Programs, Projects and Activities
Working from the origin of helping PLHIV, BMS-ASGS has grown to a foundation that strives to increase well-being, health, human rights and quality of life for all living on Saba. To these ends BMS initiates (and is involved in) many projects. BMS strives towards efficient cooperation between the various organizations with similar objectives on the island and to be as inclusive as possible.
Here's a selection of our recent activities.
Free Oral HIV Tests
As it can be quite a scare, when someone thinks they may have been exposed to HIV, BMS offers a low-key accessible oral HIV test to those who want to check themselves. This test has been on the market for a while already, but 2018 marked the first year UN AIDS was advertising for people to use them. In 2018 BMS acquired a dozen of those tests, promising complete confidentiality to those who want to pick one up. Next to that, after discussion with the Public Health Department, BMS included a disclaimer that the test is only for HIV and that for testing of other sexually transmitted diseases – and for absolute certainty – people should get tested at the hospital.
Safe Sex Campaigns
Promoting safe sex is (and has been) one of the core activities of Body, Mind and Spirit. Apart from making free condoms available at several key spots on the island (BMS office, Hospital, CYF, School, Health Insurance Office and Public Health Department), BMS provides condom machines at several spots as well (Guido’s, Sunny Valley Youth Center, the Fort Bay Harbor and the Cove Bay).
Next to this permanent availability, BMS normally campaigns throughout the summer carnival by handing out flyers and condoms to the partying crowd. Due to the measures against COVID-19, there was no carnival in 2020, but BMS is looking forward to hand out more than 2000 condoms per carnival in the coming years.
Sexual Health WhatsApp
For young people on Saba it can be a challenge to open a conversation about health and relationships. Anonymity is hardly existent on the island and that makes it hard to talk without consequences. To make this a little easier, BMS set up a strictly confidential Whatsapp number for questions about sex, sexual health and relationships. Questions will be dealt with in strict confidence by staff of the Public Health Department.
Pink Orange Alliance and LGBT+ activities
The Pink Orange Alliance (POA), which was set up by COC Netherlands, strives for acceptance of LGBT+ people on the six Dutch Caribbean Islands. Body, Mind & Spirit represents the POA on and for Saba and works on activities and events to get the LGBT+ community from being tolerated to being accepted. BMS strives to create a platform and an ‘open door’ for Saba’s LGBT+ communities to voice their concerns, but also to move forward and create and/or find their place in Saba’s society. The funding for POA ran out at the end of 2019 and the follow up from COC Netherlands and the Dutch Ministry has been slow.
In the context of the alliance and working towards acceptance, BMS takes part in organizing movie nights, rainbow parties and other unifying activities. As we believe the LGBT+ communities themselves play an important role in these events, BMS focuses on supporting initiatives from the community, instead of organizing events for them.
Next to that BMS tries to make sure that LGBT+ acceptance is part of educational projects. In this context the Queen Wilhelmina Library was provided with 7 LGBT+ themed books to create a ‘Rainbow shelf’ and in 2021 more books will be added.
In early 2017 BMS was invited to join the Public Entity in their approach to deal with domestic violence. BMS offered to take a role in (the coordination of) creating awareness. BMS started off with doing research on locally and regional available approaches and presented the Public Entity with a short report and vision on how to deal with the issue on an awareness level locally. Following the report, BMS has joined the Domestic Violence Platform which is coordinated by the Public Entity Saba. BMS is an active partner is the development and execution of awareness campaigns against domestic violence on Saba. One of the ongoing campaigns is a monthly poster with a Domestic Violence theme.
Human Rights Activities
Human Rights is an area in which BMS has been growing in the last few years, partly to make the people of Saba aware of what human rights are, partly to make sure every person on Saba has a fair chance at life. In 2020 human rights awareness was focused on advertising surrounding important days as World AIDS Day, Human Rights Day & Children’s Rights Week. Next to this BMS ran a Human Rights Club as an extra-curricular program at the Saba Comprehensive School, in which students are exposed to – and urged to think and discuss about – human rights issues all around the world.
Awareness campaigning for World AIDS Day 2020, always on the first of December, was combined with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Windwardside. BMS took the opportunity to hand out t-shirts with the message “TOGETHER WE CAN END HIV STIGMA”.
