Poverty in Curaçao: ‘Huge demand for school supplies’

4 August 2022 | Dulce Koopman

The demand for school supplies has increased significantly due to poverty on Curaçao, informs the Sige Foundation. Many children cannot be helped. Due to the economic situation, many collection boxes and boxes are even returned empty.

“We received a lot of phone calls that we couldn’t handle yet,” says Eveline Blijmen (Sige). She now often has to disappoint parents and children: the foundation simply cannot handle more than 625 young people.

Economic crisis
There was already a lot of poverty on Curaçao, but the consequences of the corona pandemic are clearly noticeable in everyday life, says Blijmen. “You can see that there is a lot of unemployment, a lot of poverty. You can see the social situation in the schools. We aimed to help more school children or students, but it was not possible due to the economic crisis.”

The foundation asks for donations, but gets empty boxes back
The foundation has tried to hold a collection in various supermarkets. People could donate school supplies. “But it didn’t go well. In previous years, we have received a number of boxes of material. This year we got a lot of empty boxes back.”

There were also ten collection boxes in various locations. “But it didn’t go as we expected. All in all luckily we had 182 guilders. Much..”

Eveline Blijen (Sige) about the lack of school equipment

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The foundation provides a school bag, with packed lunch and drinking cup. Folders, pens and pencils. An eraser, a sharpener and scissors. Also notebooks, a triangle and a compass. That’s the basics; Parents have to buy the school uniforms themselves, which costs a few hundred guilders.

Math, without a good calculator
There are also more expensive items that schools require. For example, a graphing calculator for mathematics, with which you can make a graph. It costs about 250 guilders.

“But we don’t have the budget for that,” says Blijmen. This means that some young people cannot do homework or a test if they cannot borrow such a graphing calculator.

What if the budget runs out?
The budget for school supplies is running out. Then painful situations arise at the foundation’s office. “There was a family of five children recently. We couldn’t help two of them because we ran out of school bags. We don’t have money to buy more bags.”

Eveline Blijen (Sige): ‘We help with what we can’

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The poverty situation of many islanders is also something that still bothers the employees here at home. “You want to help all children, and if you don’t succeed, you’re still left with a bad feeling.”

No school supplies, some kids stay home
There are also children who do not go to school because they do not have school equipment, says Glad. “It really makes a difference to their motivation. If children do not have school equipment at the start of the new school year, they are not as motivated to go to school. When they have the new things, you see very happy faces.”

“At the moment we only have a few loose items left such as pencil cases, pencils and pens. But we no longer have school bags.”

All forms are up
Schools on Curaçao can refer around 15 students per year. All forms are used. According to Blijden, the government also helps parents who are dependent on social assistance in other ways.

However, it is felt that the demand for help is increasing. “We only apply through the schools, but we also receive registrations via our help desk, our Facebook and website.”

“This year at the start of the project we were really a bit sad because it was difficult with sponsors. We do not expect any more help for this project. But if it comes, we’ll take it with both hands.”

Next year
Expectations for next year? If it was up to the foundation, they would have far more than 600 school bags. However, given the situation in Curaçao, they are reluctant to make plans for next year.

“We will try to obtain school supplies in other ways. We hope that we will succeed in helping at least 700 students.”

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