Thu | Dec 8, 2016

RURAL EXPRESS - Eumeda Byfield, St Mary's dedicated community leader

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Eumeda Byfield has helped to build a home for girls, renovate a primary school, establish a senior citizens' group, and expand the parish's Neighbourhood Watch movement. - Photo by Orantes Moore

Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer

For the past 25 years, Eumeda Byfield, JP, has been one of the hardest-working and most successful community activists in St Mary As a founding member and former president of the parish's Neighbourhood Watch Council, she has received numerous awards, but her area of expertise stretches far beyond security matters.

Byfield was born in Clarendon and travelled to Britain in her earlier 20s, spending more than three decades working as a nurse in Manchester, England.

The spritely septuagenarian believes her experiences labouring in the north-west of England helped her prepare for the numerous fundraising, farming and business posts she would later take up.

Byfield, 75, told Rural Xpress: "In England, I was a nursing officer that managed a section of the community for community care, and also helped to run a community centre, youth clubs and health groups.

"I was the first woman in Manchester to be appointed a JP; to be appointed on to the select committee for JPs; and to become chairperson of a West Indian organisation (the Jamaica Society); so I came back to Jamaica with a wealth of knowledge about community organisations."

In 1991, Byfield returned home and eventually settled in Rio Nuevo, close to where her husband had inherited some farmland. Initially, she passed the time tending to the house and garden, but soon found herself engaged in various regeneration projects.

Since relocating to St Mary, Byfield has helped to build a home for girls, renovate a primary school, establish a senior citizens' group, and expand the parish's Neighbourhood Watch movement, which she deems her proudest accomplishment.

Much to be done

She said: "In terms of community development, there was a lot to be done when I came here, and at that time, I had a lot of energy and was willing to serve.

"My biggest achievement was launching 64 Neighbourhood Watch groups over the course of the 10 years I was president of the council.

"Although this section of the parish is stronger in terms of active groups, at least I helped spread the message that people must help and support each other because it will be better for all of us if we keep the watches going and develop the sort of milieu that encourages people to become good neighbours and friends.

"It feels good to know what we established is still going and that I played a role in helping people realise that when a neighbourhood watch is functioning and strong, crime is less prevalent."

Despite her many triumphs, Byfield acknowledges that there is still much development and regeneration work to be done in St Mary and believes those in power need to be more inclusive.

She explained: "If I had the power to change one thing, I would make the policymakers in the parish council do more and wider consultations with people to discuss the positive and negative impact of developments in their communities.

"People should be informed when something is happening in their area and asked if they like it or not."

Looking ahead, her next mission is to wrap up a long-standing building project sometime in the next nine months.

Byfield said: "I would like to see our local community centre completed and think it will be our legacy to this community. We would like to see it finished and have a grand opening because it's been dragging on for a while.

"We usually have a morning service on Emancipation Day, and I'm hoping to open it then, but we're going to need some assistance to finish the building and make it marketable for people to use for conferences, weddings and things like that."

rural@gleanerjm.com