Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
GREENLAND, Hanover:WHEN THE cold weather of Nottingham, England, bit Desmond 'Des' Wilson, he became angry with his mother who sent him to live with his aunt.
It was the late 1950s when West Indians were migrating to the United Kingdom in droves. Apart from the bitter climate, there were not many black youths where he lived, and not much social opportunities for him.
But as time went on, Wilson evolved into an important agent of social change, and an influential politician, who transformed the lives and lots of many minority people in the United Kingdom.
The catalyst was his business called Des Café, which he opened in 1971. It gave him the opportunity to hear the challenges that West Indians were facing in Nottingham, and being a migrant himself, he could relate to their stories.
By the mid-1980s, Wilson was active in many community-development organisations such as the Afro Caribbean Artistic Centre.
He served as lord mayor twice during that time, a position that is largely ceremonial, but immensely important, and goes back to 1284.
Wilson returned to Jamaica for the first time in 1987. Since then, he has been actively involved with community projects in Hanover, moreso in his birthplace of Greenland, where he established the Greenland Education Centre, which operates a basic school.
After a four-stage process, which he initiated, he came to Jamaica in March 2007 to sign the first friendship link arrangement between Hanover Parish Council and Nottingham City Council. Out of this arrangement, four schools in Hanover were twinned with a corresponding four in Nottingham.
He was also the founding chairman of the Nottingham Jamaica Friendship Society, which collaborated with the North St Andrew Kiwanis through a link with Ainsley Deer, the first black youth who went through the education system in Nottingham and went on to university, to raise £800 towards the building of childcare facilities for staff members at Bustamante Hospital for Children.
The society also contributed £5,000 towards the construction of facilities at the Foundation for International Self-Help, in Papine, St Andrew.
In 2007, Wilson retired from active politics in Britain, and returned to live in Greenland, but he didn't see himself living like other retirees, lazing away their time. He's now trying to raise $6 million or $7 million for the completion of the Greenland Education Centre. Construction was started with $3 million he raised when he was lord mayor of Nottingham.
The Greenland Basic School occupies a section of the building, which had also temporarily housed the Middlesex Corner Primary School, which was devastated during Hurricane Dean in 2007.
"The building, as it stands now, is non-purposeful, and it will take a substantial amount of money to make it purposeful," Wilson said.
He wants a skills-training facility for the youths in the community as well as an information technology suite. Wilson wants HEART Trust/National Training Agency to offer skills training in the facility.
"If it (the information technology suite) is established it would be twofold. We want it to be linked with the training provision of the HEART project, but also to provide after-school facilities for children within the area," said Wilson.
His retirement should have come in 2003, at the end of his first term as lord mayor, but Nottingham would not let him go, and when he was looking towards it, he had said, "I made a pledge to myself that when I retire, I would like to be able to come back to Jamaica … even to make a difference in one person's life."