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Hotseat - Fleur Hermanides

783_OnA_HotseatThe vibrant Fleur Hermanides is the Senior Policy Worker of Environment and Hygiene at the Department of Public Health. She advises on environmental and hygiene matters that may affect the population. In addition to that, she's a biologist and animal lover who is working hard to help homeless animals on the island.

How would you describe yourself?

I guess the first thing that come to mind – and I think people would most likely say about me – is that I am quite a sarcastic, headstrong, passionate, determined, very active, open-minded, jokey nature lover.

Where were you born? Tell me a little about where you grew up.

I was born on Aruba to Dutch parents, but moved here soon thereafter; so Sint Maarten is and will most definitely always be my home. I lived in Holland for about eight years, studying mainly in Groningen but moving around from The Hague to Amsterdam to Den Bosch, and with some other stops in between. I moved back home a little over three years ago and have not regretted it for a second!

What was college life like?

It came with its ups and downs; I loved my study, but it was not an easy one. Most people had lots of time off but for us, it was like an eight to five job; but luckily, very gratifying. During this time, I specialized in behaviour and cognitive neuroscience for my Bachelor's, and further specialized in research for my Master's. I got to spend time in Southern Africa, studying chick begging behaviour in the Cape Gannet while sitting amongst penguins, seals and many other species on two uninhabited islands, as well as spending time researching altruism and reciprocity and the existence of a mating market (the behaviour of trading sex for "other" things) in the Rhesus Macaque. Not too shabby right?!

Tell me a little bit about how you got started with Team Golden Dog?

Some friends of mine started to research what we could do to help homeless animals on the island and we started asking around and speaking to many of the local animal welfare and adoption organizations and got acquainted with, amongst some others, Soc, the CEO of Team Goldendog. Team Goldendog, together with Animals R Friends, who received a piece of land from Government for the purpose of an animal shelter, started working on their dream of being able to provide a forever home, a family, to homeless animals. We offered our help, all of us having different backgrounds, but all with the same goal in mind: the setting up of Camp Goldendog, a state of the art animal sanctuary and shelter on Dutch Sint Maarten.

What other work have you been doing to help animals on the island?

I remember as a little girl holding a yard sale with friends. We donated everything we made to the Animal Welfare Foundation. We felt so proud! I used to volunteer at the vets and the shelter on weekends as well as try to persuade my parents to adopt everything in sight. Now I end up fostering once in a while as well as animal sitting friends' pets, as I rather they not be stuck in a small cage while they are away, also leaving more space at the vets for the animals that really need it. Whenever possible, I also help try finding forever homes for homeless or fostered animals.

Do you have any pets of your own?

I actually don't. When the idea of moving back home arose, I wanted to adopt a dog and I couldn't wait. I later came to the realization that finding an apartment with a yard and space for a dog was not within my budget nor am I ever home. I want to be able to provide a great home with space and have the time to provide the love and care they need.

What do you do when you're not at work?

I do cross-fit; I kick-box and play soccer. I am also a part of the management team of our women's soccer team, FC Soualiga, which is great fun! I love getting out there with my friends: this can be a lazy beach day, a fun night out dancing, going out hiking, partaking in any kind of water sport, having lunch/dinner or drinks. I've also started participating more and more in runs, such as the round the island relay race and most recently a mini-triathlon.

What would be your alternate choice as a place to live and work?

If I would go anywhere else, it would have to be on the African Continent, not a country in particular, but I've always had a fascination with Africa, and this has only gotten stronger with the time I've spent there. If I would indeed ever make my way there, it would definitely be in my capacity as a biologist, so back to basics and researching animal behaviour!

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be? What would you serve them to eat?

To keep it scientific, I think I'd have to invite Charles Darwin (known for his evolution theory), Diane Fossey (gorilla researcher murdered by poachers in Rwanda) and Rosalind Franklin (the original finder of the molecular structures, double helix, of DNA). I'd say let's have a BBQ on the beach and just see where the conversation leads.