Mount Zion banks on strong community spirit
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU: Despite being faced with many challenges, it is clear that there is a strong community spirit in Mount Zion, St James, and most residents have no desire to live elsewhere.
"For me, there is nowhere like Mount Zion. We are one big, happy family," said 50-year-old Monica Russell Jackson, who has lived in the community all her life. "The only thing I would change at this time is our circumstances."
According to Russell Jackson, unemployment is the biggest challenge, with only a handful of youngsters getting meaningful employment after leaving school.
"They are not working, but the police have no problem with us. We play games such as bingo to occupy our time, but our youths really want the opportunity."
Located in the hills, several miles off the Rose Hall main road, only four people from Mount Zion are employed in the tourism industry.
Newly elected councillor for the Rose Hall division, Jason Cummings, said he was already in dialogue with Heart Trust/NTA to start a programme to train unemployed residents.
"It is well needed. There are too many youngsters that need to still be in school or doing follow-up," Cummings said. "We must be prepared to take on the jobs that are available and will be available in the future."
In Mount Zion, every resident is familiar with the other, and personal projects become a community event.
"If one person is building a house, everybody gets involved. All they have to do is provide some food and a little rum," said Angella Spence, who had just completed cooking at a construction site.
While there has not been much structural change or meaningful development for decades, residents are determined to stick together.
They say they are prepared to preserve the crime-free image even if the promise of help is not kept. The community spirit could be strong enough for them to beat the odds.