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Sharon Freiburg, Educational Consultant

How long have you been in St. Maarten?

I came to St. Maarten on June 15, 1994 to live outside the United States for one year and I never left. I have been a resident of Cole Bay since then.

How did you get involved with the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation?

I was invited to volunteer by Rajesh Chintaman. I had been the public speaking instructor at the University of St. Maarten and Rajesh Chintaman was in my class. As a member of the Foundation, they were looking for someone who could amicably greet and welcome all persons coming for testing. The Foundation’s goal is to make sure all the participants feel comfortable and at ease for testing. That is where I come in!

Why did volunteering appealed to you?

I believe in community service. No matter what country I live in, as a member of the community I believe it is my responsibility to give back. So I welcome the opportunity to volunteer for the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation.

In what volunteer role are you involved at the moment?

Once a person walks in, it is my job to make sure the person feels assured the testing is strictly confidential and a very simple procedure. The counseling portion of the testing is offered in a variety of languages, therefore it is my responsibility to make sure the person being tested is provided with a counselor who can speak their native language. We have offered counseling in English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Haitian Creole and even Italian. I also work closely with the AUC students so that they are comfortable and the testing process flows well.

Have you gained any skills from volunteering?

I have gained confidence in working with large array of community members. I have worked with young persons all the way up through senior citizens.

What are your interests and hobbies?

I have been an educator for over 34 years so helping people learn academics but also about themselves is very rewarding for me. My hobbies include gardening, reading and helping people with organizational skills. For instance, organizing people’s closets or homes I find like putting the pieces of a puzzle together and cherish the outcome.

Is there one memorable case from volunteering that you can share with us?

What I find memorable is how supportive persons getting tested are of one another. There was a case where a woman was in line and called to work, she left for about fifteen minutes and when she returned everyone waiting to be tested told her to get back in the front of the line. Complete strangers encouraging  her to go to her original spot instead of being at the end of the line. Volunteering with the AIDS Foundation has given me the opportunity to witness complete strangers caring and supporting each other. And for this I am blessed.

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Sharon Freiburg, Educational Consultant & volunteer with the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation.