Published On: Tue, Jul 31st, 2018

St. Maarten Youth Council Welcomes Caribbean Lottery Support in Rebuilding New Computer Lab Post-Irma


Phillipsburg – The opening of a new computer lab at the Youth Community Centre in St. Peters on July 24, 2018, held special significance for the St. Maarten Youth Council Association (SMYCA), an umbrella organization with more than 30 years’ experience in empowering the island’s young people and promoting cooperation and unity among youth and youth organizations. Under the theme “Nurturing a Growth Mindset: Fostering Resiliency,” the long-anticipated event was postponed last year, after the passage of Hurricane Irma – St. Maarten’s worst storm in over a century – on September 7.

“We have been looking forward to this day for so long,” said Connie Francis-Gumbs, Director of the SMYCA. She added that the computer lab, which was made possible through a donation by the Caribbean Lottery and its parent company International Game Technology (IGT), would make a great difference to the students at the Centre. IGT’s After School Advantage Programme is a corporate philanthropic initiative designed to address the needs of children during the critical after-school hours. The programme strives to close the “Digital Divide” for at-risk children who are left behind because they do not have the means to access computers at home in today’s increasingly digital society.

While the Youth Community Centre itself remained operational after Hurricane Irma, the computer lab was damaged. “The window blew in. The roof was intact but all the fixtures and furnishings were damaged by the wind and rain”, said Ms. Francis-Gumbs. “Caribbean Lottery funded the rebuilding of the computer work stations and chairs, for which the Centre was very grateful. Thankfully, the 11 computers and two printers were not yet installed when the hurricane struck.”

Marcellia Henry - Keynote Speaker

Ms. Marcellia Henry, Secretary General for UNESCO in St. Maarten based at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, was keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. She praised SMYCA as “the epitome of a resilient organization that is known for nurturing a growth mindset in the youth on St. Maarten.” She emphasized: “Today’s generous donation by Caribbean Lottery will enable other programmes such as KIDS IT to provide the youth participants with computer, viewing, digital, and technological skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century.”

SMYCA’s Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre is home to the organization’s successful STAR After School Programme, which provides academic support, life skills training and extracurricular activities for elementary and high school students. Now, thanks to Caribbean Lottery’s donation, SMYCA’s KIDS IT programme is set for a relaunch.  A popular programme with the students, it was put on hold four years ago. The weekend programme reached out to a wider group of students, allowing them to learn, share and explore their IT skills outside the regular after-school homework-based programme. “We are so glad that we are now able to take the KIDS IT programme off ‘pause,’” said Ms. Francis-Gumbs.

The SMYCA Director explained that there is a push in St. Maarten to increase the level of technology in elementary schools. However, many of the children the organization serves face challenges – especially the younger ones. The SMYCA Director added: “Some of the children lost everything in the storm.”

“Most of the students we serve, who are at the elementary level, do not have access to Internet at home. Their parents are busy and working. They are not able to go to the library to study on their own. They are at more of a disadvantage than the older ones. So, the use of the computers will really help this age group,” Ms. Francis-Gumbs pointed out. The Centre hosts an average of 45 elementary students per year on their current after school programme, in addition to a smaller group of high school students.

Since Hurricane Irma, the Centre has demonstrated its resilience by keeping to its regular schedule. The younger students start at around 1 p.m., as school ends earlier for them. They have lunch, do their homework and then they go on to their tutored and extra-curricular activities. Tutoring is provided in English, Dutch and Math for all grade levels. SMYCA recognizes that teaching IT skills – an important tool for life – is a critical element of any after-school programme, at both elementary and high school levels.

Ms. Francis-Gumbs pointed out that not all students are academically gifted and their self-esteem declines as a result. However, the aim of the IGT After School Advantage programme, which SMYCA fully supports, is to help all the region’s young people succeed to the  best of their abilities.

“We at Caribbean Lottery are interested in empowering children, who might otherwise feel they are being left behind,” said Brendan Hames, IGT Regional Director – Caribbean. “Whatever their talents and ability, we believe that providing a programme such as this will enable them to work on their strengths and that this will lead to a fulfilling life in the future.”

As an example, Ms. Francis-Gumbs pointed to one young man who was exceptionally gifted with his hands. The tutors encouraged his natural gifts, and he is now a successful and sought-after mechanic.

