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Author: Solange Wilson

UPG attends first ever Caribbean Student Conference at Erasmus University

Rotterdam,The Netherlands- On November 23rd, UPG attended the first Dutch Caribbean Student Congress at Erasmus University. The theme was “Elevate your mind, Elevate your potential”, a day consisting of a variety of workshops powered to give students useful tips, tricks and tools that will help them to successfully complete their degrees. These workshops took place during the morning and the main event, a series of inspiring and captivating speakers and presenters in the afternoon. The day was then ended with an hour of networking.

A few of these speakers were Ms.Jean-Maire Molina, an Expert Eeducator on Study Success at Hogeschool Rotterdam. She drove a powerful presentation on her vision on Mindset, failure and success based on her Tough Love teaching method.The method looks at focusing on success rather than remaining and giving all your energy on failure. She even brought proof of her methods, with her student counterpart and future motivational speaker, Alexius Labega. 

Jandino Asporaat, Comedian and Star of Bon Bini, the movie, made his talk about the students.Taking questions from the audience shed light on his journey to success, Asporaat shared shared his experience of coming from Curacao and dealing with the shame of not speaking the Dutch language perfectly.Then, learning what made him special and how tapping into and cultivating his natural talents coupled with hard work led him to his current success. Ending his talk, with encouraging the students to dream big and work hard.

Aminata Cairo, PhD, Lecturer for Inclusion and Diversity at The Hague University, delivered a presentation on Connected Learning. She first interacted with the audience with singing and dancing that later lead into great storytelling. These were stories  that spoke about the good and hard times in her education, the family stress she endured and those that her student colleagues were enduring that drove the message of “never judge someone’s success because internally they could be struggling”. It was truly a refreshing and memorable experience.  

UPG saw and meet many students from the different Dutch Caribbean islands as well as other stakeholders present. It was a great days if showing support to other organizations, learning from others and being inspired.

Why we chose to stay: Jennifer Hodge

What is your background? 

I did MAVO and then HAVO and in both years I was Valedictorian. I didn’t really take studying seriously, I used to do enough to pass and then I came to Holland and I did Nursing in Hogeschool Zeeland in Vlissingen, however, I did not complete that. I moved here to Rotterdam and now I’m working to become a Pharmacy assistant  

What do you find the biggest reason is that people do not return to St. Maarten?

The biggest reason is opportunity. There is no opportunity unless you know people that can get you a good job. I know there is the feeling of no place to go to develop their career and if they do its again with the vriendjes politiek and if you don’t know the right people, then you are not going to make it. And if that is the case, then why go back when you have something good here.?

I also think the cost of living is something to be considered.  People who make minimum wage, if you want to get brown bread it’s about  Naf. 6 guilders, or yogurt is like also high, so its like to get fresh fruit or veggies it’s very expensive down there in comparison with up here. You can just go to the market and you can get things you need. So, it’s a lot of things up here that make it more attractive to stay. St.Maarten is not giving you a reason to come back. I mean most people eventually move back because they have their family there and you to be with your family. If you have kids you want them to be around their grandparents and I believe that is one of the reasons that would make me want to go back, so that my son can be with my parents. But if we are talking about building a professional career and money, then it’s a No. Its not a prospect that St.Maarten has.

What do you want to focus on while in UPG?

Honestly, for me that has been something that  I have been thinking about. Right now, I am seeing UPG as more of  something that will help St.Maarten more than it helping me. When i’m thinking about “What do I want to do?” I am still not sure. My main goal is to help and be able to provide for my son so that he can do whatever he wants to do.  But how am I going to provide to do that, I am not sure as yet. So I’m hoping that in working in UPG will bring clarity or more ideas as what I can do pursue that.

  So at the moment, you just want to help wherever you can?

Yes, and if I’m getting help in the process then that is a bonus, but for now I just want to help.

How do you think your background will  help you to accomplish the goals that you have  set out for yourself in UPG?

Because my background is nursing and that is in essence helping people, It’s  helping to me help others.This is just an extension of the kind of help I can do, I can do physical help or help in other areas.

What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone where to ask you?

A group of young professionals who are from St.Maarten and are trying to make a difference in St.Maarten by teaching and giving people the tools become either business owners . entrepreneurs themselves.

