Opening ceremony Miss Lalie Center

They made it! As agreed on Wednesday December 10th the official opening ceremony of the Miss Lalie
Center, the first Caribbean Youth Care and Rehabilitation Center, took place.
All people have been working so hard to make this possible, and they’ve succeeded. The Miss Lalie
Center is good to go from this day. The building that’s situated on Venus Drive in Cay Bay is totally
prepared for the intake of a maximum of 20 boys between the ages of 12 to 18.
The official opening ceremony started off with a warm welcome to all the guests from Mrs. Natasha Carty,
who’s going to be the leader of the team of pedagogic employees at the MLC. She invited Bernice Gumbs
and Reverend Lake to do the invocation of the Center and the St. Maarten national song was beautifully
sung by the little Miss Halley.
After that a number of speakers were called to the stand to tell the audience about their experiences with
either Miss Eulalie Meyers or the building of the MLC.
Miss Eulalie Meyers, whose name was unanimously chosen to name the ‘Miss Lalie Center’, was the
mother of MP Frankie Meyers. He spoke about his mother in a very respectful manner. She was a person
who took interest in people in general, it didn’t matter what they did or did not do, she was interested in
who they were. She had a non-judgmental approach and that encouraged many people to stay on the
right path or get back on it again. That’s why the Meyers family is really proud that the center is named
after ‘Miss Lalie’. Meyers underlined that he, and his family, hoped that her style will affect the Sint
Maarten youth. “It’s easy to do the popular thing, but it’s not always that easy to do the good thing,” he
Karola van Nie, as acting Chief Prosecutor, was the next speaker to come to the stand. She is very
committed to the Sint Maarten youth as a youth Prosecutor, and she’s also part of the project team that
made the Miss Lalie Center possible. She urged the ones present that some juveniles make mistakes, but
they shouldn’t be ‘ruled out’ of society. When you’re young, you’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s our
business to educate, correct, guide and offer perspective to the youth. That’s exactly what the members
of the Miss Lalie Team are planning to do. The Miss Lalie Center is a detention center, but it’s a humane
detention center and the ultimate goal for the team is to get the boys that will be staying in this ‘Center of
knowledge’ on the right path again. She metaphorically called the center a baby, that would be handed
over to Natasha Carty’s team now, for them to take care of it, educate it, correct it, guide it and offer
perspectives for the future.
Richelda Emanuel, the director of the Court of Guardianship, went back in time. She wanted to talk about
shared visions and joint actions. In 2006 the idea was born, by shared visions and joint actions, to set up
a foster home in the same building the Miss Lalie Center is housed in now. Plans were made and thrown
out again. In 2009 the project file was written, but in 2013 the idea of creating a ‘foster home’ changed
into creating a rehabilitation center. Although there still is a need for foster homes on Sint Maarten, the need of a center like the Miss Lalie Center became more and more urgent. At that time the Minister of
Justice, Dennis Richardson parted in the project. With shared vision and joint action the plans became
reality and things really started to happen. And, Emanuel stated, this is just fase 1 of the project. The
closed facility is here now, but there are plans to create an open facility too, and after that a preparation
facility to prepare youngster to get back in society. She wanted to express the fact that the Miss Lalie
Center is not just a project of the Justice Department, it’s a project of the people of Sint Maarten and the
team needs the community on board, because the people of Sint Maarten will be needed to care for the
youngsters that are leaving the facility. “There is hope for them, community be ready, with open arms…”
USONA is the organization that financed the biggest part of the Miss Lalie Center. Mrs. Angela Dekker,
as a representative of USONA, told the audience that the organization was very proud of the Miss Lalie
Center, because Sint Maarten finally possesses a facility where youngsters are taken care of during their
detention. In the past Sint Maarten youth had to go to Curacao, but ever since 2008 this facility wasn’t
used anymore, besides, the facility was way too far from home for the juvenile delinquents that came from
this island. They couldn’t see their parents, often didn’t speak the language, so this wasn’t an ideal
situation. But now, with some help from the government, Sint Maarten can be proud of this modern
Justice Minister Dennis Richardson wanted to set the focus straight. The focus shouldn’t be on detention,
it should be on the bringing young people back in society again. That’s why the Miss Lalie Center is called
a Youth Care and Rehabilitation Center. We can’t just tell young people to sink or swim without teaching
and educating them, because everybody would definitely sink. The Miss Lalie Center is here to help and
educate the youngsters and we hope it will end with great successes. But he told the audience that he
has got a good sense about the center. They started from rock bottom and now the work finally begins.
He closed off his speech with the words: “It all depends on your love and perseverance to get the
youngsters on the right path, just like Miss Lalie used her love and perseverance.”
After all those marvelous words by the speakers, Natasha Carty presented her team of educators and
pedagogical workers to the audience. She told everybody present that the team goal would be to assist
the youth in accomplishing their own goals in a tranquil, clean and structural environment and make them
aware that they have their own choices in life. She thanked the team for joining in and prayed that they’re
given the strength to keep on moving.
The crowd then got the opportunity to take a look around the building, after the cutting of the ribbon by the
Prime Minister and members of the Meyers family. The whole building breathed an atmosphere of
eagerness to get started! The empty kitchen, the empty living room, the empty offices, the empty
classrooms and the empty bedrooms all ‘spoke’: “Go for it, Miss Lalie Team!”