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Storytelling/reading project kicks off at Medical Center

page8b073CAY HILL--Beyond Writing Foundation (BWF) kicked off its "Beyond Storytelling/Reading" project at the paediatric ward of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) on Tuesday afternoon.

It is the aim of the pilot project, which will run until October 31, to enhance the reading and listening skills of children who are admitted to hospital, as well as to children at the community centres in St. Peters and Dutch Quarter.

The project is geared towards enhancing the reading and listening skills of children. Besides providing children with some quality time and recreation the project also serves an educational goal as the art of storytelling is an integral part of Caribbean culture, BWF President Loekie Morales explained.

"Reading on a regular basis will enhance good understanding which is fundamental in the development of every child. Story telling enhances not only the listening skills, but also the imagination of children and the understanding of other situations and cultures," she explained.

Morales said the project started with information sessions for staff at SMMC and community centres, as well as a session for aspiring story tellers and readers.

Ten of these readers, many of them (former) teachers, were selected to participate in the programme and were officially presented during Tuesday's kick-off event.

Most of them are already well-versed in story telling or reading at schools and organizations.

The volunteers will be visiting SMMC's paediatric ward twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"At first I thought this was (just another) project, but seeing this group here and some familiar faces; these are people who are going to read from the heart. This is much more than 'a project.' Management and staff of SMMC are very grateful for this and we thank you for this initiative," said SMMC Manager Patient Care Antonio Pantophlet.

BWF has purchased two boxes of books. One of these will be used for reading by the story tellers. The other box is for young patients who can borrow books to read independently. Morales handed over the sets of books to Head of the Paediatric Ward Gwendolyn Arndell.

The story tellers and readers will be visiting Dutch Quarter and St. Peters Community Centres once a month on a Saturday. The Community Centres will recruit children ages 5 to 13 in these two districts for the story telling events.

This pilot project has been made possible by contributions from Cooperating Funds ("Samenwerkende Fondsen") and the Representative of the Netherlands in Philipsburg VNP. "They saw the need and value of this type of project for the community," said Morales.

Diamonds International trains 12 in basics for sales associate

PHILIPSBURG--Diamonds International has provided training for twelve aspiring jewellery sales associates in a recently concluded course.

The participants wrote an examination Monday covering the basics of sales, appraisal receipts and certificates as well as company policy. Applicants with the highest marks from the exams will be offered a job with the company as an entry level sales associate and receive further training in other aspects of the jewellery business.

The dozen trainees were selected from applicants who answered an advertisement in the newspapers calling for people willing to train in the business. The group emerged after a pre-screening by Diamonds International, the country's largest jewellery company.

The trainees, ages 21 to 30, are all Dutch nationals. Some have worked in the retail industry previously selling electronics, but not jewellery. The five full days of training and lunch were provided by Diamonds International free of cost.

This is the first time Diamonds International has conducted such a training, said Training Coordinator Enriquito Martes. "We started off with basics of writing receipts, giving correct appraisal and certificates as these are the most important aspects in the jewellery business. A client gets an incorrect appraisal and they can face so many issues with their insurance when they head back from St. Maarten." The training aimed to minimize such occurrences.

Diamonds International teamed up with the Labour Department and Little Switzerland some years ago to offer a similar course. From that course, the company had hired four trainees. Today, three of these are sales associates and are still with the company, according to Human Resources Manager Nicole Trim Williams.

TelEm: 4th concession will change landscape

PHILIPSBURG--In response to the news of a fourth concession for a mobile service provider having been granted recently, TelEm Group Chief Commercial Officer Brian Mingo expressed disappointment in an invited comment, saying the development "will certainly change the landscape."

"This is an eye-opener. Next to how this can happen and the political flip-flops, the market will now have the presence of a fourth mobile player, which will certainly change the landscape."

He said that although competition was healthy in that it caused commercial tension resulting in consumer satisfaction, better prices and services, "introducing yet a fourth player on a small market has its economic concerns.

"Companies will go into survival mode and will do wild things such as crazy price wars, false advertising and other fanatical commitments. The last time we had three mobile companies, the weak one went bankrupt, with the financial and employment fiasco as a result."

In reference to rapidly growing demand, he said, "Just remember that today the average smart-phone user on St. Maarten consumes over 500Mb per month, compared with a much smaller appetite of 10MB of BB messages from a few years back.

"TelEm has survived and will for many more years. Today we still have the largest market-share and will certainly make adjustments and align our alliances and plans to deploy new technologies and capacities for the growing demands.

