Rural Express:Woodside residents grateful for social services fair
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
WOODSIDE, St Mary:RESIDENTS OF a beautiful, but underdeveloped district located on the border of Central and Western St Mary hailed their community leaders recently for organising a social services fair that offered them easy access to hard-to-reach government agencies.
More than 250 visitors from Woodside and neighbouring communities such as Palmetto Grove, Post Road and Rock Spring attended the event, and most praised their hosts for helping them save cash.
A mother from Rock Spring, Stacy-Ann Williams, explained: "I came here to speak with someone from the Registrar General's Department (RGD) to look about my son's birth certificate.
"This event is a very good idea because I would have had to travel to St Ann's Bay or Spanish Town to deal with it, so I'm happy they've come into the area because it's saved me a lot. To travel to St Ann's Bay and back costs about $2,000, plus the money to deal with the birth certificate, so it would have been very expensive."
Racehorse trainer Barrington Rambally added: "I recently bought a farm in this area, but the farming is kinda rough at the moment. Farmers in this area really need help. I've come here to access the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for information about the National Insurance Scheme. I'm trying to look about my pension because I would like something to be coming in when I'm 60 years old."
He added: "Bringing these agencies to this community is excellent because a lot of the people living around here can't even afford the taxi fare to look about this type of thing. This is a very poor community that really needs a lot more support."
According to the chairman of the Woodside Community Development Group, Selvin Russell, the benefits such fairs bring to rural areas are both valued and vast.
He told Rural Xpress: "Today, we are hosting a social services fair in partnership with the parish council, Councillor Paul Fyffe and the Social Development Commission (SDC) to facilitate the people of Woodside on their doorstep.
"One of the persons I spoke to earlier, said the fair was '... a blessing that was really welcomed and appreciated'."
"What's happening here today is extremely important to our community because it gives people the chance to deal with someone from these agencies face-to-face, and that means a lot," Russell added.
Residents complain that the area is in desperate need of a new road network and proper garbage collection, but the SDC's local community development officer Shawin Reynolds believes a recent historical find may prove to be the catalyst that kick-starts regeneration in Woodside.
He said: "One of the things we are focused on right now is Local Economic Development (LED), and during a recent tour of this area we discovered some potential LEDs: three historical sites that date back to the Taino period.
"We are working with the local community development committee to write a proposal to get the sites turned into a tourist attraction, and possibly open a bed and breakfast establishment to help the community generate income.
"This is a project the group will take on next year and we'll also be arranging a tour so the relevant agencies can come and see the sites for themselves."