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Thanksgiving day ceremony

Despite having endured one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit our beautiful shores in over 20 years, we, the people of St. Martin are still standing strong, standing proud with an attitude of gratitude. We usually have this thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate the fact that we made it untouched and unaffected or sometimes minimally damaged through a hurricane season. However, this year 2017, we are celebrating the fact that although Irma came, which devastated our homes, cars, business, personal belongings and unleashed a frenzy on the island never seen before - We are still here, grateful for life and happy to see another day.

We have been through the emergency period and are well on our way to rebuild our Sweet S’Maatin better and stronger. It is evident that people are still suffering, that a number of households are still displaced, families who will need assistance for some time to come and the numbers are increasing by the day, however, through it all, and despite it all, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Most of us still have life, which does not diminish the lives lost, because even one life lost is one too many! Yet, we give God all the thanks and all the Glory, despite the storm where many more could have died. Some have suffered loss even after the storm, with the passing of loved ones, loss of limbs, jobs, missing children who were sent away, Yet We know he carried us through and will continue to sustain us.

Not only are we surviving almost 3 months after the storm, we are smiling again, we are moving forward and we are semper progressing. The goal is not to rebuild the same as we were pre-September 6th, but to be better and stronger as a country and as a people. We need all hands on deck, therefore the spirit of helping needs to continue through the days, weeks and months to come! Though some may now have power and water, and may feel we no longer need to check up on our neighbors as often as we once did, but we should not allow the

amenities that once drove a wedge between neighbors and friends to continue. Now is time we need to work together even harder to see our country progress. She, Sweet Soualiga, St. Martin, is counting on US.

Thank you to the community for coming together, praying together, worshipping together, standing strong and helping neighbors, family, strangers and friends.

Thank you to all who took part in the planning and preparation to make this ceremony possible and who contributed to the program in any form or fashion. Thank you.

Thank you to all stakeholders such as the KPSM, The Ministry of VROMI, VKS, Telem, Laser 101, GEBE, Ambulance Department, Fire Dept, Nurses, Tzi Chu Foundation, community heroes who stood up, and all others whole played a vital role in the immediate days after hurricane Irma. St. Martin is strong, St. Martin is resilient and St. Martin is smiling again. We are also smiling as today is also a beginning of Hope for us, a reminder that the Christ child was born, which we celebrate, simple and humble he came. To save us all. And so despite all we have endured, we welcome the Christmas season with gratitude.

May we all be able to enjoy a wonderful Christmas season. This is the season of giving, which is so fitting as there are so many who need. May your hearts be filled with the joy of giving, love, peace, a meal, and whatever else you have to share to help those who are most in need this Christmas and beyond.

On behalf of the Ministries of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, General Affairs and by extension the Government of St. Maarten, I would like to wish one and all Happy Holidays 2017!