Armadale rises from the ashes
The former State-operated Armadale Juvenile Correctional Facility in Alexandria, St Ann, which was the scene of a horrific fire in May 2009 that left seven female wards dead, has emerged from the ashes of that tragedy as a place of hope.
The facility is now a skills training centre aimed at uplifting the youth in South West St Ann and beyond, through training in several subject areas, up to the NVQ-J level two.
Eighteen persons received their NVQ-J certificates at the opening ceremony last Thursday after volunteering to work on the renovation of the facility and earning credits that went towards their qualification.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who declared the facility open, described the moment as a proud one for the community of Alexandria, which is in the constituency represented by the People's National Party's Keith Walford, who is the mastermind of the rebirth.
Stronger and better
Likening the emergence of the skills training facility to that of the phoenix in Greek mythology, "Today, Armadale rises stronger and better," said Simpson Miller.
"Like the phoenix, the Jamaican spirit is invincible, it will not die. As a people, our culture compels us to be resilient even in the face of adversity; that is the spirit we celebrate here today.
"Today, we honour the lives of those lost. We also pay tribute to the powerful example of this community and to all the stakeholders," added Simpson Miller.
According to the prime minister, the facility is a fine example of cooperation by private and public sectors, churches, non-governmental organisations, civic and social groups, and other stakeholders.
Simpson Miller congratulated those involved in creating the new facility, including the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Education, the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, Noranda, HEART Trust/NTA, the Department of Correctional Services, and the Social Development Commission.
"This commendable initiative is in keeping with the Government's response to the recommendations of the commission of enquiry into the Armadale incident. We must be determined to make sure that the tragedy of Armadale in 2009 is never repeated," declared Simpson Miller.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites used the opening of the facility to declare that a spirit of freeness and entitlement will not move Jamaica forward.
According to Thwaites, the best thing any government in any state can offer its people is the opportunity for education and training.
Thwaites charged that education in Jamaica must not be colour coded, and the facility is open to everyone, regardless of political affiliation.
Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who was also present, noted that this was the third correctional facility to be transformed into a training facility.
The facility is expected to begin operating early in 2016, and already 125 persons have registered for training in areas such as air conditioning and refrigeration repair, allied health, carpentry and furniture making, computer repair, and general construction.