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The support, care and feeding of 150 or so volunteers that make the Heineken Regatta run each year would be a nightmare of logistical planning for most. However, Hendrickje Stoffels steps into this huge task each year and handles it so well that every volunteer is supplied and fed seamlessly, as well as being rewarded each year with a goodie bag of thanks. Of course, each year’s new volunteer T-shirt design is eagerly anticipated and widely discussed relative to color, design and, finally, how best to be customized with alterations.

Speaking with Hendrickje, while she was assembling the volunteers’ gift bags, she explained how important her background with planning and organization has been in equipping her with the patience and diligence necessary to do her critical job each year since 2007 when she became the primary volunteer support person. She has degrees in hospitality management, as well as policy and organizational science, earned in the Netherlands. At 26, she traveled to Curacao and spent 10 years there, before traveling to St. Maarten, in 2004, to help establish Antillean Co-Financing Organisation. She now does similar work at the St. Maarten Development Fund. This organization accepts, reviews and approves some of many submitted applications to receive funding to support a wide array of important social support services for the youth, elderly, handicapped and other challenged folks on the island and is a great benefit to all they impact.

It takes every bit of skill, aplomb and patience Hendrickje has garnered from her educational and work background to accomplish the difficult challenges she faces each and every day during the regatta period. From preparation, through racing to clean-up, the volunteers must be fed while they work; boats that lay marks or provide start and finish lines must be receive all the provisions they need each morning, water taxis and their captains must be supplied and fed. That starts at 6 am and runs until noontime, before she must shift into another gear to prepare for the party venue, each evening that there is racing, at four different locations. At Port de Plaisance, the Boardwalk in Philipsburg, Marigot waterfront and Kim Sha Beach, a complete volunteer center must be provisioned. Simply put it is about two solid weeks of making sure massive amounts of food, beverages, ice and so many other things get prepared and transported, in time, to just about everywhere around the island. Thankfully, she describes close cooperation among all involved parties, especially the A-Team crew, headed by Willem Dekker. One of these years, she hopes to have enough spare time to get out on the water and see some racing, so far an elusive goal. Through it all, Hendrickje has a smile and kind word for all. When asked what she would like to tell people about the regatta, she answers that she hopes to see more native islanders join into the fun and excitement that is shared together, by all the volunteers each year. The reason she comes back every year is the sheer fun and, even, craziness the big family of volunteers enjoy each year.

John Merritt followed all our volunteers round during the regatta this year to find out more about them. This article is one of many that he wrote and we are very grateful for the voice he has given our wonderful volunteers especiallly as he was a volunteer himself.

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