She added: “We’ve seen over the years a number of students who were demotivated. Their parents had almost given up on them. Now, most of them have graduated from high school and gone on to University or to pursue a career. They are doing well. We see a lot of small success stories. They really add up. With the new computer lab, we expect to see those stories multiply.”

“I would really like to express our appreciation to Caribbean Lottery for their support,” said Ms. Francis-Gumbs. “The staff have worked with us diligently to make this happen. They have provided support after the storm. The computer lab will help us to achieve so much more for the children. Those attending our summer school right now will benefit from it.”

“Even after a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, the SMYCA still has not lost its bounce or step,” said Ms. Marcellia Henry. “In other words, it continues to uphold and execute the core value and objective of the organization, which is to promote the interests of the youth of St. Maarten.”

IGT and Caribbean Lottery officials

Photo caption: OFFICIALLY OPENED: International Game Technology (IGT) and Caribbean Lottery opened a newly rebuilt and retrofitted computer lab at the St Maarten Youth Council on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 as part of their After School Advantage Programme. Seen here, cutting the ribbon to the new facility, are, from left: Patrick Clunis – Account Development Manager – Antilles Lotteries, Connie Francis-Gumbs – Director St. Maarten Youth Council Association, Brendan Hames – Regional Director – Caribbean, Gloria Bazil-Henry (partially hidden) – IGT staff member and Paula Williams – Site Manager Eastern Caribbean Islands. Photo provided.

Top photo: NEW FACILITIES: The newly rebuilt IGT After School Advantage Centre opened at the Youth Community Centre in St. Peters on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. The Youth Community Centre hosts an average of 45 elementary students annually through their current after school programme, in addition to a smaller group of high school students. Photo provided.

Photo keynote speaker: Marcellia Henry – Secretary General UNESCO St. Maarten. Photo provided.


About IGT:

IGT (NYSE:IGT) is the global leader in gaming. We enable players to experience their favourite games across all channels and regulated segments, from Gaming Machines and Lotteries to Interactive and Social Gaming. Leveraging a wealth of premium content, substantial investment in innovation, in-depth customer intelligence, operational expertise and leading-edge technology, our gaming solutions anticipate the demands of consumers wherever they decide to play. We have a well-established local presence and relationships with governments and regulators in more than 100 countries around the world, and create value by adhering to the highest standards of service, integrity, and responsibility. IGT has over 12,000 employees. For more information, please visit www.igt.com.

About IGT’s After School Advantage Programme:

The After School Advantage program is IGT’s signature philanthropic program providing computer labs for children ages 5-18 to use for homework assignments during the critical after-school hours. The program strives to close the “Digital Divide” for at-risk children who are left behind because they do not have the means to access computers at home in today’s increasingly digital society. IGT offers the After School Advantage program in jurisdictions where we do business.

Since 2011, IGT and its subsidiaries have opened 36 After School Advantage centers in the English-speaking Caribbean. In Jamaica, IGT has opened 13 After School Advantage Centres and 18 in Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean Lottery and IGT have equipped one After School Advantage Centre in each of these locations: St. Kitts, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Barbados; and there are two After School Advantage Centres in Antigua. IGT and its subsidiaries regularly upgrade computer centers and have made 19 further donations in new computer equipment, software and employee volunteer hours.

About Caribbean Lottery:

Caribbean Lottery is a trade name registered and used by Caribbean Lottery Services, Inc. and affiliates that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Providence, Rhode Island-based IGT. Caribbean Lottery™ is the trade name and brand of the lottery games and services offered by the Government authorized provider of Lottery services in St. Maarten and in numerous other islands throughout the Caribbean.

The company provides a full suite of services including: game, product and technology development; retail point of sale solutions; communications channels; hardware, software, data storage and data centre operations; financial transactional records in line with industry and worldwide best practices; retailer management and sales and marketing support.

The Caribbean Lottery™ is the only multi-currency, multi-national lottery in existence in the world today. Players are offered an exciting array of products in the Lotto category (Powerball, Mega Millions, Super Lotto, Lucky Pick), Daily Numbers category (Pick 3, Pick 4), Social Space category (Caribbean Keno) and Scratch Ticket category. The mission of the Caribbean Lottery is to raise money for the good causes allocated by the government as beneficiaries of the lottery and to do so in a responsible manner. For more information, please visit www.thecaribbeanlottery.com.