Meeting challenges head-on in Walkerswood, St Ann
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Savoury sauces may well have put Walkerswood on the map, but there's a lot more to the quiet south-east St Ann community. Here you'll find residents who are always eager to rally together in support of each other, people who eagerly go the extra mile to help create a better Jamaica. And you don't have to look very far, either. On a typical weekday, on a dusty, nondescript playground, the bond among community members played out.
From a distance, the nearly three dozen children gathered on that field appeared to be just horsing around, typical young people enjoying their summer break. But a closer look revealed a more constructive endeavour. These children are part of a summer camp organised by community members to give the young people an opportunity to do something worthwhile with their summer holidays.
The camp was organised by community stalwart Patrice Rutty, with support from Tendai Fudail, Monique Henry, Abigail Gustafson and others.
"Basically, I thought there wasn't really anything going on in the community for the children, and I love working with children, so I decided to get together with the youth," Rutty said.
"Instead of having them running on the streets and maybe get into trouble, I decided that, 'Hey, I can do a summer camp'. Others volunteered to help and here we are."
It was not like Rutty, who returned to Jamaica three years ago after living in the United States (US) for a while, and the other organisers didn't have enough on their plates. She is actively involved with the Walkerswood Youth Foundation, which is registered in the US; and the Rutty Youth Enrichment Programme, which is registered here in Jamaica. The Rutty Youth Enrichment Programme caters to children two to 13 years old, who not only enjoy themselves on trips to places such as the Bob Marley Museum, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove, but are exposed to workshops that teach embroidery, sewing, cooking, self-esteem skills, among other things.
"Everything that I do is at my home. I have a little shop, I lock my shop when it's time to take care of them. And I enjoy it," Rutty said.
Fudail represents the Walkerswood Farmers' Group and the newly formed Community Development Council. Henry is vice-president of Youth In Action Environmental Firm. Gustafson, meanwhile, is a Peace Corps volunteer.
But all these responsibilities proved no hindrance when the group realised that the children needed something positive to do during the summer.
According to Fudail: "We're trying to teach community development with these young people for them to know how to work and be good citizens of the country. So we're teaching them teamwork, entrepreneurship, farming, learning creative artwork, a lot of things. It's about making them into better people. They are our future, so it's up to us to put the effort in to help them."
The farmers' group, of which Fudail is part, has also initiated a school-assistance programme, supplying basic and all-age schools in the area with food items, such as pumpkins, string beans, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, corn, pak choi and yam from their farms.
Far from idle
Henry, who graduated from Moneague College with an associate degree in management of information systems, has been unable to find employment. Yet, she is far from idle. Her Youth In Action club has been approved for funding by the United States Agency for International Development, to develop an aquaponics project in Walkerswood. Aquaponics is a sustainable food-production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
"We are going to raise tilapia fish, and the aquaponics system is where we use the fertiliser from the fish effluent to fertilise the vegetables. There will be no artificial fertiliser and no soil. We are in the process of getting it together and should start in about a month or so."
The project will teach the youth new farming techniques and earn an income for the club.
What's right with WALKERSWOOD, ST ANN
Unoccupied young people at home for the holidays.
A groundbreaking summer camp organised by community members.