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JSIF helps residents of Franklin Town transform dust bowl into mini-stadium

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
A workman carries material for the perimeter fence.
Donath Booth
Andrew Geohagen
Tasheka Dawson
Dr Eleanor Henry
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Nearly two decades after Andrew Geohagen first dreamt of a multipurpose sports complex for his community of Franklin Town in east Kingston, the dream is set to become a reality.

On July 5, when work is completed, the Poverty Reduction Programme of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) will hand over the complex to the community, after investing millions in a community development programme.

"The stadium is being built on lands left for the government of Jamaica by the Carthys. Hence the two Clan Carthy schools. But this is a big investment in the community and it is one that I know will be a tremendous benefit for the people," Geohagen told The Sunday Gleaner with pride last week.

The dream of a multi-sports complex was the easy part for Geohagen; finding the money to do it was the hard part. At that time he was doing a class in principles and practices of social work at the University of the West Indies, and the class required that his idea reflected the funding and community involvement.

 

Stalled by violence

 

The years crawled by slowly but the idea remained constant. Both local and international agencies were approached, the plan tweaked over the years, and JSIF was first approached in 2004.

"But an upsurge of crime and violence in the are forced the programme to be curtailed. But only for a while, as the organisation was again approached," he said. When JSIF came on board, so did the European Union and the community.

Contractors are now on the site working with a four-month deadline to have a completed facility turned over to the community.

It was hard to visualise the transformation been envisioned during our news team's visit to the facility last week as heavy winds lifted and deposited loads of dust on all areas of the facility, including the nearby primary school and the existing buildings on the compound which one housed the House of Dread sports team and now houses a vegetarian restaurant.

However, Dr Eleanor Henry, JSIF's manager with responsibility for the

project, said on July 5, the stadium's grass field will be laid, the fencing and jogging track will be completed and a fully

completed facility will be handed over.

"Residents will have a full stadium with a football field of FIFA's (minimum standard), (100m x 64m); multi-sports court; scrimmage field; jogging path and seating stand to seat 500. When we do the walk through on July 5, all that dirt towards the back will be gone, and it will be the scrimmage area," said Henry.

"The underground sprinkler system is to be put in, after which the grass will be laid. The fencing will be completed shortly and all that dirt you see at the back will be removed," added Henry confidently.

At the entrance of the facility, changing rooms were also being completed for males and females.

"The project required that the community provide 10 per cent of the total cost whether in cash or kind. In these kinds of projects, what we find is that the residents give kind, in the way of free labour or the provision of refreshments and other ways.

"So some of the persons you see working there now are actually community members giving their contribution discounted or free," she explained.

 

Trained to maintain facility

 

Under the programme, five community members will be selected for training to maintain the facility, and they will in turn train others, she said.

Tasheka Dawson, social officer for JSIF, said the project is one of the best run by the entity.

"The involvement of the community has been beneficial in many ways. We have had no work stoppage, no kind of social upheaval within the community to impact negatively on the project. This is something that the community has wanted from the 1990s and we expect to finish on time and on budget," said Dawson with a pleased smile.

She said it was not the first project with the community, but the first one addressing infrastructure needs.

Member of parliament for the area, Julian Robinson, has promised to help with getting lighting for the facility.

"When adults are using the jogging path, they can just leave their children at the park and jog," said Donath Booth, community member and one of the persons overseeing the project.

According to Booth, he will be using his association with Ebony Park HEART academy to do landscaping work at the facility.

"It will be self-sustaining. It will earn money for its upkeep and we expect the community to see it as their investment and take care of it," said Geohagen.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com