Human Rights Day awareness activities were combined with the celebration of Saba Day. Small pins in the shape of a rainbow colored Saba and an imprint of ‘Celebrate Diversity’ were handed out to all on the streets. They were well received and we hope to keep seeing them pinned on shirts and jackets whenever the opportunity arises. Children were given a rainbow colored ‘slinky’ with the same message.
International Awareness Days
Next to all the activities mentioned, BMS creates awareness for many different causes within our scope of work. For many of these days BMS collaborates with local partners like the Saba Lions Club, the Public Health Department and the Saba Healthcare Foundation. A few examples of 2020 were World Cancer Day, the International Day Against Homo- Bi- and Transphobia, World AIDS Day, Human Rights Day and Children’s Rights Week.
Breast Cancer Awareness
Every year students from the Saba University School of Medicine organize an activity for Breast Cancer Awareness, which includes a walk-a-thon from Windwardside to the University building. BMS assisted the organization and – together with the Saba Lions Club - helped out in making this a community-wide event, by sponsoring t-shirts, water and other goodies.
With the summer festivities being cancelled due to COVID-19 related measures, the board of BMS decided to put the budget normally reserved for the carnival safe sex campaign to a different project. In close cooperation with the Public Entity Saba non-food hurricane kits were prepared. These 100 kits are to be handed out when a hurricane is approaching to families that can use the assistance and cannot necessarily afford or arrange the goods in them. The kits contain a first aid kit, a table lantern, waterproof document pouches, batteries, a can opener and some other goodies.
Activity Hygiene Kits
With the extra need for hygiene, BMS provided hygiene kits for the summer activities organized by Child Focus Foundation. For every activity there was a kit available with disinfectant spray, kitchen towel, hand sanitizer and band-aids.
Supporting a Healthy and Active Lifestyle
Many people and organizations on Saba work towards a healthier community. BMS supports these initiatives where needed. For example, in 2020 BMS supported the Saba Triathlon by providing paper cups and water and provided assistance in international financial transfers to the Saba Volleyball Association to make use of the services of an international coach. Next to that BMS supported various yoga initiatives and Zumba classes which have resulted in more activities in 2021.
Supporting Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Saba is lucky to have AA gatherings organized by a few dedicated members of the community to battle against alcoholism and other addictions. BMS supports these efforts fully and assists the group by providing materials and other necessities.
Working towards a less plastic
The Public Entity Saba is working hard in finding ways to reduce and/or ban single-use plastics. In striving for a healthy community, BMS decided to support this challenge by ordering big re-usable shopping bags made from recycled water bottles for all residents on Saba. They are to be handed out in 2021 as part of the outreach of the Public Entity.
WE CAN Young
The global WE CAN campaign strives to end all violence against women. Through Movisie in the Netherlands a youth-focused variety of this campaign was developed for the Dutch youth and through the ministry of OCW the campaign was also implemented in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The WE CAN Young campaign focuses on youth from 12-21 years of age and how they treat each other. Body, Mind and Spirit coordinates the WE CAN Young campaign, on behalf of the Public Entity, and executes it together with the Community Development & Public Health Department, Saba Reach and the Saba Comprehensive School. Through the campaign BMS and partners hope to instil a sense of what a healthy relationship is and to create an open discussion about respect and sexuality.
In 2020, the funds to run this campaign were finished and the pro-active cooperation between the partners was at its end. The content of the campaign is now supposed to be part of the curriculum at the Saba Comprehensive School. The partners are still ready to assist when a need is expressed by the care coordinator there.
In 2015 Body, Mind & Spirit was sponsored by Samenwerkende Fondsen to kick off the Saba Initiative in 2016. This is a course to train self-awareness and help participants find the balance in life to take action where needed.
The course has been developed and is spearheaded by Suchita Peeters. This program was finalized in 2020, as funding was depleted and many of the people that were open to benefit from the program had been exposed to it by now.
Since 2009 BMS has created newsletters to keep the Saba community up to date about ongoing activities, events and programs in which BMS is involved. The newsletter used to be quarterly, but in 2018 it was decided to turn it into an annual magazine. They are available at a few strategic spots and the BMS office in Windwardside.
Our Facebook page is actively updated and used to spread messages and announcements concerning HIV, diversity, health, quality of life and human rights. Through paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram our messages reach a lot of people on Saba and the rest of the Dutch Caribbean.