“I feel, by now, we should already be on a first-name basis…a warm welcome to Saba, Raymond,” said Saba Youth Council member Vernisha Robinson during a meeting with caretaker State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Saba on Tuesday, May 18.
Members of the recently installed Saba Youth Council already met the State Secretary digitally in November 2020, when the youngsters participated in the “My New World” United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF project. Now, months later, they were given the chance to meet him in person, in the company of their facilitator and coach Gerald Simmons-de Jong.
On behalf of the entire Youth Council, Zakiya Lake, Jade Every and Vernisha Robinson gave a welcoming speech. They thanked Knops, not only for his time as State Secretary and all that he has done for Saba in the last three and a half years, but also for participating in the UNICEF project. It is that project that jump started the establishment of the Youth Council and the various other initiatives that followed in which these high potential youngsters were in eluded.
“It was quite a journey for us to get here. Last summer we started a project with UNICEF. They organised training sessions to prepare us for an inter-island debate against St. Eustatius and St. Maarten and for a lobby session with Knops. It was all very exciting,” said Lake, who also briefly described her life as a student during last year’s lockdown, having to study at home instead of going to school.
Every and Robinson presented the plans of the Youth Council and their ideas on the roles and responsibilities to the state secretary. One of the first projects that the Youth Council has taken on is the organisation of a sports clinic, where two pro athletes will be coming to Saba to give a clinic in their area of sport. The Youth Council is organising this together with the Public Health Department of the Public Entity Saba. “Thanks again for the lobby session in November. Because of it, we received the grant from the Ministry of Health to do the sports clinic and we are now organised in a Youth Council. We hope that this sports clinic will encourage the youngsters on Saba to take sports seriously and maybe to pursue a professional career in sports in the future because we have a lot of talent on Saba,” said Every.
“The youth is our future, you are the next generation,” Knops told the Youth Council members. He said he was impressed by the speeches that he heard. “You are honest and direct, and you are original.” On Vernisha’s request, he gave the youngsters tips and guidance on how to proceed with the Youth Council and he shared an inspiring message.
“Be sincere, have confidence in yourself and do not do anything you do not believe in because others say that you should. Use your talents, explore, examine, ask questions, study. But do not forget to have fun as well,” said Knops. He said he found it important to work with and to involve young people. “You look at things in a different way, and you provide a very valuable perspective.” He wished the Youth Council members much luck in their studies. “Do not ever forget where you come from and be proud of your island.” Together with the local government, the Youth Council is now in the process of determining what the roles and responsibilities are of the council. The preference of the council is that it is always formally requested in writing to be consulted on all Executive Council and Island Council plans, projects and policies that have an impact on the Saba community, but that this is done in a structured manner, for example at every end of the quarter.
The Daily Herald.