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Progress report Global Grant project Sint Maarten March 2022

Progress report Exceptional School project Sint Maarten – Global Grant 18 68450
Sister Marie Laurence Primary School

update 31st March 2022

Authors: Tanja Frederiks-Vliegen, John Caputo, Gert-Jan van Dommelen

There are finally some positive movements with regards to the reconstruction of the Sister Marie Laurence Primary School. There has been more action in the past 6 weeks than in the past 4 years! This whole process has taken much longer than anyone could have anticipated due to certain circumstances, including Covid-19 and the procedures of the World Bank. However, we are happy to report that the wheel has finally started to turn.

Some noteworthy highlights:


In February 2022, the NRPB together with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports hosted an information session for the students, teachers and parents to inform them of the new school that will be built. This forms part of their stakeholder engagement plan. The students were delighted to see what their new school will look like, and that they were very excited that they will have access to many amazing facilities and equipment.

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Earlier this month, as part of the Environmental and Social Management Framework, the NRPB together with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports hosted an information session for the community of Middle Region. SKOS (the Foundation for the school) was invited to take part in this meeting and to share some information regarding the project. During this session the attendees were able to voice their opinions and their concerns. The NRPB explained some important aspects of the demolition and the reconstruction of the school, for example concerning the safety of the project site and the surrounding area, the access to/around the project site, the requirements and policies of the World Bank etc.


Last month the NRPB was in official contact with Lyongo Juliana (the architect) concerning the cost recalculations and making minor adjustments to the drawings. The project has the full attention of the NRPB and within the procurement possibilities they are trying to speed up the process as fast as possible.


Please view the information on the "Fostering Resilient Learning Project" (FRLP) of which the Sister Marie Laurence Primary School is part of - https://nrpbsxm.org/frlp - It is expected that the FRLP will be finalized in 2025 (this includes the other primary school and the library for which there is a delay in the architectural process). Please view this press release article of last month: https://nrpbsxm.org/steady-progress-being-made-to-implement-school-library-reconstruction-project/


Over the past years there have been several visits of delegations of the World Bank to the site of the demolished Sister Marie Laurence building, the latest one being just last week. Included in this last delegation were various professionals including those in the field of engineering, architecture, and education specialists. The latest projected date for signing the Grant Agreement is July 2022. Hopefully the demolition can start at the end of this year, which would allow for construction to commence in 2023.


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Tanja Frederiks-Vliegen, Project Manager, Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten

A.J.C. Brouwers Road 6, Philipsburg, St. Maarten

John Caputo, Past President Rotary Club Sint Maarten, Coordinator Hosing Sponsor Club

Gert-Jan van Dommelen, Past President Rotary Club Huizen Gooimeer

Coordinator on behalf of the International Sponsor Rotary Clubs participating in the Global Grant.

Appendix I: Global Grant information

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Automatisch gegenereerde beschrijvingOn 6 September 2017 Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten with immense force.
The Sister Marie Laurence Primary School suffered extensive damage due the
passing of Hurricane Irma, and consequently was entirely looted and
completely vandalized, leaving behind literally just the shell of the school.

Twelve International Rotary Clubs decided to support the “Exceptional School”

project for the Sister Marie Laurence Primary school with funds and vocational

support. The related Global Grant 18.68450 has been approved by The Rotary

Foundation in October 2018. The Project description can be found at pages 6-7.

The Global Grant has three parts:


Outside Community Space of the school: basketball court, playground and garden community space


New school designed to facilitate inclusive education and multi-functional purposes like community building and hurricane shelter. The Rotary Global Grant supports refurbishment and equipment for the new school.


Training and education program to enable inclusive education.

Project progress has been slow, due to delays of the agreements between the governments of The Netherlands, Sint Maarten and the World Bank, new elections, lack of resources and the Covid-19 pandaemia. Despite the delay there are now positive developments:


The establishment of the Outside Community Space of the school has been completed. Kick-off of the construction was on 6th March 2020, the Basketball court has been realized in August 2020, maintained by the School board and in use by the youth of the community of Middle Region. Currently the playground and Garden Community Space have now been finished and the reopening has been planned for 2nd Quarter 2022.


