and a future, how can we expect a change in the crime rate on the island?” stated La Palapa Marina owner Valeska Luckert.
Winair Chief Financial Officer Roberto Gibbs said, “My motivation to be a part of this programme is encapsulated in my slogan ‘If we do not voluntarily educate our youth and offer them possibilities to work, we will be forced to build prisons.’ I am very passionate about this concept.”
Each participant in a six-month course will be given three part-time placements with three different businesses for a period of two months each. This will give participants the opportunity to gain paid work training experience in various sectors of business and public services in St. Maarten, exposing them to different fields of work.
They will be given work-ready workshops and work with coaches who will guide them through the steps of applying for a job, writing a résumé, work ethics, interview skills, dealing with issues at work, etc.
This will not only give them job experience and credentials, but also help them through the issues that prevent many of them from being able to secure long-term employment. The end goal is that they will know what type of career they would like to pursue and have the skills and resources needed to pursue it.
“We have been supportive of the K1 Foundation and the work they do with the foster teenagers and teenagers under probationary measures for some time. We are very pleased to continue our partnership by offering work placements for this programme,” said Franklin Chang Sing Pang of Orange Grove Pharmacy.
Great Bay Express Charles Smith added, “The reason why I am bringing on a youth is because we hear in our society people telling us that the youth are going nowhere, they are turning to crime, not working, sitting on the block.”
The main educational aspect of the programme will be that all participants will be given the opportunity to take GED tutorials and the GED exam to gain their high-school diplomas. They also will be given a basic Information Technology training course. Each teenager will also take a First Aid Responder course, which is required for certain job placements.
Each participant will complete 10 volunteer hours per two months for a total of 30 hours over the duration of the programme. They will be placed with non-profit organisations that will educate them about the various issues and causes on the island and the importance of giving back.
The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation is very supportive of the WTSD programme from K1 Britannia. The teenagers that will get the opportunity to partake will develop key social and labour skills that will assist them later on in securing jobs and growing into an independent life.
Nada Mathews, one of the sponsors, said, “I would never say ‘no’ to the chance to give someone an opportunity like this … and I am excited to make this life-changing journey with one of the teenagers.”
Temptation Restaurant owner Dino Jagtiani said, “At times I feel that I am disconnected from and unaware of the stark challenges faced by youth every day on the island.”
“The youth are our future. Anytime we get the chance, we should definitely invest in them. These youth need the extra opportunity to make something of themselves,” added Flip Flops owner Vanessa Essed.
“As a community, we all can be part of the solution. I’m always looking for avenues to help the youth. If I can help change a life, which can then change a life and bring a domino effect of change – that’s what I want to do. All it takes is one who can touch others,” said Mercedes Fleming of T’s Closet.
Women's Island Network Vice-President Adelena Scaap, who will be conducting the workshops, is very excited and looks forward to bringing her knowledge and background in Human Resources to these teenagers.
“Something that my grandmother taught me as a young adult was that nothing is more important in this world than our young people. When the opportunity to work with K1 presented itself, I immediately said, ‘Yes, I want to work with those local youth that need an opportunity,’” stated Island 92 Radio Chairman and Managing Director Jeffrey "Dr. Soc" Sochrin.
NAPA Auto, Truck and Marine Parts (SXM) Managing Director Michael Ferrier said in connection with the programme, “Everyone deserves a second chance … especially our young people. But they must want it and be willing to work for it. Then and only then do we at NAPA offer second chance opportunities. Personally, I believe that everybody that has the community at heart has the responsibility to ‘be there’ for our youth.”
For more information to become involved with this course, contact K1 Britannia Foundation at
[email protected] . Its website is