Published On: Wed, Jan 1st, 2020

Keith Franca bids farewell to the SMDF

SMDF Board & Management

~ Makhicia Brooks to become Managing Director ~

PHILIPSBURG — St. Maarten’s first and only social development NGO funding agency, the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), bids farewell to the Fund’s first Managing Director Keith Franca after his seven-year tenure as Director.

In his first months as Managing Director, Franca prioritized SMDF’s proper structuring, sought to ensure that SMDF had the information, resources and infrastructure necessary to efficiently and effectively serve St. Maarten’s NGO community. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with SMDF’s NGO financing predecessor the Antilliaanse Medefinancieringsorganisatie (AMFO). A Fund Management Agreement (FMA) was executed with the Government of St. Maarten, a legally binding agreement that outlines the relationship between SMDF and Government.

During SMDF’s startup, Mr. Franca was also instrumental in assisting the board with the establishment of the Fund’s internal processes and procedures as well as setting up of the SMDF’s offices.

Speaking on the selection of Mr. Franca as SMDF’s first Director, the Fund’s incorporating  Supervisory Board Chairlady Richelda Rodriguez-Emmanuel indicated that it was important to have the organization start off under the leadership of a seasoned professional. Going further, Rodriguez-Emmanuel said, “Mr. Franca came to SMDF with over three decades of senior management experience; we were very fortunate that someone with his private sector background was willing to lead a small non-profit entity. He prioritizes corporate good governance and as Managing Director he has ensured SMDF’s compliance with the good governance principles, allowing external stakeholders and partners to have trust in the organization,” continued Chairlady Rodriguez-Emmanuel.

The commitment to compliance and trust building described by the Chairlady was an asset throughout Franca’s tenure. SMDF was able to receive ANG 1.6 million of funds unspent by AMFO via the Dutch Government in November 2016. The receipt of these funds provided SMDF with the funding necessary to embark upon its Elderly project. Additionally, immediately after the passing of hurricane Irma, through accountability and transparent fund management, SMDF requested and received an additional amount of ANG 2.5 million from the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations. Together, these funds allowed the SMDF to expand its Elderly project which executed repairs to 80 homes and construction to an additional 16 homes in the months immediately after hurricane Irma. With his commitment to improving the quality of life of the elderly, Franca also facilitated the expansion of elderly transportation with SMDF purchasing four passenger busses from transportation service Helping Hands Foundation.

During his tenure as Managing Director, Franca led the organization’s staff steadfastly. He encouraged an open-door policy and customer service mentality that came from his decades in the hospitality sector, calling each NGO that received funds from SMDF a ‘client’ to be served. Internally, he instilled a sense of duty among SMDF’s staff. He meticulously oversaw the foundation’s operating, funding and project expenses. He served as internal administrator and accountant, ensuring that every guilder spent served its intended purpose. No task was too large or too small for his attention to detail and after seven years of service to SMDF, he will be leaving the organization having passed on his extensive knowledge to his successor SMDF’s current Program and Development Manager Makhicia Brooks.

SMDF MD Makhicia BrooksMakhicia Brooks (30), who joined SMDF in her current role in February 2017, was appointed by the Fund’s Supervisory Board to carry the mantle as of January 2020. Outgoing Managing Director Keith Franca stated: “Maki has all the attributes to make an excellent Managing Director and has laid a foundation in her role as Program & Development Manager to take SMDF to even greater heights”.

Well liked in the NGO Community, the St. Peters native attended the St. Dominic High School and furthered her education at the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, graduating summa cum laude in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science Affairs. Moving forward she enrolled at the American University, graduating in 2013 with a Master’s degree in International Development with a focus on global and national policy.

Outside of her full-time work, she has also found other ways to serve the community. She has volunteered with SXM Doet as a Project Coach for two years and has also been a volunteer with the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation, facilitating its Real Talk and Girl Power programs in high schools. Most recently, Brooks served as the Chairperson of the 2019 Governor’s Symposium held this past June. Additionally, she is a sitting member of the Board of Social Economic Council (SER).

Speaking about her appointment as SMDF’s Managing Director, Brooks described the function as a new challenge to be met. “It is an honor to know that the Supervisory Board of an organization that I value so dearly has such faith in me; I look forward to this new function and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Franca. He has been a teacher, mentor and guiding light during my time at SMDF thus far.” Ms. Brooks will begin her service as Managing Director as per January 1, 2020, making her the youngest Managing Director in the Collective Sector of entities and companies on St. Maarten.

The appointment of Makhicia Brooks has been welcomed by a great number of NGO, donors and other entities that interact with SMDF. The Supervisory Board is exceptionally proud to promote young and competent St. Maarteners and extends best wishes to Makhicia, affectionately known as Maki, as she takes up her new role.

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