Guyana-born activist knighted by Dutch King

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Guyana-born activist, Rajesh Chintaman was on Friday knighted by Governor of St. Maarten, Eugene Holiday for his achievements.

Chintaman was one of three recipients of Royal Decorations to mark the King of Netherlands birthday today, April 27.

Sir Rajesh was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He landed his first job at the state-owned Guyana Chronicle at age 17 where he trained as a photojournalist.

One of his proudest moments at the Chronicle was when he was singled out in 2000 to cover the visit of Prince Charles of the United Kingdom to Guyana.

News Room understands that at age 22, he was offered the opportunity to move to St. Maarten as part of the start-up team for a new newspaper – Today Publishing N.V.

At the time of leaving Guyana, he was on the path to becoming the newspaper’s youngest chief photographer but instead opted to head to the island which has since become his home.

In 2002, Rajesh began reporting on the issue of HIV/AIDS which at the time only dominated international headlines. During his time reporting on the disease, he learnt that there was a gap that needed to be filled – that of promoting and expanding youth awareness of the disease.

Chintaman became a volunteer with the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and he took up the task of developing awareness projects to enlighten youths about the disease.

Subsequently, he was appointed by the board as the Foundation’s Head of Prevention Unit. Despite having a full-time job now with The Daily Herald newspaper, he devoted more than 40 hours a week to the volunteer position.

In 2006, Rajesh became a member of establishing committee for the Stronger Together Red Ribbon Campaign, a joint venture with Scotiabank.

Over the years the foundation as netted well over US$400,000 from the private sector; a significant amount of that money was collected by Rajesh in his door-to-door campaign.

In 2007, Rajesh was one of the lead coordinators for the island’s first free public HIV testing day.

To date, the foundation, partly under his guidance, has carried out well over 10,000 free HIV tests since the testing initiative was started.

In 2008, he was appointed by then-Island Government of St. Maarten to serve on the HIV Coordinating Team (HCT), yet another non-paid volunteer post. On HCT, he helped guide the Island Govt.’s response to HIV/AIDS in policy and programmes.

In 2010, Rajesh co-authored the five-year sexual and reproductive health strategic plan and manual for the implementation on St. Maarten which forms the core functioning of the existing AIDS secretariat.

News Room understands that he has been instrumental in helping the country to gain international funding to fight HIV/AIDS and host talks with the younger population to enlighten them about the disease and prevention methods.

Rajesh’s dedication and commitment to his various causes have not gone unnoticed by his community.

In 2010, he was awarded the Crystal Pineapple Award for Outstanding Community Service to St. Maarten by the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA). This award was not only based on his nomination, but on voting by the community in general.

The HIV/AIDS awareness community bestowed on him the Elton Jones Award in May 2012.

The Rotary Club of St. Maarten made Rajesh a Paul Harris Fellow in October 2014 for his dedication to the HIV/AIDS Awareness (St. Maarten AIDS Foundation), Preparing Teenagers for the world (Real Talk) and to taking care of those less fortunate (Bishop Ellis Foundation for the Poor and Needy).

With a love for swimming, the humanitarian also coached the Carib Swim Team in Cole Bay.

The Guyanese born activist also became a member of the establishing committee for Bishop Ellis Foundation (BEF) for the poor and needy along with then Parish Priest Johannes Janssen and now Judge Mauritsz de Kort.

The non-religious foundation provides at present some 300 people (representing more than 80 families) with monthly food supplies.

Along with being one of the founding members, Raj is a volunteer and serves on the board as Vice President.

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