Published On: Sun, Jul 21st, 2019

Super woman Debbie Gibbs passed away

Debby Cassandra Gibbs photo

PHILIPSBURG – Two days after the I Can Foundation orphanage in Dutch Quarter marked its 23rd anniversary, its founder Cassandra ‘Debbie’ Gibbs unexpectedly passed away, leaving the staffers who found her body last Friday morning in shock. With Gibbs, St. Maarten has lost an icon of immeasurable value.

“Today I lost a friend who meant so much to the SXM community. My heart goes out to all her children and her family, friends, staff and colleagues,” Myriam Haar, who worked in the recent past with several of the I Can-children through a volunteer emotional coaching program, wrote in a Facebook post from her current location Cambodia.”A powerhouse has left us for new horizons. Thank you for your years of selfless devotion to the young and vulnerable, thank you for your great heart Debby and thanks for having had the pleasure of knowing you while sharing a part of your road. Just like Mother Theresa, it will be difficult to find someone else to take over your lifetime work and commitment.”

Gibbs ruled her orphanage as a strict but fair mother hen. Her biggest frustration was that children who lived with her for many years had to leave the orphanage once they reached the age of 18 while they basically has nowhere to go. She tirelessly looked for sponsors, helping some of her charges to find adoptive families prepared to finance their studies abroad – at times in places like Aruba and the United States.

The Be the Change Foundation supported the I Can Foundation over the years. “Debbie was indeed a super woman. Her contribution to the children of St. Maarten was one of timeless dedication and love,” Be the Change said in another Facebook post that mourned the loss of the I Can-founder.

Patricia Williams-Carty also expressed her sadness on Facebook. “I have personally known Debbie for so many years. I am in total shock at her passing. Debbie will always remain in our hearts as a most caring, responsible person who always looked out for the underprivileged children.”

Countless others expressed their sympathy, describing Gibbs as “a strong woman with a heart,” “a beautiful woman always working for the children,” ”a positive spirit no matter her circumstances” and “an inspiration to many people.”

Gibbs was a Ridder in the Orde of Oranje Nassau, a member of the School Bus Owners Association and a former secretary of the United Bus Drivers Association.

So far, there has been no reaction from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor, where Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin recently took over the responsibilities of former Minister Emil Lee.

It is currently unclear what the future holds for the I Can Foundation’s orphanage and the children that depend on it.


[Publisher’s Note: At the time of writing, there was no official reaction as yet from government on the news of the passing of the I Can Foundation founder. However, the Prime Minister issued the following statement on Sunday, July 21, 2019:]

Cassandra Gibbs - RIP