Mon | Jul 24, 2017

Breakdown of community structures crushing Hanover

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2017 | 2:00 AMClaudia Gardner

The breakdown of community structures such as youth clubs, citizens' associations, and other community-based social organisations, and the absence of community centres is among the root causes of the mushrooming social problems in the parish, some Hanoverians contend.

Venier Stewart, a hotel bartender, told Western Focus that he was concerned for the Chambers Pen community in western Hanover, where he lives, as structured social programmes and groups are non-existent there, and the government, community, and youth-development agencies are missing in action.

"They are not doing anything in my community - nothing at all. I can't tell when last I see any official come to my community. Most of the time, the youths are just out on the road sitting down with nothing constructive to do. Nobody comes with the intention to uplift the community. Even at the ball field, I can't tell when last a community league played there. And the older folk, the only activity they have to participate in is gambling," 22-year-old Stewart said.

Over in Haughton Gardens in Lucea, football coach Trevor Craig said that it was not only the lack of community structure that was hindering development in the area, but also the lack of facilities. He said that the residents would like to re-establish their citizens' association but have no place to meet.

"You cannot keep a meeting with community groups or youths underneath a tree. We have to have space where we can play a little table tennis, dominoes, and have meetings. It is not all the youths into the negativity. some want to be directed into a positive way, but there is no support. Youth clubs used to be everywhere in the '60s and '70s," Craig said.

"I don't even see the SDC (Social Development Commission) officers dem, who are assigned to certain geographical areas, doing anything in here. A status quo, dem naw do no field work. Haughton Gardens used to have a football team for themselves and a citizens' association. none a dem things no exist no more because the people have nowhere to keep a meeting, no community centre, and you have government building weh close up. Even right behind the poor relief building, there are government buildings that are locked up," he added.

Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie, during his last visit to Hanover, told Western Focus that in the new financial year, greater focus would be placed on community development and the SDC would be given a budget for community projects for the first time in many years. He said that a community park would be established in Hanover because "one of the things that is lacking in most urban centres is proper recreational facilities".

"One of the things we are doing, in terms of community development, is that in the new financial year, we will be constructing 10 community parks across the island. Hanover, St James, and Westmoreland are among the parishes targeted," he said.

"We are going to intensify the work of the SDC with more community officers and more community-oriented programmes. We are going to be revitalising the PDCs (Parish Development Committees) by using the SDC as the main driver to implement those community-based programmes because a lot of them have been dormant," McKenzie explained.

He added: "One of the things that we are going to do to strengthen the community-development arm is, we are looking to identify at least six community centres. We might not be able to do all, based on the limitations of funding, but we are going to try to identify six community centres, and we are going to retrofit these to have more community programmes."