WILLEMSTAD - K1 Britannia Foundation formed and launched a Disaster Relief and Crisis Team called K1 DIRECT in St. Maarten in September 2018. Shortly after assembling the team in St. Maarten, K1 initiated a branch of DIRECT in Curaçao and will be strengthening the team this year.
The decision to develop a branch in Curaçao stemmed from several reasons, including the need to be dependable in their commitments to the government of St. Maarten (in the roles of shelter management, first response, and mass distribution), the strategic location of Curaçao and the risk of a disaster striking St. Maarten and affecting the team.
In the wake of a disaster, the team in St. Maarten would potentially become victims and would not be able to assist at their full capacity due to extreme damage to their homes, loss of belongings and other personal tribulations.
K1 launched an online survey in August 2018 for residents of Curaçao interested in joining K1 DIRECT, in which 34 persons participated. This survey, similar to the one launched in St. Maarten, covered vital details that would link the persons’ interests and commitments to K1 DIRECT, such as prior disaster management training, willingness and ability to travel for disaster relief work, and medical concerns.
K1 Program Manager Iris Hakkens said on Monday, “Based on our information sessions and surveys, we received many recruits with prior experience in the field or in relevant fields, such as engineering, ex-military and/or law enforcement, search and rescue, and even a member with qualifications in stress management.”
As Curaçao is a part of the Dutch Kingdom and already has a direct connection with St. Maarten, K1 decided Curaçao would be the best option to mobilize a team.
“The suggestion came to us by one of our St. Maarten DIRECT members. The idea was that if St. Maarten DIRECT members were affected, we should have a back-up plan in place, and Curaçao seemed like the most strategic option, since it is located out of the hurricane belt, amongst other factors,” said Program Manager Alan Schet.
After the survey was launched, Schet and Hakkens travelled to Curaçao to recruit the volunteers. K1 DIRECT has recruited 20 members, 12 of whom have signed confidentiality and volunteer agreements. While in Curaçao, Schet and Hakkens also took the opportunity to research options for insurance and training on the island. Currently, approximately 12 members are insured.
K1 hosted an information session at University of Curaçao about the development of the programme in St. Maarten and the goals for K1 DIRECT Curaçao. They were able to meet and collaborate with persons of the Refinery’s Emergency Response Team RIVERT, Caribbean Urban Search and Rescue (CUSAR), Volunteer Corps of Curaçao VKC, the head of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, and the head of Disaster Coordination Curaçao.
The initiation of K1 DIRECT Curaçao received a great deal of public relations exposure in Curaçao. The two program managers gave two live TV interviews on TeleCuraçao on “Moru Bon Dia”, and “TV DIRECT” on “DenKonteksto.”
The next steps and goals for K1 DIRECT Curaçao will be to complete all relevant training and qualifications, and to equip the team with supplies and complete insurance to adequately prepare them for a disaster situation.
Schet said, “Future goals of K1 DIRECT Curaçao are to grow the team into a well-rounded group of volunteers that are confident in their abilities to help others during a disaster. Personally, I have always felt a need to help people and this is one of the ways that I can. I hope we can continue to inspire each other within the team and out, while building this team together.”
The development of K1 DIRECT St. Maarten and Curaçao is made possible through funding of Carnival Cruise Line and the Netherlands National Disaster Fund NRF.
“Carnival Cruise Line wanted to be a part of a long-term solution for disaster relief. Because of its heart for those in the Caribbean region who were affected by the 2017 hurricane season, the cruise line found it imperative to play a meaningful part in not only the recovery, but also preparation. We are grateful for the opportunities the sponsorship has allowed,” said K1 Co-Founder Priya Thirumur on Monday.