KINGSTON — Residents of Homestead in St. Catherine have welcomed the upgrading of the community centre as a critical element in the process of moving the area forward while contributing to their own development.
The $44 million project, undertaken by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) under its Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP II), includes construction of a computer laboratory and an office area; rehabilitation of the perimeter fence, multi-purpose court and football field; installation of irrigation; and the provision of lighting for the sports field and multi-purpose court.
In addition to facilitating recreation and community gatherings, residents of the low income community will benefit from an array of vocation skills, conflict resolution and behaviour modification training, and job placements under the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP).
Meghan Stewart, who has lived in the low income community for 11 years, sees the upgrading of the facility “a great gift”.
“The children did not have anywhere to play, there was nowhere for skills training to happen and this is possible now because of the gift of the community centre so I think this is a great opportunity and a great gift to us to continue our life here,” she tells JIS News.
Another resident, Neville, says he is “very proud (and) overwhelmed to see in my lifetime that something like this (has) happened."
He adds that the development of the centre with its skills training and recreational programme will go a far way in moving the community and its members forward and is encouraging everyone to take care of the facility.
The community’s footballers are also excited about the renovation, especially the upgrading of the football field.
“The feeling weh me have me not even can express it the way mi so glad to see what become of Homestead and the community cause is lots of years we deh here and trying to get something even half like this and couldn’t get it,” says a team member.
“I remember days when we only have one (light) post and now we have six posts around the field, so I feel so happy,” he notes further.
CSJP is a critical partner in the project, as part of its social intervention in the area, which is challenged by unemployment and gang violence. The programme will furnish the centre, provide equipment and assist with its management.
Special Projects Coordinator, CSJP, Patricia Balls, says that creating spaces where residents can come together is important in promoting peace and unity and community building.
“We recognise that the importance of having critical infrastructure such as a community centre, a well maintained football field, (a) computer lab, (a) multi-purpose court…cannot be underscored,” she states.
Minister of National Security, Senator the Hon. Dwight Nelson, in his remarks at the opening ceremony earlier this month, said he was happy that this centre is now a reality, “because the Homestead Community has been in need of assistance for some time now”.
He informed that the Ministry of National Security through the CSJP, is “going to make a special effort to address some of the challenges that you face in the community”. .
According to Minister Nelson, projects like these are intrinsic in the fight to reduce crime and violence in the country and build confidence between residents and the police, noting that “hardcore crime fighting strategy alone can’t fight crime”.
“What is needed are community programmes such as those that will be facilitated through the CSJP and those that will be offered at the new centre,” he posited.
Mr. Nelson also used the opportunity to urge the residents to protect the facilities and to make reports to the relevant authorities, if they witness any vandalism.
The Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP II) is a joint project of the European Union (EU) and Government of Jamaica (GOJ).
Other partners in the renovation of the centre the Homestead Citizens for Action, which contributed $11 million of the project costs through discounted labour, security and electricity; the Daybreak Foundation of Morgan’s Lane in St. Catherine, among others.
As part of the project, the Homestead Citizen for Action was also strengthened through training in leadership, management, communication, networking and community development, and proposal writing.
By CHRIS PATTERSON, JIS Reporter