Why we chose to stay: Carlton Brooks

What is your background?

I have a background in electricity. Sterkstroom Installaties.

 What do you find the biggest reason is that people do not return to Sint Maarten?

Because there is slightly no future promised there and when they come back, mainly what they hear is that they are “overqualified” or “they don’t get paid.for what they are worth”. Therefore, they prefer to stay where they are where they feel more comfortable.  I think they feel more safe where they’re at, they have a safety net.

Do you feel  that way as well?

Yes, I do.

Do you feel that you may have a better and brighter future here than home?

No. I wouldn’t say that but I would say it’s difficult to do what you may want to do at home.

What do you want to focus on while in UPG?

 I would like to focus more on agriculture, creating certain events like sports, cultural events. For example, have booths and cookouts, where  people could set up their own tents and sell their food and stuff get to know their customers. It’s really to get something going and get the people together and talk about stuff. 

What goals have you made for yourself in UPG?

Right now, I am working with Denicio Wyatt with more agriculture and that is why I would like step into that field. I was thinking more along the line of the dump, but that dump situation is kind of out of hand for me to sit down and think up a plan for that. I would rather work on agriculture because no one is really looking and working on that field and I like agriculture also. So I was  “Hey, I like this better”.

How is that going working with Denicio?  

Well, he is willing to work with us, he is very willing to do whatever to make something happen. From talking with him and learning how he’s doing and having more information to help him lout in this situation..

How far have you gotten with in helping him?

Right now he is still going through the process of getting everything stabilized for him. So, right now that is basically what we are talking about. It’s really a back and forth right now with the government.

So right now, you are like a support system for him?

Yes, you could say that.


How do you think your background will  help you to accomplish the goals that you   have  set out for yourself in UPG?

Well seeing that electricity is my background, I have not thought about it like that. I would say one of my ideas were about the dump and having a nice recycling system but I would say more the agricultural side.

Then you would say that is more of your interest rather than your background that is in line with your goals you right now.?

Yes, you could that.

And what more do you want to do with your goals, apart from helping  Kenicio? Do you want to do something else with that or just some kind of support for the local on the ground?

I wouldn’t say some kind of support, I  would say, to pick it up. To bring something some new to the table of UPG. I want to work on agriculture. I don’t have something concrete at the moment, but I am busy brainstorming on that right now, something new.

What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone where to ask you?
I wouldn’t that say that’s a difficult question, I was talking to other members of UPG and I would say right now we are looking for our first gig! Our first way to do something. We want to do make a better St.Maarten, maybe we have layouts and plans  and having our own format of doing so. And I would say that has not happened as yet.

Why do you think that is?

Because no one gave us a chance for us to represent, you know. And that’s what I’ve been telling one of our members. I find that we have to have a product, we do have a plan and layouts, but we have to perform, we have to get something going. Let’s sign a contract and it’s like okay, we can handle this and then is when UPG  gotta represent. I can call and say “We can do this and that” but we have to get in there and I think that’s what we’re doing now. We’re finally making steps and we “knocking, knocking” and get “ no and no “ and now we finally getting some “yeses” to get an assignment on the table that we can perform.

At one point we weren’t getting projects, what if we create our own and then see what happens that way?  That’s also a possibility too! What do you think?

Hmm That’s true. What I was thinking for like having cultural events. For example, like how we approach the government up here, if we approach the gemeente up here with something like that  I think we would be most likely to get funded and sponsored for something cultural and bringing the people together.

Why we chose to stay: Mechelin Hodge

What is your background ?

I was never really was into school like that. I was always focused on learning things myself because it would go faster and it would be cheaper. However, what I did Marketing Communications and also ICT and i’m also learning E-Commerce at the moment, everything to do with internet and marketing.


What do you find the biggest reason is that people do not return to Sint Maarten?

The biggest thing is blocks.For example opportunities for work, when you reach there and you qualified then they tell you that you are overqualified and you cannot find somewhere to live quickly enough that is affordable . And let’s say if you want to buy something to eat, like oranges, it costs way too much money.I truly think it’s toooo expensive to live on St.Maarten, on a minimum wage.

