Improving St Thomas ... one community at a time
Many residents of St Thomas are hoping for betterment with the start of the new year and the St Thomas Social Development Commission (SDC) has promised to continue doing its part to ensure that conditions within the parish are improved, one community at a time.
Parish manager at the local SDC, Lorian Peart-Roberts, told The Gleaner that the year 2016 saw much work being done.
"We drafted and presented a project to the Caribbean Development Bank for disaster mitigation work in the community of Llandewey. The project was approved and approximately $8 million was allocated to ensure the fixing of drains, retaining walls and so on. Areas of the community, especially in the vicinity of the police station, health centre and post office, are greatly affected when it rains heavily, so that's being fixed," she said.
Peart-Roberts added that other projects have been approved, including a water project in the Georgia community to stem the long-standing problem of having no piped water in the area.
Looking back, Peart-Roberts said the main problem faced by the St Thomas SDC in 2016 was a shortage of officers.
"We had a major staff issue. One of our officers died, so we couldn't serve the parish as we'd like to. There are 51 communities in St Thomas and with the shortage, we were unable to reach them all," she said, adding that although another officer has taken up the position of the one they lost, the SDC could use more staff.
Nevertheless, the head of the agency gave the assurance that the parish would be served as best as they are able to in the new year.
In fact, she was happy to share some of the plans that the SDC has in store for St Thomas.
"Our corporate plan going into 2017 is to build communities with our local economic development programme. We plan on going into the communities and giving members a chance to present whatever business plans they have. We will help them to do the various market researches and further help to launch these businesses.
"As it stands, there are no major businesses in St Thomas, so if we have communities building for themselves, then we will be able to spur economic growth within the communities and parish at large."
However, she said a feat such as this will need the aid of many players.
"Because of the nature of what we are embarking on, we have to collaborate heavily with other entities such as the entire parish inter-agency network, which includes the parish council, National Housing Trust, Ministry of Labour, RADA and so on.
"We'll also need help to ensure enhancement of product qualities from the Bureau of Standards, Jamaica Business Development Corporation, the Scientific Research Council and a few others who will be able to provide proper guidance," she said.
Peart-Roberts told The Gleaner that the St Thomas SDC has already begun plans to get this project on the road.
She said that the first business fair to be held in the parish is set for some time in February. This, she said, would be done as a 'vendors' night out' where community members will be given the chance to showcase their entrepreneurial ideas.