Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OLD FOLLY, St Ann:
THE TRUE essence of the phrase 'unity in the community' comes to the fore when one realises just what the folks residing in Old Folly, on the outskirts of Discovery Bay, St Ann, have accomplished from working together.
With the catalyst being the GetStart Programme - initiated by Noranda Bauxite to assist residents in the company's operational areas in starting their own business, along with leadership training by the Social Development Commission (SDC) - there is a revolution of sorts in the close-knit community of more than a thousand residents.
And the change has affected just about every sector in the community.
The most obvious would have been the Old Folly cricket team that created history by becoming the first team to win all three competitions in the parish in one season - the Premier League, the Champion of Champion, and the 20/20 - which they did last season. Players such as Xavier Marshall, Shane Powell, and Ricardo D'Acres represent Old Folly in cricket.
Also, the Old Folly cheerleading squad are the 2011 champions in the SDC cheerleading competition.
Then there is the Old Folly Youth and Community Club, formed about three years ago, which facilitated Noranda's donation of a greenhouse in November 2012. Residents reaped the first crop of broccoli and pak choi from the greenhouse at the end of February.
Everything is growing
But then, here is the best part of the project. While the farmers, five in total, were waiting on the greenhouse to be ready, they brought in five other community members, and together, they started planting vegetables on a lot of about one acre outside of the greenhouse.
They plant everything - carrots, squash, watermelon, cucumber, string beans, pak choi, sweet pepper, hot pepper, okra, callalloo, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, thyme, scallion, along with pineapple, corn, sorrel, peanuts and even grapes, and, amazingly, everything is growing!
By the way, there is also a pig farm in the project.
"We trying everything to see what the land can take, but right now we not getting any refusal," explained Bridgette Corrodus, a member of the club Everything a Grow.
She went on: "We get a greenhouse from Noranda, but then we extend and we're outside now, farming. We are trying to let the community be less dependent on Noranda and more to do their own thing because most of us are either fishing or going to Noranda to work; but there's not enough space for everybody there."
It doesn't end there. Maybe 30 metres or so from the farm is a community centre, which is the focal point for a block-making project and a sewing project, both of which are going well.
Individuals from the community are also excelling academically.
Team leader George Brown explained: "One of our youngsters just got a four-year scholarship from Noranda Bauxite to do engineering at UWI. Our club secretary, when the club was just formed, she's now attending university in Trinidad, and we have a physiotherapist at (St Ann's Bay Regional) Hospital who Noranda helped put through school." And that's just three.
About the farm, he added: "It takes a while for everybody to be organised. We saw that without being organised, we couldn't really venture into certain things, and we've done that. We worked hard to get it going and it's taking off now. Everybody is seeing it, and everybody is looking forward to development in the community. The community is closely knit, and it makes it easier to organise things."
And to show the true community spirit, last week Saturday, the residents held their second annual sports day. They divided themselves into three houses - yellow, orange, and purple. They competed for a trophy donated by Officer Paul Brown, who originated from Old Folly but migrated 30 years ago and has spent the last 25 years in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
But don't let the numbers mislead you. Brown comes home six or seven times each year, and every year, he keeps a treat for the kids in the community. Now, he has donated the trophy to be competed for in sports.
Representatives of Noranda and the SDC who were present at the sports day, labelled Old Folly a model community.
According to SDC Parish Manager Richardo Aiken: "This community would have gone through a lot of leadership training by the SDC. Miss Pamela Edwards would have done what we call a community-based organisation assessment and would have done some training based on the gaps that would have existed. We actually see this as a model community."
Community relations superintendent at Noranda, Kent Skyers, is very satisfied with what is happening at Old Folly.
"What is happening in Old Folly is a direct result of cooperation and good leadership," Skyers said.
PHOTOS BY CARL GILCHRIST