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Riverton community relocation proposed

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 1:04 AMGary Spaulding
Smoke billowing from a section of the Riverton City disposal site earlier this month.

As Riverton City disposal site continues to smoulder, the people of the surrounding community could be in for the relief of a lifetime.

The principals of an internationally known philanthropic organisation are hoping to persuade the Government to partner with them to uproot poverty-stricken residents from the agitated area.

Dr Alexis Felder, founder and chief executive officer of 'The Joseph Assignment', headquartered in the United States, wants the Jamaican Government to meet her halfway in relocating suffering residents.

Felder and her team are proposing that the Government donate lands away from the "fiery furnace" on which her organisation would build houses for the people of the community.

"It is our belief that just because people are born into poverty, does not mean that they are destined to a life of poverty," argued Felder when The Gleaner caught up with her on her current trip to Jamaica.

She was accompanied by The Reverend Selars Vines, vice-president of strategic planning and lead volunteer at the US-based organisation.

The Joseph Assignment has a local office on Seymour Avenue in the Corporate Area.

Felder told The Gleaner that she was inspired to help the people who live around the place where others dump their refuse.

"Seeing their living conditions in 2014 was devastating," she asserted. "We came to this beautiful nation and vacationed and didn't leave anything behind and so I was committed to making sure that the people who are forgotten and are not left behind and that is why we are here."

Felder said Jamaica became dear to her heart when she visited the island 15 years ago on her honeymoon and saw an elderly woman living in a shack.

"My heart was broken because she resembled my great grandmother. I said, 'God, if I ever come back to Jamaica, I wanted to do something to change the lives of the people', so I came back in November 2014."

Felder said she went in search of projects, but none met the criteria of extreme poverty until she stumbled into Riverton City.

"I promised myself that I would offer assistance when I was in a position to do so," she said.

It just happened that Felder was in Jamaica when the fire started and vowed to get the people away from abject poverty.

Executive Director of the Jamaican branch of the organisation, Mordecai Bucknor, told The Gleaner that The Joseph Assignment was ready to have dialogue with the Government.

"We believe in helping people, not only on the social side but the economic side as well," said Bucknor. "If the Government would provide the land, then we would be able to attract the resources to build homes in an actual community so that they can live and create some employment within that community or close by for these people."

Bucknor said he was moved by Felder's interest in Riverton City.

"We were driving from Montego Bay when we came through the Sligoville mountains, saw the flames, and it took a toll on her," he said.

He insisted that the project was practical as the organisation, established in 2005 and described as a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation is committed to impacting the lives of the world's poorest children and their families by addressing their education, economic and physical needs.

Checks with the website by The Gleaner revealed that The Joseph Assignment develops public and private partnerships to strengthen its mission and multiple organisations in multiple countries.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com