Save Our Youth, Curacao
Ringo Harrigan, a young man on the island of Curacao, who loves nature, agriculture, art and music, remembers quite vividly when he first became interested in the lives of people with disabilities. He was only 16 years old working at a McDonald’s restaurant when a person with special needs came in on a wheelchair. From then on, he was moved to learn more and do something to improve their lives.
While Ringo and the Save our Youth Foundation he founded does their small part, he believes more can be done by those in authority on his island of Curacao to provide opportunities for people with disabilities. “They do have the same rights like everyone else. They have the right to participate in their community and their homes must be made accessible for them,” said Ringo. His organization’s goals are poverty reduction, empowerment of the youth and single mothers, supporting seniors, and improving the lives of the disabled on the island. Much of the programs run by this organization, which was started in 2009, is funded out-of-pocket by Ringo. He uses his private car to transport people with disabilities and is one of the main advocates on the island for people with special needs. Construction, yard clean-up, sale of agricultural products including fruits, and sale of his art made from leather, wood, aluminum, stone/iron, plastic and also his paintings go towards helping the marginalized on the island.
Over the years, the Save the Youth Foundation have undertaken a number of social projects. One of their most recent is the building of a greenhouse at Mc Piar School on the island. Other projects include:
The Kortjin Project: The home of two seniors and their grandchildren was destroyed by fire. The Foundation rebuilt the house, furnished it and provided clothes for the family.
The Leliberg Project: The roof of a house occupied by a family with children including a two-month old baby was blown off and away by a small cyclone. The Foundation built them a new roof and supplied clothes and other much-needed items.
Leetje Kindergarten: After the passing of Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010, the organization restored the Leetje Kindergarten school. Ringo said, “the beauty of this project was, when the kids resumed school, there were big smiles on their faces.”
On an on-going basis, the Foundation provides food to those in need.
Securing a beach on the island so people with disabilities can use it for therapy has been an 11 year lengthy discussion with the Government, according to Ringo. A beach has not yet been secured and to date, there are no accessible beaches designated for their use. The organization is also trying to purchase an abandoned building from the Government which they can restore themselves to use as a Rehab Center for people with disabilities. So far, Ringo said the response from Government has been, “no”.
Ringo is of the passionate opinion that those in authority need to give more attention to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Curacao, but while his frustration with the authorities continue, he and his team are forging ahead with the projects they identify and can complete themselves.
In the homes of many disabled people on the island, shower grab bars are lacking. Ringo and his team are trying to purchase and install these in as many homes as they can. Assistance in obtaining grab bars is welcomed and any donation to assist with their work overall will be appreciated.
For information about Save the Youth Foundation, email: [email protected]
Ringo’s work as an artist is sold under the signature, “Nature.” Funds generated from the sale of these go towards the Foundation and their social projects on the island.