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Community organisations in St. Thomas can now access funds from the St. Thomas Credit Union, Morant Bay, to start social and income generating projects.
The organization is one of six credit unions that have received grant funding from the European Union (EU) under the Rural Diversification Programme.
Speaking at a JIS/Social Development Commission (SDC) community meeting on Thursday (March 12) on the lawns of the Rowlandsfield Community Centre, St Thomas, Project Manager of the St. Thomas Cooperative Credit Union, Jairzenho Bailey, said funds totaling $11 million have been disbursed to six credit unions to assist ex-banana workers in the banana producing parishes of St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. James, Clarendon and St. Catherine.
The funds will also be used for retraining and certification of displaced banana workers, who are unemployed due to the closure of Eastern Banana Estates Ltd.
Explaining how the money will be disbursed, Mr. Bailey said the credit union will supply 85 percent of a project’s cost, from a low of $100,000 to a maximum of $1 million. Groups must be willing to provide 15 per cent of the project’s cost to qualify for the loan.
“The calls are now out. You have to collect the application form and submit a project (and) the project will be evaluated. If the project is one of the top projects, you’ll get the money,” he said.
Mr. Bailey noted that about 75 groups in the six parishes have already sent in requests for assistance to write project proposals, and called on residents to get involved in their community groups and submit viable business projects.
“You must be ready to form yourselves into a group, and a group that works. A group that meets regularly, have their minutes, have their organizational structure in terms of president, secretary and treasurer and you throw dues,” he explained.
Chairman of the Rowlandsfield Community Development Committee, Howard McLaughin, said that residents have joined several active oganisations in the Rowlandsfield community, including a farmers’ group, church groups, a youth club and the St. Thomas Environmental Protection Agency, and members meet regularly at the Rowlandsfield Community Centre.
Other speakers at the function were Luther Cummings, Parish Manager, SDC; Kenton Taylor, Agriculture Extension Officer, Rural Agricultural Development Authority(RADA); and Ivan Solomon, President of the Port Morant Area Development Committee.

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