Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Thieves cripple Bull Bay blockmaking project

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2020 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Blockmaking machine sitting idle in Bull Bay, St Andrew, after the operation was shuttered due to theft and vandalism.
The blockmaking equipment sits idly in the background of this Bull Bay, St Andrew, plant after the operation was shuttered due to theft and vandalism.
Blockmaker Mark is among those anxious to see the machines working again.
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A promising blockmaking project in Bull Bay, St Andrew, aimed at empowering members of the community, has been indefinitely suspended after being targeted by thieves and other persons with malintent.

The project, which was given legs by St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Holness and Carib Cement, offered Bull Bay residents an opportunity to learn a new skill and earn a living, but after producing well over 1,000 blocks in just three days earlier this year, crooks plundered the storage area, removing hundreds of blocks.

Michelle White, one of the leaders of the project, said that Holness ordered that the project be halted until a perimeter fence had been erected to prevent theft and keep out intruders who were tampering with equipment donated by Carib Cement.

So early did the issue raise its ugly head that when the project was officially launched, not many blocks produced by the team were available for show.

“A whole heap we did mek and people tek and tek. When they came to do the ceremony, plenty wasn’t here fi dem tek nuh picture fi put up. Di whole a here suh did full off wid blocks,” White told The Gleaner, pointing to the storage area.

“We say might as well we just mek and sell and pay back whosoever work, but Mrs Holness decide seh dat cyaa gwan. She seh it nuh mek no sense we a mek block fi sell and di place wah fence up,” a frustrated White added.

She is convinced that persons accessing the property without authorisation and breaking equipment were doing it out of malice.

“A nuh pickney come break it. A big somebody,” White said of a piece of equipment. “We did have a little issue out here. Who did deh pon di training, plenty a dem never did a go come back fi work because dem nuh need so many persons. A man definitely pull it up and break it off. Bad mimd inna it.”

White said that the uncertainty surrounding the restarting of the operations had led some members of the team, including her son, who started working with her, to look elsewhere to earn a living. She added that although a tractor has dug up the area for the fencing, stakeholders have been complaining that for two months, nothing else has been done.

The open trenches now pose a hazard for children and the elderly, White said.

“Nuff people – all pickney – drop dung in deh. It dangerous,” she told The Gleaner.

The seven-member team, which comprises three women and four men, is anxious to see the project - under which members of the community would be able to purchase blocks at a discounted rate -going again

“Blockmaking nice, man,” White said. “Since we stop mek, a nuff people come and want 1,000 or 2,000. Everybody a come to me or my son, asking if dem can’t get block fi buy.”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com