Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
HARKERS HALL, St Catherine:EIGHTY-YEAR-OLD Lincoln Rhooms has spent all his life in Harkers Hall, St Catherine. However, he is saddened by the lack of development in the once-vibrant farming community.
"The only change I see since I was a boy, is Sargeantville Primary School coming to Harkers Hall. It was at Morris Hall and a private water factory built, but not anything else," said Rhooms, chairman of the Jamaica Agricultural Society's Harkers Hall branch.
The community also boasts a basic school, built in 1949, with 42 students on roll at present. Still, Jennifer Newland, teacher, believes Harkers Hall has taken a retrograde step.
"The community is going down. Look at the post office here. It now opens one day per week, and look at the building," she lamented.
Unlike natives Newland and Rhooms, Pastor Lionel Waul of Calvary Gospel Chapel became a resident earlier this year.
"I live across from the post office and it's an eyesore. The surroundings of the basic school beside the post office need more attention, and I would like the young people to get a skill or a job," he remarked.
Newland, the holder of a teaching diploma from Shortwood Teachers' College, opted to remain in her hometown to contribute to its upliftment. She reiterated Waul's concern about the lack of opportunities, especially for the youth.
"I would like to see the young people, when they leave school, move on to higher heights instead of sitting down on the roadside, or just going to the river to dig sand," she noted.
Judith Marriott, councillor for the Above Rocks division, in which Harkers Hall falls, is cognisant of the residents' concerns.
"The building which houses the post office is in need of repairs," explained Marriott. "The member of parliament (Natalie Neita-Headley) has been trying for a while to get it renovated to facilitate a cosmetology programme through HEART because most of the young people in the community, the girls, that's where their heads are," she added.
PLANS BEING STYMIED
Meleta Campbell, secretary of the Jamaica Agricultural Society's Harkers Hall branch, told The Gleaner that her organisation had also been trying to obtain the building to establish an Internet café after its bid to acquire land to build a chips factory failed to materialise.
"All the young people here have to go to Bog Walk or Linstead to use the Internet café, and if we have one here, not only those who live here would benefit, but people from Zion Hill, Bamboo Corner, Edward Piece would also use it," said Campbell who relocated to the community in the 1970s.
Though the JAS might not be able to establish the facility, its dream might become a reality.
"We are thinking of putting an IT (information technology) centre," said Marriott, "based on Minister Phillip Paulwell's promise to put one in the division, and we are thinking of putting it in the building which houses the post office."
Nevertheless, acquiring and refurbishing the building and establishing skills training is a long-term venture, so Marriott said she has been working to get some of the youngsters in the community on the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
"We have a lot of high school graduates not doing anything. We've been trying to get some of them on JEEP, to get employment with some of the major companies, and many more have done the paperwork for the overseas employment programme," she remarked.
Marriott also disclosed plans to undertake a comprehensive sports development programme in the area.
"We have the Sargeantville Primary School netball court to be resurfaced. We also have the community playfield to be expanded and turn into a multi-purpose court," Marriott said.