Who is Amy Arrindell?
I am the mother of an eight-year-old son, a school social worker and counsellor and the president of St. Maarten Zoo. I’m a very determined, ambitious, loyal, understanding, generous, dedicated and adventurous person, who was born at St. Rose Hospital in St. Maarten.
I studied to become a social worker in the Netherlands. Currently, I am doing a double Master’s degree in Counselling and in Education (with a concentration in school counselling) at University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) which will both be completed by the end of the summer of 2017.
How did you end up becoming president of St. Maarten Zoo?
I visited the zoo five years ago with Islaya Streefkerk who explained to me that the zoo was not being subsidised by government and was solely dependent on its entrance fees to survive. I decided to volunteer my services and became vice president on April 22, 2013, and president on November 13, 2014. The past and present board members have done and continue to do a wonderful job in keeping the zoo open and having the community realise how important it is to have a zoo.
Why did you decide to take on this challenge?
Because I believe the past board members had a vision on how the zoo should be and the present board is ensuring that we continue to build on that firm foundation and one day expand the zoo so that it is not only a zoo, but also a place where learning can take place, where persons can come and relax in our botanical garden and children can interact with nature and the animals in a safe place.
What are some of the challenges you face in this capacity?
Not being subsidised by government and government not seeing the importance of having a zoo are major challenges.
Why is the zoo a special place in St. Maarten?
Because there is nowhere else in St. Maarten that you can go with your entire family (including your grandparents and persons required to use a wheelchair) like St. Maarten Zoo. At the zoo, you enter into a place where you can interact with animals, sit and have something to eat and drink while watching your children play in our playground or our children water area, relax in our garden, read a book, or just unplug from the hustle and bustle that St. Maarten has become. We also have free Wi-Fi and a fully operational bar and restaurant. This is what makes us unique and special.
Do you think residents understand the importance of the zoo?
I do believe that the people of St. Maarten understand the importance of having a zoo in St. Maarten because they have been supporting us for more than 20 years, which has enabled us to remain open and in full operation.
How has the zoo improved under your presidency?
I must say that the improvements at St. Maarten Zoo have been a team effort. All of our board members are volunteers and they go beyond their call of duty and volunteering to make the zoo what it is today.
Future plans for the zoo?
To be subsidised by government, to do a complete renovation instead of surface fixes, to expand and to do summer programmes geared towards the youth, such as a junior zoo keeper programme where children will learn about the different animals at the zoo. This will give them hands-on experience, while giving an in-depth look at the many aspects of zoo keeping.
What do you do outside of being president of the zoo?
I am the social worker and counsellor for St. Maarten Academy PSVE and I also assist the Belair all-inclusive fitness centre with fitness and nutritional information for their social media sites.
Tell us about the upcoming fundraising event and why the public should support it?
The fundraising Gala event, sponsored in part by St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA), will benefit St. Maarten’s most diverse animal park in its continued effort to create an educational atmosphere for tourists and residents alike, with various insights into the flora and fauna of St. Maarten and the neo-tropical region of Latin America and the Caribbean. The event starts at 7:00pm and will be at Zoo Rock Café in Simpson Bay. Dinner is a lovely three-course with vegetarian options, alongside the energetic sounds of St. Maarten’s very own entertainment masters: Youth Waves, Control Band and DJ Pebbles. A silent auction will also take place with some great prizes, including artwork, airline tickets, hotel stays, dinner vouchers, biking trips and kayaking trips. Guests can enjoy a delicious three-course dinner for a donation of US $100 per person. Those who prefer a lighter platter of delicious hors d’oeuvres and top-shelf drink options can purchase tickets for $50. Tickets are available on location at St. Maarten Zoo, The Daily Herald, Island Pet Shop, Healthy Iguana Veterinary Services and from all board members.
What goes into planning such a major fundraiser?
First of all, board members always try to make sure that whatever event we are organising, we can have a successful outcome, securing sponsorship to cover the cost and working diligently and together along with the community of St. Maarten. In short, team work, planning, preparation, public awareness, participation and contributions always ensure successful zoo activities and fundraising.
Dream holiday venue?
What is a perfect romantic evening?
Full moon dinner on a beach.
If you were to be stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you take?
A machete, a pot and a fishing rod – yes, I definitely will be eating and drinking.
Message for youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?
Always have a vision of what it is you want to do, set small but achievable goals, work towards them and remember that there is always a lesson to be learned with setbacks. Make them your stepping stone to achieve whatever it is you set your mind to do. Stay focussed and have positive people around you who believe in you and your dreams. It also helps to create a vision board that you can look at daily to remind you of what it is you want to accomplish.
None at the moment because my schedule does not permit it.
People not honouring their commitments.
What’s your favourite type of music?
I listen to different types of music depending on my mood and what I am doing. The music definitely gets my energy up and keeps me going. I love music.
If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook for them?
My maternal grandmother, who died when my mom was six years old; my mom and my son. I would cook peas and rice, boiled red snapper in a garlic butter sauce, baked sweet potatoes, avocado and a green salad. I would love to see the interaction between the three generations.