According to United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF, all children in St. Maarten are traumatised by the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. To assist children in processing these traumas, social worker from Curaçao Guineta de Palm will be working in St. Maarten for the next three months.
The social worker by profession and storyteller by conviction was invited to come to St. Maarten by Philipsburg Jubilee Library. De Palm will be working here in conjunction with Association for Psychologists and Allied Professionals (APAP) and Mental Health Foundation (MHF). In Curaçao, she developed a methodology for guiding traumatised children and youths. De Palm said it is her intention to organise activities at the Library and in schools involving stories, music and games to give children the opportunity to express themselves about their experiences during the hurricanes. De Palm will be inviting schoolchildren to tell how they feel, not what they have gone through. “I’m not here to teach. In group sessions, I want to try to let the children discover themselves and to make them feel safe again,” said “Juffrouw Gini.” In this, she said, love is key. “With love you can achieve many things.” She said it may not be immediately clear whether a child is traumatised or not. “Children may seem very quiet, but they can be very busy in their minds. Caribbean children are very expressive where it concerns fun things, but not with traumas. But they are feeling themselves comfortable with stories and songs to express both their pain and their happiness,” De Palm explains. After having studied and worked in The Netherlands for 14 years, De Palm (51) returned to Curaçao in 2004. Originally a social worker by profession, she decided to start her own business to be able to spend more time on her other profession, that of storyteller. She tells stories she has written herself, as well as existing stories. She regularly performed as “Gini the Clown” for groups of children, telling them stories and playing all kinds of games with them. Her company, Creativity for Children and with Children – Consultative Office, offers activities that are original, educational and innovative so that children can get the space to express themselves and have fun doing so. Besides that, De Palm also writes educational activity plans, organises all types of events and makes sure there is entertainment. In St. Maarten, De Palm will be available for after-school sessions in the afternoon and on Saturday. “We hope to reach many children,” said Library Director Monique Alberts. Interested schools may contact the Library’s project coordinator Maryland Powell at tel. 542-2970