Man aims to remove stigma from Succaba Garden
Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
SUCCABA GARDEN, St Catherine:LIVING IN a stigmatised community sometimes causes embarrassment and creates obstacles to achieving personal and community development.
Christobal 'Natty' Hechavarrica knows this all too well, so he has embarked on a mission to reduce and ultimately remove the stigma attached to Succaba Garden South East, in Old Harbour, St Catherine, where he's been living for the last nine years.
Likewise, though challenged, the Succaba Garden South East Citizens' Association, re-established in 2004, is also working to arrest any form of disunity or possible incidents of criminal activities or violence and present the community in a positive light.
"The major problem that we have is that people on the outside they don't see us for who we are," lamented Claudia Nelson, the association's president.
"We have good, decent citizens living inside the community, we have professionals, we have talented young people with hopes of making themselves better and giving back to the community," Nelson, a teacher at Monsignor Colin Bryan Preparatory School in Old Harbour, told The Gleaner.
In this regard, Natty has been using sports as a vehicle to uplift, effect changes and showcase the talents of residents, particularly young people.
"When I came to this community sports was like non-existence, there was never even a playing field or anything like that. The school (Old Harbour Primary) never had a playing field, and because I worked with Bouygues Construction Company, I was able to work out something, and with the school managed to establish a playing field," he explained.
It's now the home of a football competition which began in October.
"We started this internal football competition with eight teams. It's a lane playing against another lane. In another community we would say it's a street against another street. After we started the football, the girls got jealous so we also have a netball competition now," Natty, who is a single parent for three girls, two of whom attend Old Harbour High School, explained.
He said one of the major challenges with the staging of the competition, scheduled to culminate on Christmas Day, December 25, is a lack of sponsorship
"We actually started the competition without sponsors, and we just got a sponsor, Mr Ruddy Mears of S Mart Wholesale in Old Harbour. If more business people could see what we are doing as meaningful and help us, that would be good, because this will be an annual competition," he added.
A Christmas treat will follow the finals of the football competition and presentation of awards on Tuesday.
Like several residents, Clinton Byfield, a member of the community for 35 years, said he was pleased with Natty's initiative.
"Natty is doing a good job with both boys and girls, football, cricket, netball, any sports is Natty teach them the rules," he said proudly.
Byfield added that the Old Harbour police have been integral to the existing peace which exists.
"If we see a strange face come in the community, the people them call the police and the police are doing a good job. People can walk free as they have a like, night time all 10 o'clock, people on the road a walk same way. One time, down here was like a ghost town, as it reach 6 o'clock everybody gone in," he explained.
Monica Douglas-Gardener, Social Development Commission (SDC) community development officer, Old Harbour, has been monitoring the progress of the community and the positive impact being made through the implementation of the sports programmes.
"The sports initiatives led by Mr Herchavarria are playing a pivotal role in uniting the community and keeping the youths occupied. This community was once considered a volatile area in Old Harbour, so it is good to see sports being used as a vehicle in its transformation," Douglas-Gardener told The Gleaner.
The community participated in the recently held SDC Sports Extravaganza at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in Spanish Town.
It fielded teams in football, netball, basketball and dominoes. It won first place in the basketball competition and made it to the semi-final rounds in the netball and domino competitions. In fact, for the last three years, Succaba Garden South East has been among the parish's 16 teams in the SDC's National 20/20 Cricket Competition.
For Lorna Newman, secretary, citizens' association, and her sister, Dahlia Stewart, who were born in the community, the level of development in the community is commendable. They indicated, however, that much more needed to be done.