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Simadan Toastmasters Club: 48 years and still going strong!


There was a club prior to Simadan, named Curaçao Toastmasters. Attempts to revive that club failed and thus Simadan was born. A member of the Club was Mr. Edsel Jesurun (one of the current honorary members) then Deputy of Culture. Mr. Jesurun was associated with a foundation called PROMUSA and Mr Oswin ‘Chin’ Behilia, a well-known musician and songwriter was in charge of organizing Curacao’s first “Antillean Golden Voice Festival”.

Edsel “Papi” Jesurun

Deputy of Culture

Mr. Jesurun admired the dynamism of Mr Behilia in organizing the event and coincidentally, Mr Behilia was employed at the Ministry of Finance which was in the same building where Mr. Jesurun, the Deputy of Culture worked. After the event, Mr. Jesurun summoned Mr Behilia to his office and gave him the task of starting a Toastmasters Club. Mr Jesurun also gave him different Toastmasters books to read in order to become more acquainted with Toastmasters.

Oswin “Chin” Behilia

On December 27, 1973 Mr. Behilia organized the first informational meeting among friends, and invited Mr. Jesurun to give a detailed explanation as to how a Toastmasters Club functioned. At that meeting, there was a unanimous decision to reactivate the old Club, Curacao Toastmasters with a temporary Executive Committee over which Mr. Behilia would preside. The Executive Committee of the old Club fervently declined their participation which led Mr. Behilia to start a new Club which was named Simadan Toastmasters Club.

The first Club Officers of the Simadan Toastmasters Club were as follows:

President, Oswin “Chin” Behilia

Vice President Education, George Leetz

Vice President Administration, Selvi L. Laurens

Secretary, Clarence Cruger

Treasurer, Eric van Ommeren

Sergeant at Arms, Herbert M. Els

Mr. Herbert Els served until September 1974 and was succeeded by Mr. Virgilio Boom


The Club held an informal meeting on December 27, 1973 and there were mock up meetings between January and March 1974. On May 3, 1974, the Club received its charter documentation from Toastmasters International acknowledging the charter date as April 29, 1974. The Club held its first official meeting on May 11, 1974 and its charter night was held on July 26, 1974. One of Mr. Behilia’s first accomplishments was to obtain a permit from Toastmasters International to allow women to join the Club. The Club’s first two female members were Mrs. Glenda Mercalina and Mrs. Marieta Eugenia.

The Club’s first female President was Toastmaster Edie Bailey who served from 1980 to 1981. The years 1981 to 1982 saw the installation of the Club’s second female President, Toastmaster Etline La Cruz.


In Curaçao, four languages are spoken, namely Dutch, Spanish, English and the native language, Papiamentu. On March 20, 1975, history was created when the Club received a letter from Toastmasters International stating that Toastmasters is focused on development and not on language. As a result, Simadan Toastmasters Club was granted permission to allow its members to speak in the language with which they felt the most comfortable.

EARLY 1990s

In the early nineties, the Club made a decision to become a bilingual Club. For quite a while, Simadan was the only Club in the Dutch Antilles, the first bilingual Club on the island and in the world. Since then, Club meetings are held in Papiamentu and English and Club members reserve the right to speak in the language of their choice. However, the member is evaluated in the language spoken by the Evaluator.

In the nineties as well, D’arcy Lopes and the late Wilfred “Freddy” Rooyer sponsored the UNA Toastmasters Club at the University of the Dutch Antilles. In November 1993, the University changed its name to the University of Curaçao, and the Club is now known as the UoC Toastmasters Club. In August 1992, the first corporate Club, MCB Toastmasters Club was chartered and the sponsors were D’arcy Lopes and Ivan “Vanky” Moreno. The Club was mentored by the late Jossy Martina and Wilfred “Freddy” Rooyer.


Johanna “Poppy“Dambruck who has been a member of the Simadan Toastmasters Club since 1991, was the first female to earn the highest distinction awarded by Toastmasters International, the title of Distinguished Toastmaster. This distinction was earned on June 4, 2003.

On the 30th anniversary of the Club, the Club’s website was launched.


Simadan Toastmasters Club was able to persuade the Government of Curaçao to officially recognise October 22 as Toastmasters Day, an idea that had its origins in one of the Club’s former members, Toastmaster Albert Pardo. The day was proclaimed by the then Lieutenant Governor Lizanne Richards-Dindial on October 22, 2008.


In celebration of the Club’s 45th anniversary, it held a storytelling festival on November 10, 2019.


Overall, the members stay very long with the Club, at times more than 10 years. The current president Toastmaster Marilyn Lourens has been with the Club since 2006, Darcy Lopes, DTM since 1979 and Toastmaster Michel Henriette and Toastmaster Edsel Ricardo since 1993.

The current Honorary Members are Mr. Oswin “Chin” Behilia, Mr. Edsel “Papi” Jesurun and Mr. Ivan Moreno.

Toastmaster Jossy Martina is the only member that has served as Club President on four occasions. The periods were 1985 to 1986, 1988 to 1989, 1991 to 1992 and 1999 to 2000.

Toastmaster Oswin “Chin” Behilia, Toastmaster Marvis Olbino and Toastmaster Josephine Betrian-Gonesh served as Club President on three occasions.

Toastmaster Behilia served for the term 1974 to 1975, 1975 to 1976 and 1984 to 1985. Toastmaster Olbino served from 1989 to 1990, 1993 to 1994 and 1997 to 1998.

Toastmaster Betrian-Gonesh served during the period 2005 to 2006, 2008 to 2009 and 2012 to 2013.

The following members served twice as President:

Late Toastmaster Clarita Richardson, Toastmaster Edsel Ricardo, Toastmaster Ethlin La Cruz, Toastmaster Johanna Dambruck, Toastmaster Michel Henriette, Toastmaster Oscar Betrian and Toastmaster Rudseline Julia.

The Club has facilitated numerous Speechcraft programmes for schools and organizations, such as Round Table International and over the years, has achieved numerous distinctions such as Distinguished, Select Distinguished and President’s Distinguished status.


From left to right are:

President, Marilyn Lourens DL1

Vice President Education, Glenda Varlack IP2

Vice President Membership, Marjuri Cathalina-Fraai CC

Vice President Public Relations, Johanna Dambruck, DTM

Secretary, Edsel Ricardo IP1

Treasurer, Etline Palm-Meyer DL2

Sergeant at Arms, Ivonne Rosini DL1

Immediate Past President, Gisette Montroos DL1

The ceremony was held on August 7, 2021 at La Hacienda, Curaçao


Incoming President Toastmaster Marilyn Lourens is being pinned by the Immediate Past President and current Area Director Toastmaster Gisette Montroos.

The pinning ceremony was held on August 7, 2021 at La Hacienda, Curaçao.

The content for this article was provided by the members of the Simadan Toastmasters Club.

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