Mon | Aug 3, 2020

'Nobody cares' - Residents of Willowfield, St Thomas, believe they have been abandoned

Published:Wednesday | October 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
March Hemmings (left) and Michael Harris (right) of Willowfield in St Thomas, recently.
The makeshift street light that was installed by residents of Willowfield in St Thomas.
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For years, residents of Willowfield in eastern St Thomas have pleaded with the authorities to fix the basic amenities in the community.

They live without street lights, with bad roads and no potable water. To compound the matter, the spring where they usually collect water for daily use is barely able to supply the much-needed commodity during the dry periods.

"We deh way back of the wall, nobody don't business with us around here," lamented Antoinette Fisher as she spoke with The Sunday Gleaner recently.

Surrounded by rows of cane fields, the community is represented by six-time Member of Parliament Dr Fenton Ferguson of the People's National Party, but the residents says they have become accustomed to being overlooked.

"Sometimes we have to buy cement and fix some parts of the road that get bad, real bad, because it a cause accident," declared Michael Harris.

The resident pointed to a street light in the town square which they said has not worked for some five years after it was damaged during a hurricane.

They have used the post with the non-functioning lamp to set up a makeshift street light that they say has brought life back to the area.

"Over four or five years now the light stay like that and them nah fix it. Me even tell them say if them put it up, mi personally will vote because mi never vote from mi born. All them do is write it down," said March Hemmings, a farmer in the community.

At nights, one of the men in the community goes to the town square and turns on the light. It is also manually turned off early in the mornings.

"Every night we just go there and hook it up. Them man yah know how it go as well, so who know about it go and do it," said Hemmings.

He argued that the men have to take a risk with the street light so that the neighbours could feel safe again and enjoy nightlife.

"To me every light post should have a light to it. This is just the one (street) light and if it not working, imagine that. If we don't turn it on, is pure darkness," said Hemmings.

 

RELIES ON SUGAR

 

The community relies on the sugar industry for survival with the majority of the residents being farmers, who grab any other earning opportunity that comes their way

"We want jobs. We no have no jobs round yah so, and we have our children fi send a school. Sometimes me not even want stress bout it, me just relax because it no make sense you talk about it because a no like you a go get no help or no solution so you just live," charged 39-year-old Fisher.

"We deh way back a the wall. Is like nobody no recognise we. No councillor, no MP, nobody at all. Fenton Ferguson just pass and is just promises, promises.

"A we haffi make life fi we self, we main source of income a farming. We farm up a the riverside, or you do you backyard garden and we do ground provisions and fruits, every little thing and we go a market," said Fisher.

She said she would love to see a community centre in the area or any type of facility that would create employment.

"Somewhere that can create jobs for the young people them, so we can do more to help ourselves. Around here hard. We might look like we all right, but it very difficult," added Fisher.

Harris works about four to five months out of each year as a truck driver at the Golden Grove Sugar Company and he is desperate to see new opportunities in the community.

"Most people not working right now till the crop start. sometimes them start it December but more than likely it look like a January for this time, so when it start January, it maybe run for five months, sometimes four," explained Harris.

"If the little cane system go dung on this side you know how it go, because a the only little source to depend on right now. Things kinda break down to a level weh things no really strong again. Jobs no so prevalent like first, so things slow pon this side a St Thomas," said Harris.

*Carlene Davis contributed to this story.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com