The Public Entity Saba is investing in the Community Development Department. The opening of the office last summer was a next step for Saba in providing more structured social facilities, according to Commissioner of Social Affairs Roland Wilson.
The department is located in the former day care building, which also houses the Public Health Department. The investments are a joint effort of the Public Entity Saba and the National Government.
In the past years the Public Entity has restructured the social domain, increased its activities and expanded its staff to 10 employees. As a result of these investments, the Public Entity is taking over tasks in the social domain. Some of these tasks include: youth preventive care, facilities for persons with a disability, domestic violence, poverty alleviation and labor mediation. The department also finances social partners like the Saba Reach Foundation, Body Mind Spirit (BMS), the after-school care, Meals on Wheels, the library and recently Child Focus.
The department has initiated a number of projects. The BES(t)4Kids program has been set up to expand and upgrade day care and after-school care. Different Taste is a social dining project where food is prepared and served by people that face certain challenges in life. Another example of a project that is financed by the department is the recent construction/renovation of playgrounds throughout the island. The department also initiated smaller projects like the We Can Young campaign, the children’s rights week and public assistance.
Commissioner Wilson explained why it is important to invest in community development. “We do this for the people. They come first. When you visit people and see the requests for assistance come in, it tells you how hard things really are. The cost of living is high, and especially single mothers and the elderly are suffering. Parents have multiple jobs to make ends meet.”
When the Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) unit of the National Government on Saba moves to the Community Development Department some of the bureaucracy will be removed, said Wilson. “Instead of having to go from one window to the next, you will be able to get assistance in one area,” he said. The Public Entity Saba has been asking to have the SZW unit integrate with the Community Development Department.
“We know our own people and we know their needs. As Commissioner, I will keep investing in the social domain because we must assist those in need and make things better for the people. That is what we are here for,” said Wilson. He said that the social workers have been doing a good job, visiting people at home. “They know well what situation people are in and what kind of needs they have.” He said the intention was to designate a social worker especially to the social housing projects. The Commissioner said he also found it important to giving sufficient attention to the youth and the challenges that they are facing.
Solid and sustainable community development requires strong policies and shared strategies. To achieve this, the department processes feedback of the community and has regular contact with local stakeholders, head offices on Bonaire and the ministries in The Hague. This year, the department will finalize its community development policy. However, a hands-on approach to policy and strategy is essential, explained Head of the Community Development Department Krijn Pons. Investing in community development and assuming more tasks fits in the goals of the Saba Package, a multi-annual development plan initiated by the Public Entity Saba.
Commissioner Wilson said that he was content with the “long-awaited” decision of the National Government to increase the social allowances per January 1, 2019. “But we are not there yet at all. As Public Entity Saba we will keep pushing for the transfer of the social affairs task to Saba and to establish a social minimum.”