‘‘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 Tuesday, May 18th.
Members of the recently installed Youth Council Saba already met the State Secretary digitally last year November 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 3.5 years but also for participating in the UNICEF project. It is that project that jumpstarted the establishment of the Youth Council and the various other initiatives that followed in which these high potential youngsters were included.
‘‘It was quite a journey for us to get here. Last summer we started a project with UNICEF. They organized 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 Zakiya Lake, who also shortly described her life as a student during last year’s lockdown, having to study at home instead of going to school.
Jade and Vernisha 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 organization 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 organizing 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 organized 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 Jade.
“The youth is our future, you are the next generation,” State Secretary 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.” At 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 don’t do anything you don’t believe in because others say that you should. Use your talents, explore, examine, ask questions, study. But don’t forget to have fun as well,” said Knops, who emphasized that he liked working with young people. “You look at things in a different way and you give a valuable perspective.” He wished the Youth Council members much luck in their studies. “Don’t 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.