"The investments will never stop, and at TelCell we have already committed to match our European counterparts in technology. In Europe speeds of over 10Mbps are normal, so loading pictures, songs, movies, or other media will not be a waiting experience anymore. We will be the stronger and better one. This is what we have planned and this is what we will serve: more."

The fourth concession was granted to Elwaldo Arrindell, who had been granted a licence in August 2012. He could not be reached for comment, but had said last year that he hoped to launch a new company.

Although there is no moratorium on mobile service providers, the industry is costly and highly competitive. Arrindell had stated previously that he believed having more competition on the market would benefit consumers.

De Weever: New budget cuts nearly impossible

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Cornelius de Weever says budgetary amendments from his ministry are near impossible, as the ministry has reached a bare minimum and any additional cuts would not enable the ministry to execute the legislative tasks with which it is tasked.

He was attempting to explain why his ministry had not been able to comply with the budget demands as stated by the Committee for Financial Supervision.

"In order to pass the 2014 Budget, the private sector now pays its own fair share of health care premiums which provides medical insurance to their clients and family members for such a low price," De Weever said in a press release Tuesday.

De Weever made a request to amend the budget as it relates to the health care expenses of civil servants; to transfer these costs from the budget of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA to the budget of General Affairs or allocate them to the personnel budget of each respective Ministry by means of an allocation key.

He said the budget of VSA in particular was pegged to a year plan, including key performance indicators, and to an end-of-year report that accounts for every penny spent.

"I believe all other ministries that function without a year plan should reform and provide more accountability. In addition, the Ministry is finalising a National Strategic Plan 2014-2017 with a multiannual operational plan and budget, which will limit the absorption of any sudden or unexpected reductions and ensure continuity within the ministry," he said.

"I would like to point out that the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour submitted a budget close to the financial parameters as outlined by the Ministry of Finance for the preparation of the 2015 budget.

"Any additional budget cuts placed on my Ministry while other ministries expand their costs does not reflect the importance of introducing cost-cutting and efficiency-enhancing measures to meet the capped country budget."

He said he "cannot emphasise enough that with no signs of a robust economic recovery in sight, the need for a sufficiently-funded social safety net and supporting social programmes remain imperative and any further decrease in the budget can be considered detrimental."

Curaçao no longer arrests bolita mules

THE HAGUE--Justice authorities in Curaçao have stopped arresting drug mules who have swallowed so-called 'bolitas' due to the bad hygienic situation at the police station in Willemstad. Dutch Parliamentarian Ard van der Steur called the measure "unacceptable."

According to reports, suspected bolita swallowers are no longer arrested at Hato airport and are allowed to fly to Amsterdam or to Düsseldorf in Germany. Curaçao authorities do provide the names of these suspects to their Dutch and German colleagues so they can be arrested upon arrival.

The decision to no longer arrest drug mules comes after the Curaçao Health Department GGD forbid the holding of drug mules with bolitas at the main police station where they were held until they had excreted the drugs. The neglected situation at the police station has been a cause for concern for a while.

During an international investigation of the detention circumstances earlier this year it became clear that the sewage system isn't properly functioning. This is causing an enormous stench. Also, there is barely any day light and ventilation in the cell complex.

A part of the property next to the police station is being used as a waste disposal site where old airconditioners and fridges are dumped. Regular suspects are no longer being held at the police station.

Shortly after this news was published, the Dutch media reported that Curaçao is planning the construction of a temporary cell complex for bolita swallowers this month. The Netherlands will provide a special toilet for these mules, a spokesperson of the Dutch Ministry of Safety and Justice confirmed.

The spokesperson emphasized that Curaçao was and remained responsible for the combating of the drug trade on the island. The spokesperson couldn't confirm that bolita swallowers are indeed allowed to travel to the Netherlands. Justice authorities in Curaçao are still arresting departing passengers who try to smuggle drugs to Europe in their suitcase and underneath their clothing.

Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Van der Steur of the Dutch liberal democratic VVD party fears that the decision to no longer arrest mules with bolitas will result in an increase in traffic to the Netherlands.

According to Van der Steur, the increased number of bolita swallowers reaching the Netherlands will place added pressure on the Dutch justice system. He called it "unacceptable" that Curaçao is unable to maintain the law and submitted written questions to Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten on Tuesday.

Van der Steur asked the minister to interfere. "What can you do to reverse this decision," he asked. He also wanted to know what measures the minister would be taking to effectively combat a possible increase in the number of bolita swallowers entering the Netherlands. He further asked for figures of the number of drug mules from Curaçao being arrested in the Netherlands.

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