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And when you say blocks, what are you referring to exactly?

Let’s say if you want to get a job somewhere, if you qualify for something and you have something in mind, let’s say politics or the tax office or whatever. If you are not familiar with people that are working there, or they don’t know you or they don’t like you, then you cannot get the job. Vriendjes politiek.  


What do you want to focus on while in UPG?/ What goals have you made for yourself in UPG?

While in UPG? To be honest, focus on how to help St.Maarten out of the rut that they are in because  it looks pretty small what the island is going through but in the end, it could cost them their lives , if we don’t do something.

Is that also inline with your goal? Is your focus your goal? Or do you have 2 different goals?

I have 2 different goals.. My goals are helping my parents survive in St.Maarten and to be able to do that I have to find a way to help St.Maarten people in general to survive.there. My parents don’t want to leave then I have to make sure St.Maarten is going good.

Would you say your focus and your goal are 2 different things?

No. Same goal but two different actions to get to the same goal.

How do you think your background will  help you to accomplish the goals that you have  set out for yourself in UPG?

My background is Communications and with regards to that, I would say that with my empathy, ability to empathize with people and help them with what they want to do to become happy people.

What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone where to ask you?

I would want them to know is that UPG is not here for only the money or something. We basically want to help St.Maarten get to where it can be. Because at the moment we’re just going downwards and I want to go up. Just want the people of St.Maarten to prosper. Because right now they are getting a bit desperate.

Why we chose to stay: Embrice de Weever

What is your background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics and I have a Master’s degree in Economics.  Also, I have been working as a Financial Controller for about 10 years now.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

About 20 years. I came to the Netherlands at 18 and I continued my journey.

What do you find the biggest reason is that people do not return to St.Maarten?

From my perspective, there are not many opportunities on the island. If there are they are limited. In my opinion, you have to know people. Basically, if you want to get a good job, you have to work at a bank or for government.Those are the 2 main places of employment. If you are not really specialized in any one of those 2 or you are specialized in something else, than the chance of you getting a job that you really and truly like in St.Maarten is slim to none.

Also, if you think on arbeidsvoorwaarden (Terms of employment) in comparison to what you receive at home with here in The Netherlands, there is a big difference. Personally, with my career and work experience, there is not much of a chance for me at home. I feel that I would probably have to start over, a whole new career, if I would want to return. To me, that is another big reason why people choose not to return.

Is returning home and starting over with a new career necessarily a bad thing?

I am not starting over. To me, I would have to take a big step back on salary and a big jump back on all those things. No. That is not appealing to me.

What do you want to focus on while in UPG?

My intention is to give big back and help the people back on St.Maarten. To contribute in my own way for example, find my own way of helping the community or students. Basically, trying to pass on everything that I have learned in my 20 years here and give someone a heads start on what to expect, even counselling. Anything that would of been help to others coming to the country. Plainly, help in any way or form.

What are your goals now?

I want to learn why prices keep increasing and if there are any type of regulations that could be set in place to stabilize them. Also, to have normal prices to help everyday people. That is one of my goals. The other goal is see how we can take and adapt the statiegeld* concept on the island. That way people can have some kind of simple solution instead of just giving everyone a beer bottle that they can just fling in the road.

*money that you pay for packaging, usually on a plastic water bottle, and that you get back when you return the package. An example, Spa Mineral Water

How is that going? Can you give an update?

At the moment, I am looking into the Price Market Index. I am currently busy looking at other Caribbean islands and their Price Market Indexes in comparison. That’s where I am at the moment. I will surely keep  you updated with my findings and how I am achieving my goals.

How do you think your background will  help you to accomplish the goals that you have  set out for yourself in UPG?

I work in economics. I work for a trading company and I know a lot about the market and how it works as well with logistics. I do not really understand how things are currently priced on St.Maarten, there is no regulation whatsoever to try and help out with certain things. However, this is common ground for me, it’s not uncharted territory therefore, doing market research comes to mind already on how to get a start to getting my goals going.

 What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone were to ask you?

Its a young and aggressive organization that is trying to make a name for ourselves and we’re doing a lot. We’re not afraid of anything. We want to make a statement  and we have the ability and the knowledge and focus to do that.