Charity highlights need for relief for St Maarten


On 6 September, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history hit the north Caribbean, devastating everything in its path. Hurricane Irma damaged more than 90% of the buildings and homes on St Maarten and her surrounding islands, leaving many homeless and unemployed.

The K1 Britannia Foundation, a sister charity to K1 Britannia Trust (UK) and K1 Britannia America Foundation, has been operating in St Maarten since 2014. It has focused on a variety of maritime and other charitable projects, with a major focus on the social issues faced by troubled young people on the island and the surrounding areas, as well as volunteer initiatives.

A few hours after the hurricane passed over the island, volunteers were some of the first to act, working to clear rubble and debris, assessing shelters, comforting those affected, and distributing donated food and water from business people who pulled together to give what they had left.

Apart from taking on the responsibility of keeping 700 individuals housed in vulnerable institutions (including 90 foster children placed in individual homes) supplied with regular food and water, K1 Britannia Foundation was asked to be responsible for the government’s mass distributions of aid being delivered to the port.

Together with the Dutch Marines, the charity were able to distribute food and water to more than 1,000 people every day – most of whom had had no access to food or water for days.

With Hurricane Jose having safely passed the island and Hurricane Maria hot on its heels, the government asked K1 Britannia Foundation to manage four of the eight emergency shelters set up for people who did not have a safe place to weather the storm.

St Maarten is doing its best to get back to normality. With the devastation on the island, there is a long road ahead to recovery and volunteers are still active, helping to rebuild the communities around the island and keep vulnerable people fed.

In collaboration with Rapid Response Team Foundation in Switzerland, we are transitioning from emergency care to long-term solutions in order to stabilise and rebuild. There is a vision to help the island and work together with the local marine industry to get St Maarten back on its feet and bring back tourism to the island.

K1 Britannia Foundation appeals to the greater yachting community to join with us in helping St Maarten get back on its feet. Our appeal is two-fold. First, St Maarten needs the yachts to come back for this season. The marine industry plays a huge role in the infrastructure and success of the economy.

Valeska Luckert, owner and director of Palapa Marina St Maarten, and secretary of the Marine Trades Association St Maarten, said: “The yachting industry has endured a lot of damage during Hurricane Irma and are doing their best to get themselves up and running for this upcoming season. Already materials are being flown in, in order to get the docks back up and running and ready to receive yachts. The marinas are working together to repair the docks and clear all debris that may be underwater for clear passage. Various marinas have already announced that they would be open and functional from 1 November.

”The agents and a lot of the service sections of the yachting industry are prepping and gearing up and want to remain on the island to be open for this season. Places like FKG, Budget Marine and Island Water World, among others, are already operational. The Marine Trades Association members are working hard to clean and rebuild as quickly as possible to be up and running for this upcoming yachting season. The island will not be back in full service as that will take some time. But we are confident that we will soon have a even stronger St Maarten. St Barts also announced that they will be open for this season so we are hoping that the yachting industry, who has always given their support to us, will continue to do so by visiting our lovely island during this difficult period of recovery. We need the boats to return in order for us to recover.”

Second, the charity needs your support in terms of finance and aid to help it and the island during the recovery process. The yachting industry has enjoyed and benefitted from St Maarten for so many years, and now is when the charity and island need your support and care to help it bounce back.