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.

Education?

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?

New Zealand.

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.

Hobbies?

None at the moment because my schedule does not permit it.

Pet peeve?

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.

TelCell Breakthrough is around the corner. This youth talent show has produced some of the island’s most prominent performers to date. The youngsters are guided by a team of coordinators throughout the year, among whom is Angel Richardson, who answers the call every time. It is only fair that our readers learn more about Angel.

 Who is Angel Richardson?

I am humble, talented and ambitious. In my spare time, I really enjoy creating new concepts, fostering new ideas, being part of positive productions and being a team player. I am a mother of one awe-inspiring daughter and an International Carrier Relations Officer by profession.

 Education?

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Management, at Inholland University, and specialized in Corporate Communication. I also obtained an Associate degree in International Management. Since then, I have completed additional courses as I always believe that in order to continue to excel, educational growth is key alongside hands-on experience.

 Why did you get involved with TelCell Breakthrough? 

TelCell Breakthrough Talent was a concept I had in mind for a very long time. Moving back to St. Maarten from the Netherlands, I always noticed that there was a lot of raw talent which was not fostered. There were various local shows that showcased talent, but things would end after the trophy was awarded. I always wanted to create a stepping stone platform which would start them off to stardom. Working very closely with producer Bertaux “Rude” Fleming, who for many years groomed many talents, I discovered that he too had a similar vision. Hence, our ideas gelled. The TelEm Group management team embraced the idea as the TelEm/TelCell organization is also very community oriented and nurtures the growth and development of the youth. Thus, TelCell Breakthrough Talent was born four years ago and is going strong to date.

How has the competition grown over the years?

In terms of talented youths coming to the auditions, it has grown tremendously. There has also been growth in the numbers of participants and the level of talent. The key to the success factor is based on the deliverables. TelCell Breakthrough Talent is an eight-month program. It first starts with scouting raw talent, moving into the auditions, six weeks of talent grooming and then preparation of the finalists, who then put on a showcase at the finals.

The winners then jointly work in the studio for about three months, under the Rocking ‘N’ Vibes label, to create their own Music Track and accompanying Video Clip. In addition to this, they also become the faces of TelCell for a year and role models/stars among their peers. There are also various opportunities for the winners to make guests appearances at prestigious events. These added values have assisted in peeking interest among the talented youths, which has also stimulated the event to prosper.

What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to youth entertainment development on the island?

In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges we face is that St. Maarten lacks a youth friendly performing arts centre, with lights, stage curtains, acoustics, proper seating, etc., “a location that is of high quality and is stage ready,” which can of course accommodate all of the youths. Every year the show is sold out and we are left with disappointed persons that were unable to attend. The final show is always well attended because we don’t just put on a talent show; we put on a top notch production.

Describe a fun time with Angel?

A fun time spent with me would be travelling, shopping, socializing with friends, and working on events.

What are the plans for the new season of the competition?

We are always looking for new categories, new talents and new ways to motivate and groom those participating in order that they excel. This year’s finalists will have an array of sessions and activities to attend. We will be adding a team-building event and various coaching sessions, and creating digital diaries and other elements to help stimulate confidence.

Any advice to youngsters who wish to perform but are shy?

My advice would be to come out, prepare and just have fun as it’s a one-time opportunity. You will meet new friends with similar passions, and you get to work alongside an exciting team of professionals.

What gives you the drive to work with young people?

Definitely the end result: hearing their testimonies and seeing the impact we have on many lives, as we get participants from all walks of life. My drive is also motivated by the fact that I am able to contribute to my community positively by influencing the youths. I encourage parents, teachers, family members and guardians to continue to support the youths to be part of a positive movement.

If you could prepare dinner and dessert for three persons dead or alive, who would they be and what would you serve them?

Lauryn Hill, Whoopie Goldberg and my mother. I’m a fan of junk food, so it would have to be a meal consisting of Brochettes Ribs, Steak, Fries and Johnny Cake, followed by some good old vanilla and chocolate ice-cream.

When you go to an event and hear your favourite tunes from the speakers, you think, “Who is that person behind the deck playing the tunes?!” DJ EM, the Explosion Master, will set off musical bombs and captivate the entire crowd once he is behind the DJ booth.

Born Fabian Kijzer in Suriname, DJ EM had an interest in music from the tender age of nine. He started off playing with old cassette decks from his uncles. This passion for music did not stop there as he pursued his dreams of becoming a DJ legend like one of Suriname’s top DJs – Splashmaster Gilly.

At the age of 19, DJ EM moved to the island of Sint Maarten, where he started spinning at several different venues, getting positive crowd reactions everywhere he played. This landed him a try-out at the world famous Sunset Beach Bar in the Maho area, which resulted in DJ EM being the resident DJ at Sunset Beach Bar for almost five years! During his tenure at Sunset, EM signed with management company Deviage Entertainment and is still with them to date.

