Fear stunting growth in the west
While there are social-intervention programmes on the table to
address the ills in many unplanned settlements across St James, the Social Development Commission (SDC), which is tasked to spearhead the effort, is facing a tough challenge.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum in Montego Bay last week, Randy Hayles, the SDC's parish manager for St James, said his office had been rolling out social-intervention programmes, but factors such as fear had been creating a disconnect with the people.
"Crime and violence have eroded most of the social-intervention efforts in these communities," said Hayles. "When you have fear, when [there is] distrust in these communities, you cannot build the kind of social capital that you want to see, and so persons stay within their own little space, their own little cluster."
According to Hayles, some of the communities have become so divided that despite recognising the need for the social programmes, fear and other factors cause them to resign themselves to their miserable surroundings.
"When you go on the ground, the commu-nities are stigmatised and underdeveloped," he said. "Many simply need an opportunity. Despite the harsh environmental conditions - the zinc fence, uncollected garbage, crime and violence - they just need a chance."
"What is needed is a mentorship programme, an apprenticeship programme, and a system needs to be created to encourage a shift in mindset," noted Hayles.