Twenty-three-year-old St. Thomas resident, Kamoy Brown, is unemployed, but is optimistic that he will get a job soon.
With his newly acquired computer skills, gained from attending classes at the Information Technology (IT) and homework facility at the Rowlandsfield Community Centre in the parish, Kamoy is confident that his prospects for employment have greatly improved.
The former student of Happy Grove High School in Portland tells JIS News, that in addition to basic computer skills, he is now able to prepare and print his resume at the facility.
He is grateful and proud that such a project has come to the rural community, which is located some 30 miles from the town of Morant Bay.
“Truly, I feel really good and proud of the community, because we have been waiting for something like this for a long time. Students can now do their Student Based Assessments (SBAs) and stuff like that, and those who are not computer literate can come and learn something, so I’m really delighted about this,” he tells JIS News, with a broad smile. His wish is to see the centre expanded so that more persons can benefit.
The centre, which was constructed at a cost of some $1.3 million, began operations in May 2008.
When JIS News visited the facility recently, Kamoy was among a group of young persons, mainly students, using the five computers in the homework centre. They were being taught computer skills by Dwayne Brown, a volunteer teacher. The other tutors are Kevin Brown and Kevin Smith, a peace corps worker from Iowa, in the United States.
Computer classes are held on Mondays and Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and the facility is open from 9:00 a.m. to the public on the other days, to facilitate the printing of documents and other computer-related activities. There is a small fee for the use of the facility, which Kamoy thinks is quite affordable. “Some places, it is $60 per hour, so it’s very reasonable,” he says.
Social Development Commission (SDC) Officer for St. Thomas, Correll Steele (centre), makes a point to Howard Grant (left), Public Relations Officer for the Rowlandsfield Community Development Committee (RCDC), and Phyllis Graham (right), member of the RCDC, while examining the Rowlandsfield profile, a document produced by community members. The profile highlights the resources, challenges and needs of the community.
Co-ordinator of the project, Howard McLaughlin, tells JIS News that the idea to offer computer training and services came about after a survey revealed that more than 82 persons were interested in developing skills in computer technology.
Consequently, a project proposal was formulated with the assistance of the Social Development Commission (SDC), and sent to several funding agencies, including the European Union (EU), which provided 75 per cent of the project cost. The remainder was contributed by community members and the Member of Parliament for the area, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, who donated $259,000 towards the purchase of computer equipment, including a printer.
Mr. McLaughlin says the centre has been well received by community members. The computer training, he says, is offering a ray of hope to residents, many of whom have been displaced from their jobs, as a result of the closure of the Eastern Banana Estates in the parish. He says that the residents are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a skill, so as to earn a livelihood.
So far, 20 persons have completed a 10-week training course in basic computer skills and another batch of 20 started similar training in early March.
The Co-ordinator points to the need for additional computers, so that more persons can access training. “Currently, the demand for the five computers is great. When we have about 20 persons, we have to have five persons to a computer,” he notes.
In the meantime, he says that there are plans to offer internet service and advanced IT training at a cost, to earn income for the centre. “We are in dialogue with HEART Trust/NTA and they are looking at coming out here to enhance the training offered,” he says.
Adding that other activities are being planned for the young people of the area, Mr. McLaughlin, who is also President of the Rowlandsfield Community Development Committee (CDC), informs that discussions are being held with the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, for the establishment of a high school diploma programme at the centre. “The interest is high and even persons in Willowfield and other neighbouring communities are showing an interest to be a part of the programmes,” he tells JIS News.
Representative of the SDC in the area, Correll Steele, informs that residents are taking charge of the community development agenda and have created a document highlighting the social, economic and environmental aspects of Rowlandsfield for the benefit of potential funders. A priority plan has also been done to indicate the main areas of emphasis and the order in which development must happen.
“They have reached a far way. They know their vision and they are moving towards it for it to become a reality,” she tells JIS News.