Without vision, the people perish' - Reverend concerned about Annotto Bay youth
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
FOR MORE than a decade, Reverend Veronica Thomas has simultaneously served as the Anglican minister throughout five districts in St Mary: Annotto Bay, Enfield, Devon Pen, Long Road, and Grandy Hole.
During that time, several of those communities have earned a reputation as turbulent and unruly, but Thomas refuses to subscribe to the notion that southeast St Mary's citizens are violence-prone.
Thomas, who in 2003, left his job as a school principal in Clarendon to serve God at the St James Anglican Church in Annotto Bay, told Family & Religion: "This area has developed a reputation simply because of the social conditions.
"I've been here for 12 years and really don't believe it is worse than anywhere else. In times past, Annotto Bay was a series of big farms, producing mainly sugar cane and operated by big landlords from England who sent back cotton and sugar.
"In return, we slaved to keep all these things going. This area is coming out of the sugarcane industry, and places like this are really in rebellious mode.
"There are certain jobs the people living here won't do because they don't want to feel like they are becoming enslaved again.vPeople don't want to come under a structure that demands regimen or order.
"They want to be free and whereas many of them are school dropouts who cannot walk into a bank as a teller; a classroom as a teacher; or the local hospital as a nurse; they go to those places to work as security guards and porters, and that is the legacy we have inherited."
According to Thomas, two of the biggest problems affecting local residents are a breakdown in communication between the older and younger generations and an absence of self-belief.
She explained: "How things are situated in Jamaica now, even a person who comes out of school without a single subject can still become a doctor. All they have to do is start at 'ABC' and within two years, they can get their CXCs and move on.
"You don't have to do Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations in a high school; you can go to a community college that will give you certificates that allow you to move on further.
"You don't have to go to the University of the West Indies to become a doctor; you can go to Cuba, but you have to have the vision. We lack the vision, and young people are not staying close to the older ones to catch the vision.
"They are moving on, which means the generation gap is growing and that is happening a lot, particularly in this community."
Although the knowledgeable minister is concerned that these issues are becoming more prevalent, Thomas is confident the trend can be reversed.
She said: "People believe too much in me, myself and I, which means: 'If it doesn't affect me, I have no concern for it, but if it concerns me, everybody should be touched and aware of what's happening.'
"I can't predict what will happen. We're only asked to continue sowing seeds and be the stewards of today; God's growth and direction is still for Him to decide. But anything can happen to wake people up; God can make you wake up one morning and see everything from a completely different point of view."