Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
DESPITE WHAT seems to be a hopeless situation with factors such as rampant unemployment, high illiteracy, limited opportunities for upward mobility, the Social Development Commission (SDC), Hanover, remains resolute in its quest to reduce poverty and to rescue the citizens from marginalisation.
DeRoux Jones, acting parish manager for the SDC in Hanover, said in addition to the worrisome illiteracy problem, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that many of those who are illiterate have no birth certificates.
"We have people in Hanover with no form of citizenship; we have a number of undocumented aliens living in the parish ... they were born here, but they are without birth certificates," said Jones.
He added: "What we are trying to do is to provide access through various initiatives. SDC in partnership with UNICEF and RGD (Registrar General's Department) is trying to facilitate the accessing of birth certificates for a number of youngsters."
Jones indicated that the SDC is constantly kept on its toes as it is being challenged every day to train people to improve their capacity to become employable, to start small enterprises or just to modify their behaviour.
"One of the challenges we have in Hanover is that a number of residents in rural communities are unable to find the fare to come to the central location to access skills training or any other government service," continued Jones. "So what we are seeking to do is to bring skills training to the community, and the common understanding with HEART Trust/NTA is to have persons certified once they reach a certain level of competency."
Jones said the SDC has been working in numerous communities across the parish to initiate income-generating projects, including cottage industries; and writing project proposals to donor agencies to access funding to undertake these projects.
"Mount Peto is one example where they have been utilising money from the national best community competition to start a small-scale cottage industry to make drops," noted Jones. "There is also rabbit rearing and bee-keeping, and we are collaborating with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to establish a bottling plant for honey and other products."
While the SDC, as the government agency, has been working to improve the lives of Hanover's just over 70,000 residents, the Hanover United Sports Club, under the astute leadership of Pauline Ellison-Jackson, has been creating its own positive impact with some collaboration with the SDC.
Ellison-Jackson, who is a teacher and psychology student at the International University of the Caribbean, said the parish is reeling from a social and economic crisis, which requires a monumental effort to tackle.
"There are numerous cases of incest in many communities, and because we have so many persons who are illiterate, they have resigned themselves to their current state of hopelessness," said Ellison-Jackson. "We find a lot of mothers not working, (they are) hanging out at the cash pot outlets."
Through the youth club, church and her drive to turn their lives around, Ellison-Jackson has instituted reading and literacy programmes and has been trying to steer the youth out of "sit on roadside and smoke ganja and the babymother syndrome".
The last census revealed that Hanover's youth population is approximately 13, 941. It is believed that a substantial number of these youngsters are neither gainfully employed nor involved in any training projects.