On June 5th, 2020, the government of Sint Maarten approved 30 million USD for a project called “Fostering Resilient Learning”, which includes the rebuilding of the Sister Marie Laurence Primary School, one other elementary school and the library. The preparations for the process of rebuilding the school have started and the tendering process is about to start.


The first training to 13 teachers and staff members of the School has been completed in October 2019.

The twelve Participating Rotary Clubs are:


Hosting Sponsor Club Sint Maarten (District 7020)


Coordinating International Sponsor Club Huizen Gooimeer (NL, District 1570)


International Sponsor Club Eindhoven Zuid (NL, District 1550)


International Sponsor Club Wuppertal (Germany, District 1810)


International Sponsor Club Arendonk (Belgium, District 1630-10)


International Sponsor Club Bodegraven (NL, District 1570)


International Sponsor Club Wall Street (New York USA, District 7230)


International Sponsor Club Singer Island (Florida USA, District 6930)


International Sponsor Club St. Catharines (Canada, District 7090)


International Sponsor Club St. Catharines-Lakeshore (Canada, District 7090)


International Sponsor Club Niagara Falls (Canada, District 7090)


International Sponsor Club Waterdown (Canada, District 7090).

Appendix II: The Exceptional School project

This project is to restore inclusive education on Sint Maarten and it is also a great opportunity for the community of Middle Region and for the children to get a new perspective for social and economic development. It is about hope, energy and collaboration to make a better future. While safeguarding transparency, fairness and sustainability in all aspects, this is about passion for the people that need this.

We have designed a school that will be future proof taking into mind several key thoughts and aspects.  The classroom design and layout will be complimentary to the "Exceptional Education" format that the school will pilot; this transformation being a major part of the Global Grant. We also have added a parent's room, where parents can come and use a computer, internet, printer, etc. with the hope that they will be a more active participant in the school.  A community room will allow the Community Council to meet and host events for the overall betterment of the neighborhood as a whole. The school and the outside area will be a multi-functional center and will also serve as hurricane shelter for the community of Middle Region. The Sister Marie Laurence School is designed as a ‘hurricane resistant’ building.

The plan is to create a school and surrounding that is the heart of this depressed neighborhood and an environment that the population will protect and have pride in rather than loot and further damage like what happened after the passing of Irma and Maria. The schools are more than just educational buildings, they also represent central meeting points and are catalyst of higher quality of life in the Antillean districts. 


There has been great support and excitement from the teachers as well as the parents.  We had community briefings where we informed of the progress and the future plans were unveiled and discussed.

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The children of Sister Marie Laurence

Since September 2018, the children of the Sister Marie Laurence have been distributed over two other schools, see below. Although difficult because of limited space, long travel times for children and parents, the relocation was possible because many children left the island after hurricane Irma (about 75 children from the Sister Marie Laurence school), however these children now return to Sint Maarten and there is a high need for the new school.

The students and staff of the Sister Marie Laurence Primary School were initially spread of two other Catholic schools, but are now all together as a school family at the St. Dominic Primary School. All the groups (1-8) are now housed in one building at this other school facility.

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The children of group 1-6 located at the St. Dominic Primary School

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The children of group 7-8 located at the Sister Magda Primary School (Dutch lessons)

Appendix III:

Visit tot the Sister Marie Laurence school Sint Maarten

Janny Bakker-Klein, RC Huizen Gooimeer, February 2022

Who remembers Hurricane Irma, which caused enormous damage on the island of Sint Maarten on September 6, 2017? For Tanja Frederiks and many other islanders, that day is still ‘etched on the retina’ every day.

Tanja, who works for the Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten that operates and manages the seven Catholic schools in the Dutch part of Sint Maarten, has lived on Sint Maarten all her life. She calls the hurricane a traumatic experience. But that didn't stop her from taking immediate action.

One of the schools, the sister Marie Laurence school, was so damaged that repair was no longer possible. Soon after the disaster, the team at the school board came up with a fully elaborated plan to demolish the school and rebuild it hurricane resistant. So far nothing new, because by now it was clear to the islanders that the zinc roofs are not able to withstand this natural disaster. But what was really innovative in her plan was the social function that the new school would have in the 'Middle Region' district where the school is located.

