Residents of the Buckfield community in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, say their newly renovated basketball and multipurpose playing courts are a welcome reprieve from the daily stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to JIS News during a recent visit to the community, residents added that they were also grateful to the Sandals Foundation for the approximately US$50,000 investment, noting that it represented both value and “belief in us as a community”.
“This has been one of the best things that has ever happened in Buckfield… period,” argued Marvin Hamilton, longtime resident and curator of the community’s football field.
“Sandals came in sometime last year and made their intentions known… that they wanted to do something for Buckfield. Honestly, there were a lot of skeptics, including myself… as, frankly, we had heard those kinds of talk before,” he said.
Mr. Hamilton said the entire community was happy to see “that it was just more than mere talk” and that the Sandals Foundation has indeed delivered.
“We were especially grateful, considering what has been happening with the COVID-19 pandemic and with people about to lose their minds. The facelift and renovation have given us reason to now go out and let off a little steam in the form of exercise. This was truly a welcome move,” he said.
Another Buckfield resident, Kemar Johnson, said he was also impressed. “I am very proud of this recent development and for this kind of investment, which will have a profound impact on the lives of many,” he added.
For her part, Director of Operations at the Sandals Foundation, Karen Zacca, pointed out that the project commenced in 2019 and has been a labour of love aligned with the Foundation’s commitment to community development and engaging youth through sports.
“Spaces that encourage sports bring residents together to play, build relationships, develop lifelong skills and are important to the health of a community. Outside each of our immediate families, our communities help give us a sense of belonging and the Sandals Foundation will always give high priority to creating safe spaces for our communities to thrive,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Sports Officer for the parish of St. Ann with the Institute of Sports, Kurt Dale, said that the renovated facilities will help budding netballers hone their skills and develop a level of participation in the sport.
“We find that up to 50 per cent of persons do not want to further their skills in netball, because they do not have facilities to play. A number of the girls have to travel a long distance to be able to play, but with courts like this readily available, it will be much easier for them to go out and participate,” he noted.
Public Relations Manager at Sandals Ocho Rios Resort, Lyndsay Isaacs, who coordinated logistics, said that projects that serve the community must also employ the services of the community.
“As much as is possible, the Foundation engages local professionals to engender a sense of ownership in the development process as well as to help support the livelihoods of those who are employed,” she said.
“This is a family affair for us and the Sandals Foundation is the vehicle through which our resort guests, team members, travel agents and partners get an opportunity to serve the communities in which we operate. I am very happy with the outcome of this project and have no doubt the people of St. Ann will use it well,” Miss Isaacs added.