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'Dammed' for safety

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

VERY RARELY will people give their time and effort, except for good old-fashioned money. However, there is an even greater reward that may inspire such gestures, especially when the effort is strenuous, burdensome hard labour.

The people of Somerset St Thomas have taken a battering from the hands of Mother Nature. For several years now, a number of homes and other property have been completely covered by silt and debris from the hillside during heavy rains or hurricanes, forcing families to relocate and start from scratch.

At one point the community was to be declared a 'disaster area' due to the severity of the damage.

However, the European Union (EU)-Christian Aid Creating Sustainable Livelihoods Project offered support.

The EU, through this project, has constructed three check dams in the crevices of the mountainsides to "prevent sand, silt and debris from coming down and covering the entire community," explains project coordinator Claudia Sewell.

She revealed that the project which was being implemented by the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre costs millions of dollars, but was quick to point to the tremendous support the community provided in terms of free labour.

"They would pick up stones from the river and carry to the check dam; they took water up the mountain and it is not a nice climb to go to the top of that mountain in Somerset," Sewell emphasised.

Continuing, she noted that even when "you go there on a Sunday, they (community members) are there working and Saturday, they are there working ... carrying stones."

Sewell stressed that the dedication of the workers was driven by the vested interest that the people of Somerset had in keeping their community safe and sustainable.

One way in and one way out

"It affects all of them - whether they live directly below where the devastation is or further up in the community - it affects everybody, because if you live at the top of the community you cannot pass when the landslide comes down and there is just one way in and one way out," the project coordinator pointed out.

Joscelyn Brown, a resident in Somerset has organised community support for the project.

"Those of us who lived the experience (destruction of houses due to landslides) don't want to see certain things happen again so we grab the opportunity of the check dam with both hands!"