Sint Maarten – The Sint Maarten Alpha Leo club celebrates its 38th anniversary today Friday April 16, 2021. The Alpha Leo Club began on April 16, 1983 under the leadership of Past District Governor Lion Wally Havertong, PMJF, who is credited with starting this organization in St. Maarten.
PDG Wally Havertong, PMJF, on this auspicious occasion of the inception of the Alpha Leo Club takes us on a journey of the history of how it all started.
“One would agree with me that it is not often that we see youth organizations celebrating that length of time in existence. This article is not meant to boast but to encourage young people in our community that they too can offer humanitarian service to those in need, whether young or old and to instil in them the drive to care for each other.
It all came about when I would take my children hill climbing on Saturday mornings so that they could learn and enjoy more about the island’s beauty. Soon we were joined by several youths of the neighbourhoods of Saunders and its surroundings. I was a member of the Sint Maarten Lions Club and as such most of the youngsters that joined me on the hill climbing adventures were children of other members of the Lions Club.
I saw this as a golden opportunity and as a result, I acquainted myself with the Lions Club International Leo Club Program, which offers young people between the ages of 12 to 18 years who want to give humanitarian service to the community to join. From that program I learned all about the movement and my hill climbing project changed to me gathering 16 youths between the ages of 11 to 16, all children of members of the Sint Maarten Lions Club.
After having intensely studied the Leo Program after hill-climbing I would meet with all sixteen youths making them acquainted with the program which stands for Leadership – Experience – Opportunity. The kids were very interested and after several meetings it was time for the big day.
With the Certification Documents from Lions Clubs International in hand on April 16th 1983, sixteen boys and girls between the ages of 11 to 16 years were duly installed by then Lions District Governor Filimon Durant as the very first Leo Club of the then Netherlands Antilles, with Lion Wally as the very first Leo Club Advisor. The first project of the club was a fundraising car-wash and with the proceeds the Leos purchased a wheelchair for a physically challenged young girl. This was a very good start because immediately it instilled in these young children the meaning of giving humanitarian service to those in need.
Worthwhile to mention is the initiative taken by our Alpha Leo Club and their campaign against drug abuse. Many gatherings were organized with the youth of that time and guest speakers were invited to lecture the youths on the dangers of drug abuse. Leos invited other youth organizations and the community at large to march with them through the streets of Philipsburg in support of the fight against drug abuse. I even dare say that as a result of the marches and information evenings those who saw the importance of combating drug abuse established what we have come to know as “Turning Point”. It was also then that the Leos started to use their well-known slogan of “Where there is a Need, We do the Deed”
I am very happy and proud to see that many of our youths have given heed to Leo Club Logo
L E A D E R S H I P E X P E R I E N C E O P P O R T U N I T Y as today we can boast that the Leo Program on Sint Maarten throughout the past 38 years has truly served its purpose both to the community at large also to those young boys and girls who throughout the years have dedicated their time to giving others in need a better quality of life.”
The Leo Club Logo is also embodied by Leo Riya Baharani, President for the 2020/21 Leonistic year who shares her experiences about being a part of this noble organization. “I first joined the Alpha Leo Club six years ago. Being in this club for that many years has not only allowed me to grow as a person but witness the growth in the club as well. From hosting a Basketball Tournament for the high schoolers on the island, to organizing the Tech Savvy project, in which the senior citizens were taught the basics of technology has demonstrated to me that this club makes a difference in the lives of people of all ages. To me, it is important to encourage, motivate, and provide fellow members with the opportunity to take on leadership roles for them to be able to gain the experience that I am grateful to have had. Overall, the eye-opening service projects and supportive environment make me a proud Leo member.”
The Alpha Leo Club has given many of our youths the head start they needed and many after their studies abroad have returned and today, we are proud to see the finest young professionals in every possible field on Sint Maarten who went through the Alpha Leo Club Program holding top positions. The club also have members who have remained in the countries where they went to study, continue to serve in a Leo Club where they live or lived and some even continued later to become Lions abroad.
This leadership ability has been honed in Lion Lisandra Havertong, one of the charter members of the Alpha Leo Club in 1983, who in the year 2000 took over the baton as Leo Advisor and continued to serve as such for 20 years until 2020. During those 20 years some worthwhile projects have been executed under her leadership in particular for the less-fortunate and the physically disabled in the Sint Maarten community. In her twenty years tenure she has been instrumental in developing some excellent youths into young professionals who today not only have distinguished positions here but also abroad.
The Alpha Leo club can boast of having Medical Doctors, Epidemiologists, Lawyers and Entrepreneurs and several successful businessmen here on Sint Maarten. We are also proud to say that Dr. Raïsa Tjon an Epidemiologist who was loaned to Sint Maarten from the Netherlands to assist with the Corona Virus Pandemic, was a former Sint Maarten Alpha Leo Club member and she was very happy to contribute her services to the island where she grew up and served as an Alpha Leo Club member, to the battle against the pandemic. And there are many others who have returned to the island and continue to give their valued service to the community here.
As we celebrate 38 year and move towards the 40th anniversary. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate not only the present members of the Club but also all those who during the past 38 years have been part of the movement bringing valued service to the community of Sint Maarten.