Tel Aviv and Southside Benefit
More than 1,000 residents in the communities of Southside and Tel Aviv in central Kingston have benefitted under the recently concluded Kingston Urban Renewal Programme (KURP).
The programme is a joint Government of Jamaica (GoJ)/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) social intervention initiative, managed and administered by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC).
The 18-month project was aimed at enhancing the quality of life for residents, in what are widely regarded as two of Kingston’s toughest inner-city communities, through the implementation of a range of activities.
The JBDC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms. Valerie Veira, tells JIS News that the programme, which commenced in late 2008, sought to provide individuals with some of the basic necessary pre-requisite provisions, which a number of them lacked, to enable them to pursue and access opportunities for self empowerment and improvement.
These included birth certificates, and Taxpayer Registration Numbers (TRN). The project also saw wide ranging infrastructural and aesthetic improvements being effected, as well as assistance being offered to establish and enhance income-generating activities.
Legal and financial representatives from across the Caribbean participate in the three-day conference on Bank Insolvency in the Caribbean Conference at the Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, which was held from March 24 – 26. The conference was themed: ‘Bank Insolvency in the Caribbean: Law and Best Practice – Detecting and Managing Banking Crises’.
Ms. Veira points out that the JBDC’s involvement in the project took the organisation “outside of our normal picket fence” of core activities, being the agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce responsible for guiding local Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSME) sector development. She adds that while the JBDC was previously involved in social intervention initiatives in several urban and rural communities, “KURP was our expansive intervention.”
Describing KURP as a “challenge,” Ms. Veira discloses that the JBDC was asked by the IDB to manage and execute the project, based on their track record of success working with that and other multilateral agencies, which have funded initiatives administered by them. She says the agency willingly obliged and was directed to execute the project within an 18-month period.
Noting the selection of Tel Aviv and Southside which presented their own challenges, Ms. Veira says the communities were chosen prior to the JBDC’s involvement. “The agency that was responsible for the initial negotiation, selected (the communities). I don’t know if it’s because they felt that there was so much disturbance there that they needed some kind of intervention. But it turned out to be a winner for us.we ‘inherited’ those communities,” she says.
Ms. Veira recalls that the JBDC was cautioned about security risks, but points out that she and her staff were not daunted by this, adding that any fear was soon dispelled after meeting with community stakeholders.
“I’m a person who believes that you (should) never ask people to do what you wouldn’t do. So I went to the first meeting with the community.which was held at the Gold Street police station .and I explained to them that we were cautioned ..(and) that they (the residents) have to help us (to) prove them (detractors) wrong. I also explained to them that ‘we are not coming down here to spy’.or to tell you what to do. We are coming down here to work with you, and to assist you in improving your circumstances,” she says.
Ms. Veira laments some of the glaring anomalies discovered during subsequent visits to the communities. Primary among these were the significant number of residents, youngsters and adults, who did not have a birth certificate, a situation which prevented some working age individuals from securing a TRN.
Ms. Jasmine Wade from Antigua & Barbuda makes a point during discussions at the three-day conference on Bank Insolvency in the Caribbean at the Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, which was held from March 24 – 26.
The lack of birth certificates also proved challenging for some of the younger residents who wanted to pursue skills training. “We assisted residents with the acquisition of over 1,000 birth certificates. What we did was to have an opportunity fair, in fact we had three, where we brought in all the (relevant) agencies, (such as) the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), Tax Administration, Ministry of Health, and so on, and we assisted in getting over 1,000 people, of all ages, registered,” she shares.
The training component of the project saw over 130 young persons participating in HEART Trust/NTA certified training programmes. These included the areas of auto mechanics, housekeeping, early childhood care, landscaping, cosmetology, and commercial food preparation.
In addition Ms. Veira says some 63 young people, who had secondary and tertiary qualifications, were placed in internships in organisations. Thirty were accepted for internship in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Others went into areas such as photography, personnel management, and hospitality.
The communities also benefitted from a facelift, which was also an integral part of the project Ms. Veira explains. To this end, 27 street signs were installed in both communities. “So people actually started feeling that they were living in a community,” she remarks. Additionally, four murals were painted with most of the work done by some of the residents, whom she says displayed artistic aptitude.
The JBDC Head points out that the project “provided for us to build some bathrooms, showers, flush toilets, wash basins,.and to repair some”, noting the emphasis which residents placed on the need for upgraded sanitary facilities. “So, we repaired 123 bathrooms in those communities and we built 32 new ones. So, that, to me, was a dramatic difference,” she emphasises.
In addition Ms. Veira informs, 17 lots that were overgrown with foliage and on which piles of garbage had accumulated, were cleared, enabling some of the residents to utilise the properties. “They are utilizing (the lots) for their own use.they’re being very creative and really looking into the needs of their community. When you get down (there) you realise that (the) people are so happy.one has a jerk centre set up now.lots of things are happening,” she notes.
She says the project also focussed on domestic solid waste build-up, resulting in some 32 truckloads of debris being removed, and a total of 227 homes were cleared of debris.
The KURP, Ms. Veira tells JIS News, has also assisted a number of individuals, to establish small businesses or enhance operations that were already in place. She informs that prior to JBDC’s intervention some 100 individuals were already engaged in income- generating activities.
One hundred and four (104) residents involved in micro and small businesses were trained by JBDC’s Business Advisory Services.
“We now have upwards of 40 new businesses, and these are people who we helped from zero and who we provided with a small grant,.$50,000, a kind of starter, and it helped them. So we have 45 of those (beneficiaries), which I think is (a) major (achievement) in 18 months,” she proudly informs.
Alluding to the technical advice, training and financial assistance afforded by the JBDC that has enabled individuals to start their businesses, Ms. Veira is optimistic about the expansion of entrepreneurial activity evolving from the communities. She says this is “because people are thinking differently” and “thinking of what services they can provide in the community.” She adds that “we hope that these (beneficiaries) will be agents.of change within the wider community.”
With the project now concluded, Ms. Veira says the JBDC will be looking to see what additional assistance can be extended to the residents, as it prepares for the 2010/11 administrative year. “Because the programmes at the JBDC don’t stop when a project ends.it’s our core function to help them.so we will always be there for them,” she assures.
“We’re thinking.and. planning.to have a specific part of our training (activities).our workshops.(focusing on) people like painters , and so on, who have practical experience but no formal training, how to do it efficiently.to get them to understand how to correctly measure a job.how do you measure the place (to be painted) and how you decide how much paint you need.how much plaster you need, and so on.in the formal context, and then we will do a database (of the persons),” she explains.
Ms. Veira adds that, “regardless of the address (of the individual being trained).we can say ‘this person has certification from JBDC and we know them.we have them in the file.we hope that this can really help to expand the kind of income possibilities (that are available).”
The CEO is expressing the hope that KURP’s achievements can be used as a template for replication and implementation in other communities by other agencies, thereby leaving a sustainable impact.
“The attitude change.that is the sustainable part. How people start thinking business.who starts thinking development.who starts thinking opportunity.who stops saying ‘nutten naw gwan fi me’; .and who recognises that they have to ‘make it gwan’ for them, and to be constantly aware that there are opportunities in the environment (for them to take advantage of),” Ms. Veira notes.
She points out that the IDB and JBDC have “learnt many lessons” from the KURP initiative in that “when you develop a programme, (as is the case with) our (JBDC) normal core functions (of) business development, you have to have the foundation right (for it to work).”