Saved by the hurricane

Our Rotary Club Huizen Gooimeer still remembers the hurricane well. In that year I became chairman for the second time. I dare say now that our club was on the brink of death. Older members had dropped out. With three new members added, we only had 18 members. And then there was the hurricane on Sint Maarten. The district asked whether there were any clubs that wanted to organize something for Sint Maarten. I suggested our club do a sponsored walk. There are six 'mountains' around Huizen and there is a marked 'six mountain walk'. We could turn that into a sponsored walk. Our new members responded enthusiastically. This created a core group of Gert-Jan van Dommelen, Nicole Bouts, Han Landman and myself. We thought that not everyone likes walking. And as a small Rotary club we would also make too little impact. But what if we got the entire Huizer society moving? A kind of 'glass house' construction was devised, with a call to devise an activity and to bring the proceeds of it to a central location in Huizen on 11-11-2017 (name day of Sint Maarten). The campaign was a great success. The municipality took part, but also many Huizen’ companies, social organizations and there were many private initiatives. And all the other members of our club also got into action. On 11-11, more than 43,000 euros were raised with 65 different actions. The success of the campaign also led to new members for our club. Afterwards I joked that our club was saved by the hurricane on Sint Maarten.

Global Grant

Tanja had already made a project plan for an 'Exceptional school' to implement a new educational method for extra attention and guidance for the underprivileged children of the Middle Region. The plan also provides for a new multi-functional school, which has a social function for the neighbourhood: a basketball court, playground, an outdoor area for the neighbourhood, opportunities for music, dance and adult education and a shelter for protection against future hurricanes.

This plan was embraced by the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten and as Rotary Club Huizen Gooimeer we did the international coordination and found 10 other Rotary clubs, in addition to RC Sint Maarten, willing to co-finance the project.

Together, the 12 Rotary clubs from 6 countries, led by our Rotary club, have applied for a Global Grant from Rotary, which doubled the amount and we have a budget of 338,000 USD to realize the project.

In the meantime, with an amount of USD 33,000, a first training for the teachers and the outside area of ​​the school with the basketball court and the playground have been realized and we are now waiting for the rebuilding of the school.

Sint Maarten in 2022

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In February 2022 I visited Sint Maarten with my mother. We wanted a week of sun, but of course we also wanted to see how the sister Marie Laurence school was doing.

We were received very hospitably by Tanja. She showed us the beautiful places of Sint Maarten, but she also took us to the socio-economically vulnerable districts, such as the Middle Region district, where the Sister Marie Laurence school is located. Unfortunately, the school has not yet been rebuilt. Decision-making on this is extremely complicated, partly because many parties are involved. The old school has not yet been demolished, but it can no longer be used. The roof is largely off and the classrooms are populated by pigeons, which have deposited a thick layer of excrement, which emits a pungent odor.

The students and staff have relocated to another Catholic school to continue its operations.

Sleepless nights

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Tanja says that sometimes she can't sleep. She feels responsible for the entire process, including towards all Rotary clubs that have provided support. But she also remains hopeful. All indications are there that the process is finally moving along and that in the first half of 2022 the necessary Grant Agreement will be signed on World Bank level. Then the demolition and rebuilding of the school can finally start.

Tanja has not been sitting still in the meantime. She puts the idea of ​​a social function in the neighborhood into action with great willpower. An impressive outdoor area has been set up, where the children from the neighborhood are allowed to play. And the former gymnasium of the school, whose roof is still intact, is used extensively for basketball. The Foundation donates the use of this space to an organization which assists youngsters of Sint Maarten.

Social function

During our visit Tanja addresses a boy. She asks if he would like to take a picture of us and he does so deftly, with a wide grin on his face.

When he is gone Tanja explains that he comes from a family where there is a lot of violence. There is a good chance that this boy will also go on the criminal path. Now he hangs around a lot at school. He likes to assist her with little tasks (for example, watering the plants) and he feels valued by her because she takes the time to have positive conversations with him and to encourage him to make the right choices. By engaging the youth in this project in Middle Region Tanja hopes to create that sense of ownership and responsibility towards the facilities and make them feel like they are an integral and important part of its sustainability and success. Tanja does it for boys and girls like him. According to her, they should be given as many opportunities to develop as her own children. This requires a good school, but also a safe social environment after school. And if it is up to Tanja, it will certainly come in 2023.

We promise we'll be back then to celebrate.

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