Blenheim community centre closed for 17 years
Seventy-six-year-old Blenheim resident Aston Buchanan says that he is gravely disappointed that the economic benefits that the Bustamante Heritage Site and the district's 17-year-old community centre were expected to bring to the area have not materialised.
The former citizens' association president told Western Focus that the community centre, which was constructed in 2000 by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), had never been furnished, equipped, or opened to the public. When Western Focus visited the building, it was noticed that several doors were missing, windows were wide open, and the flooring was littered with goat faeces.
"It was completed in December 2000. From then to this day, nobody turn up back. They said $600,000 was allocated for furniture. The key hang up inside there (his house) until dis day. From it finish and di place lock up, it nuh open back," Buchanan said. "Because of that, boys vandalise the place, tear it down. Everybody come and do as they like. It was made with the intention to do some craft and skills training because people here used to do craft.
"It really hard because the young people get up and there is nothing for them to do. No employment not up here. They must fix the centre and open it," he said. "The young people no inna di bush business. Dem say dat too hard and dem haffi wait too long. They look for jobs outside of the community in hotels and so."
He added: "We asked for it to be converted to a turmeric factory or where we could process and can mangoes, and those things. Every year, wha mango we have, spoil up here. Mango, guava, dem just drop under di tree dem and spoil. So if they do something inside the community where young people can learn a little skill, most would be grateful. Everything is happening in Kingston; nothing down here."
Buchanan is adamant that the Bustamante Heritage Site was not reaching its full potential where heritage tourism was concerned, and its offerings should be far greater than what he described as "a little thatch hut".
"Dem build up Busta place, and as the first prime minister birthplace, my thinking was that this community should be one of the prettiest places in Hanover. We don't think that they should just have a thatch house dung deh. They should have a guest house with swimming pool because tourist come by, and they should have something to entertain them," he said.
"Every year dem come and have celebration, and from dem gone, everything done. So people in the community not inheriting anything. I think they should construct buildings to attract tourists so people can gain employment, not just have the thatch hut. Same way like how tourists go Negril, dem wi come there, too, and enjoy demself, you know. We need something inside a Bustamante place," he added.