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Vitiligo, Educate, Inspire, Support SXM – VEISS 2nd annual mini-conference- ST MAARTEN 1st – 3rd December 2023

The second conference organized by VEISS association took place around the theme “Vitiligo and Mental Health”.

Jacqueline Vrolijk, president, and Gerline Isaac, Founder, took turns, throughout these days, to present the actions, history, and projects of VEISS.

During these 3 days, the various speakers – doctors, psychologists, psychotherapists –focused on the impact of vitiligo on patient’s mental health: touching testimonies, revealing the difficulties of each in their daily life, stigmatized in their personal and professional lives (for example, a flight attendant from a large company who can no longer work because of her pigmented hands). Living on an island can exacerbate the problems: it is difficult not to be noticed, if the child with vitiligo can be ostracised, the whole family is as well. Another problem: only two dermatologists on the island of St Martin.

The important role of associations or support groups was highlighted to; break out of isolation, share, be listened to, strengthen self-esteem, offer psychological support, guide on the path to acceptance, resilience etc.

Stephen Taylor, V Strong (USA), and Nicolle Maquignon, AFV, both members of the VIPOC board.

– Tonja Johnson, Beautifully Unblemished Support Group, Florida, USA, with her positive message “love the skin you are in”,

– Akenna Kublal -Trinidad, wishes to bring together people with vitiligo, author, shares her experience and her commitment through writing

– Daniel Kalakech, – St Martin, Vitiligo Explorer SXM, challenge – ascent of Mont-Blanc and Kilimanjaro, donation for research CHU Bordeaux

– Stephen Taylor, – V Strong, Global Vitiligo Foundation (GVF) and VIPOC – necessary and harmonious collaboration of these organizations, “a real symphony orchestra”, for stronger support and representation of vitiligo patients

– Nicolle Maquignon-AFV, VIPOC – history, missions and objectives of VIPOC, access to treatments, new recommendations, impact on quality of life, creation of a regional dynamic with neighbouring islands (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Trinidad, Aruba ..)

Another strong testimony: a 10-year-old pupil, who participated in awareness meetings organized in schools. Indeed, this conference closes the year 2023, devoted to Education (E for Educate). More than 500 pupils/students have benefited from awareness sessions about vitiligo. This is one of the priority missions of VEISS association: break the stigma through education with school initiative programs.

A final session of this type was organized by Gerline[] [/] Isaac, on December 2nd at the Daniel Choisy Professional High School, French zone, with students from the Health and Social option, with the participation of Stephen Taylor and Nicolle Maquignon.

The Minister of Health, the Director of Tourism, the head of Social Services, present during the Conference, provided or renewed their support for the VEISS association.

Strongly involved in its mission, VEISS plays a leadership role, being the first and only association for vitiligo in this Caribbean region. Recognized by the authorities and public services, VIPOC and GVF members, they set up numerous events on the island: Zumba, hikes, charity gala/dinner, and art auction, to raise funds, and benefits from the help of a few sponsors. However, VEISS deserves more support and not to be limited in her ambitions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to the whole VEISS team, for your warm welcome, your energy, and your beautiful smiles, and let’s continue to work together and make a better world for people with vitiligo!