How did you get the name DJ EM?

Since Splashmaster Gilly was a major influence in my wanting to become a DJ, my first DJ name was Explosion Master, which I later shortened to EM. Some people call me DJ E-M; but it’s just pronounced “DJ M.”

How long have you been deejay-ing and how did you start?

I have been in love with music for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I moved to Sint Maarten that I was presented with an opportunity to become a professional DJ, which I have been now for about six years.

What do you like about deejay-ing?

The overall great vibe it gives me – from the equipment right down to the different genres of music and the participation of the crowd – I always enjoy putting on a show for the party people that come out to enjoy themselves. Being a DJ is more than just playing a couple of hit records.

What do you think about the DJ culture on the island?

The DJ culture around the world, not just on Sint Maarten has changed tremendously with the introduction of Serato and earlier programs like Traktor and Virtual DJ. Nowadays, everyone with a laptop computer and an MP3 collection can call themselves a DJ. I do believe, though, that Sint Maarten has some of the top DJs in the world because of the wide variety of music we are exposed to. From Soca to Dancehall to Hip Hop to Calypso to Latin Music to EDM, we play just about any genre of music and mix it with whatever comes to mind at the time.

What makes DJ EM different from other DJs?

Every DJ has his own “signature” way of blending and selecting music, and I have my own style. I work on maintaining and improving my skill set as a DJ just like an athlete needs to train to continue playing a sport well. Being a humble person has allowed me to see a lot of things from a different perspective.

What’s your advice to upcoming DJs?

Stay you, study all genres of music and play music for the crowd to enjoy – and not yourself. I would also say, stay hungry and eager to learn new techniques, such as blends and scratches.

Describe a good night with EM.

Monday nights are officially my movie nights, so I would say a Monday night movie with a big bag of popcorn and a bottle of water. That to me is a good night with EM – nice and relaxed.

DJ EM currently has residencies at 3 Amigos, Walter Plantz Square and Loterie Farm (Garden Groove Party during the summer and the infamous Pool Party during the winter/spring). EM continues to sharpen his skills, blending several genres of music seamlessly on command. His humble approach and willingness to learn new things are what set EM apart as a DJ. Besides his residencies, EM has rocked many events around the island at venues such as Bliss SXM, Sopranos Piano Bar, News Music Cafe, Le Shore, Soggy Dollar Bar SXM, Prive Hookah & Sky Lounge, Club 747, Palm D’or and Tantra Nightclub & Sanctuary.

Who is Chabely?

Mirla Chabely Cortico-Ramirez is a 22-year-old, God-fearing, family-oriented, kind-hearted, and hardworking individual. She is an educator by profession and a Carnival lover at heart. Currently the Grade 3 teacher of St. Dominic Primary School, she is also the vice president of St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation and has been volunteering as an SCDF member for the past five to six years. In the little free time that she has left, Chabely volunteers her time at St. Martin of Tours Parish where she is a Lector for the Sunday 8:30 masses and Catechist on Saturdays.

Education?

I attended Ruby Labega Primary School then completed one school year at St. Maarten Academy P.S.V.E. before I and was moved to the Academic Section from where I graduated with 11 passing CXC subjects. I then enrolled at University of St. Martin and graduated Magma Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education in June of 2015.

What made you join SCDF?

Joining SCDF was never an initial thought of mine. However, I grew up in a household where Carnival was always regularly celebrated. As a result, I was always involved in Carnival activities. My mother would always have my sister and me participate in the junior Carnival parades. I remember my first junior Carnival parade when I was merely six or seven. Nonetheless, as I became older, I stopped taking part in the parades and simply enjoyed the other factors of Carnival, including jump-ups, observing the parades and attending many of the international and local shows.

While enrolled at USM and working as a Teacher’s Assistant for the Catholic School Board, I felt the desire to contribute to my island in a positive way. That’s when my good friend Luis Hurtault approached me about being a part of the SCDF youth wing. Without hesitating, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and accepted the invitation, because I felt as though it was a perfect way to support Carnival in yet another way. When I sent in my application, the then president Stuart Johnson accepted it, and thus began my journey with SCDF.

Did you ever think you would have gotten this far on the board?

When I first joined SCDF back in 2011/2012, I never imagined being on the board much less as vice president. I joined for my simple love for Carnival and my arising desire to serve. After serving for approximately three to four years as a regular SCDF member, I was asked at the ending of Carnival 2015 to be a part of the SCDF board. This came to me as a complete shock but I accepted it and once again took on that open minded approach to the offer at hand. When Carnival circled again in April of 2015, I completed a full Carnival year as a board member, executing all of my tasks just as I had done before. Now a year later when I postulated myself for the vice-president position, those who believed in my capabilities voted me in for the post.

What are your hobbies?

Reading (mostly teacher-related books/articles), running, travelling, partaking in various community based groups/activities and now crossfit.

What can we expect from you as SCDF vice president?

You can expect a very close working relationship between me and the president, Mr. Lourens, as well as the entire SCDF board. I will also do my best to always address any prevailing matter which committee members, board members, Carnival lovers and other persons on and off our island St. Maarten have contributed to the success of our Carnival. This I’ll do in order to maintain the same high level of enthusiasm and love for the festival year in and year out. I will continue along the lines of the committee by catering to the needs of all Carnival lovers both local and international; particularly those who come year in and year out to experience life on our island!

What section of Carnival are you really passionate about?

I am most passionate about that which deals primarily with the youths of St. Maarten. I am really passionate about this particular area because I work with kids on a regular basis and am delighted when I see them showcasing their talents. My love for this area of Carnival grew when I first began volunteering for the SCDF as it was my first given task, “my baby”. I was made in charge of the Youth Extravaganza along with other SCDF members and since then I’ve always been delighted to organize or assist in the organization of this event.

What are your future goals?

My future goals are to preform my given role to the best of my ability, to establish close relationships with those who work behind the scenes and those who aspire to be part of our Carnival. This will allow us to continuously deliver a great Carnival experience to both visitors and locals alike. Aside from this, one of my personal goals is pursuing a Master’s degree in education.

What advice do you have for young people who are thinking about volunteering with SCDF?

Join SCDF for the love of Carnival and not for reasons that may benefit your personal agenda; join with an open mind and, most importantly, join with a good attitude and an eagerness to learn all there is to learn about our biggest cultural festivity. This is because as an organization, SCDF is filled with many opportunities. You never know how far you can reach until you try, so join with the urge to work and make a change rather than a nonchalant attitude. The SCDF board and members are hardworking individuals who dedicate a lot of time and effort for the purpose of delivering the St. Maarten kind of Carnival that we all enjoy and love. Therefore, if you're ready to make a positive change, join SCDF today!

Outgoing, fun and with a love for cooking, Renata de Weever teaches at National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) which offers advanced vocational education for students from 16 years old on into adulthood. The courses are tailored to the needs and interests of the labour market and the wider St. Maarten community.

Who is Renata de Weever?

Renata de Weever is a fun and outgoing person with a great love for life and what it has to offer. My passion lies in culinary management and I find strength and motivation with my strong family values that are based on hard work, honesty and being successful.

Education?

After completing Sundial school, I migrated to Holland where I obtained my degree in Hotel Restaurant Entrepreneur Management. I then attained my BSC in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in the United States.

Describe the first time you noticed you had a talent for cooking?

Cooking has always been an integral part of my family; there was always a celebration at our house so I would say my informal culinary training started with different members of the household. When I started working at Terrance Conrad Hotel in London, I quickly recognized that I was a natural and decided to focus my studies in culinary arts. My curiosity continued to expand there and I started to learn more about how a kitchen functions operationally, and I was amazed at how a small kitchen can push so many covers in a short space of time. This amazement took me beyond just cooking and more towards mastering my technical skills and learning the different management functions in the kitchen.

What made you teach at NIPA?

When I started working professionally in culinary arts, I thought of different ways in which I could make a positive contribution towards the development of our tourism product and I found that teaching would be effective. The more trained individuals we have on the island, the better we will be in delivering excellence to those visitors who grace our shores. The desire to give back to my community is what ushered me into my teaching career which I am very passionate about.

What do you teach your students about cooking?

I try to develop well-rounded students who not only know how to cook but also understand the importance of professionalism in the workplace. They are taught organization and food safety as they learn about food borne illnesses, sanitation and cross contamination, etc. Once they grasp these concepts, the fun begins as they actually learn different cooking techniques and how to prepare different dishes.

What is your favourite dish?

I have travelled on culinary trips as far as Thailand, and have prepared numerous dishes across different cultures, but my favourite dish will always be curried chicken wings and dumplings.

What other hobbies do you have besides cooking?

I equally enjoy travelling and keeping up with the latest fashion trends.

Your advice to upcoming cooks?

Being in the culinary field is a fun job but it demands a lot of your time as you are often working when everyone else is having fun; but it is a career that you enjoy if you are passionate about it. It is one of these careers where you have to be your best and deliver a consistent product.

Who inspires you and why?

My list is very long but at the very top is Gordon Ramsay; he is very passionate about his work and he pushes everyone to put forth nothing but the best; he also knows what good food is about. Sometimes I am teased about being like the chef from Hell’s Kitchen, but I smile because I know it is coming from the pure passion and love I have for my job.

If you could invite any three persons, dead or alive, to a dinner party at your table, who would they be and what would you serve them?

Being from a closely knit family, I lost three relatives in the last few years and I would love to have the opportunity to cook for them again. One of them loved my macaroni pie and the other two would enjoy whatever I put in front of them. Just to cook for them one more time and to hear them laugh would be amazing.

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