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JIS News

Residents of Prospect in St. Thomas have taken a bold step forward towards achieving greater development within their community through the launch of a Benevolent Society to see to the management of projects in their area.
The first venture to be managed by the new Society is the construction of a Sanitation Project valued at $11 million approved by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
According to Social Development Commission (SDC) Field Services Manager for St. Thomas, Luther Cummings, 21 families in the community are to benefit from the sanitation project and the Benevolent Society is the compulsory legal entity through which funds could be channelled and managed on behalf of the committee.
In an interview with JIS News he informed that, “the benevolent society would be totally responsible for managing the project as the funds will be disbursed to their bank account. They will be responsible for appointing the relevant contractors, pay all bills, and develop reports to the funding agency and the community on a monthly basis,” he added.
Formerly squatters on land owned by businessman Y.P Seaton, the residents were bulldozed some years ago and later took up residence in some un-finished houses in the area. Mr. Seaton later offered a portion of the land for the people to re-locate and eventually a partnership was developed between himself, the National Housing Trust and Food for the Poor.
Infrastructure was put in and 28 houses were built to accommodate them. One condition of their occupancy was for the building of proper sanitation facilities.
“They could not afford to put in toilet facilities. So funding was sought from JSIF, which was approved, to develop the sanitation solution for the 21 families,” he said.
He added that as the Community Development Officer for the area he anticipated significant changes to take place in the development of the community.
“There is potential in the people who live there. In fact they have named the community Crystal City, formed a citizens’ association and with the intervention of the SDC, which provided training in capacity building, have developed to a point where they are doing a bit of community development on their own,” Mr. Cummings explained.
The SDC Field Services Manager pointed out that where the residents once created a serious environmental and health hazard with the disposal of human waste in plastic bags and behind shrubs in open near-by fields, with a sanitation system in place this hazard would be removed.
“They are very happy for the project and to feel good about where they live,” he said. The added benefit of the project, he pointed out, is that it would provide employment for the residents for up to two years.
“Creating a Benevolent Society allows residents of communities to combine their human resources to manage their affairs. This allows everyone a stake in the affairs of the community and this should see communities managing and maintaining their communities,” he noted.