Cit­i­zens rap SDC for un­der­per­form­ing in the west

Jamaica Gleaner - - WESTERN FOCUS - Christo­pher Thomas Gleaner Writer

DE­SPITE THE man­date of the So­cial De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (SDC) be­ing to pro­mote the so­cial and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment of cit­i­zens as part of na­tional de­vel­op­ment, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s per­for­mance has gained mixed re­views from res­i­dents in western Ja­maica.

While some res­i­dents gave pass­ing grades to the SDC, oth­ers stated bluntly that they had no clue what, if any­thing, the or­gan­i­sa­tion was do­ing to ben­e­fit their com­mu­ni­ties.

Shaneka Carey, a res­i­dent of Wake­field, Trelawny, said that while the SDC has con­trib­uted greatly to sport­ing events in her area, she wanted the agency to de­velop a stronger bond with the com­mu­ni­ties it serves.

“I have not had much ex­pe­ri­ence with them, but I have seen the level of the com­mu­ni­ty­based sports com­pe­ti­tions they have been in­volved in, and I have to com­mend them on that,” said Carey. “How­ever, I would like to see a more rig­or­ous ap­proach to fos­ter a sus­tain­able re­la­tion­ship with mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ties through other so­cial pro­grammes, es­pe­cially for young peo­ple.”

By sharp con­trast, some cit­i­zens in St James and West­more­land were seem­ingly not aware of any work be­ing done by their parishes’ SDC branches, even though the SDC’s man­date calls for it to be the Jamaican Gov­ern­ment’s prin­ci­pal com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion agency in both ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas.

“I could look up what they (SDC) are do­ing, but if you want my ran­dom opin­ion I don’t have a ran­dom opin­ion, be­cause I don’t know what they are do­ing,” said Yolanda Smart, a res­i­dent of Mon­tego Bay, St James.

Christal-Ann Richards, an en­tre­pre­neur from Bethel Town, West­more­land, said of her par­ish’s SDC branch: “They are prob­a­bly there but I have not seen them help­ing much in the de­vel­op­ment of my com­mu­nity. There are a lot of young peo­ple there who are un­em­ployed, and they have chil­dren, and those chil­dren are not go­ing to school. I would love if SDC could come and as­sist with that.”

Such dec­la­ra­tions run counter to the SDC’s seven-step ob­jec­tives of com­mu­nity em­pow­er­ment, which in­clude: strength­en­ing of a par­tic­i­pa­tory gov­er­nance frame­work; pro­vi­sion of fund­ing to im­prove com­mu­nity groups; in­ter-agency net­work­ing in each par­ish; com­mu­nity re­search and data­base com­pil­ing; lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment sup­port to bol­ster vi­able eco­nomic en­ter­prises; pri­or­ity plan­ning to de­ter­mine im­me­di­ate, short- and long-term pri­or­ity is­sues and cor­rec­tive projects; and pro­mo­tion of sport­ing events to break down com­mu­nity bar­ri­ers and pro­mote so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

In ad­dress­ing the con­cerns of a per­ceived lack of ac­tiv­ity on the agency’s part, SDC par­ish man­ager for St James, Randy Hill, said com­mu­nity ben­e­fits take time to be built and must be im­ple­mented through col­lab­o­ra­tion with other state agen­cies.

“Per­sons al­ways com­plain that noth­ing is go­ing on in their com­mu­ni­ties, but when we look at all the com­mu­nity as­sets, we can ask, ‘How can other ser­vice-providers utilise this as­set map based on what ex­ists, and all the skill lev­els, etc?’” said Hill. “When you en­gage them, per­sons look for im­me­di­ate tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, (but) in terms of build­ing ca­pac­ity, it is go­ing to take time.”

Hill con­tin­ued: “From an in­ter­a­gency per­spec­tive, we have pack­aged a num­ber of ser­vices from the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity, HEART, the Peace Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive, the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice, the Na­tional Cen­tre for Youth De­vel­op­ment, JAMPRO, and oth­ers. Cur­rently, we are craft­ing a pro­posal from the in­ter-agency net­work to tar­get some 3,000 young men within the par­ish of St James, through a sports and be­havioural com­po­nent, and we are tar­get­ing some 21 com­mu­ni­ties that have harsh in­di­ca­tors in terms of crime and vi­o­lence and poor in­fra­struc­ture.”

SDC par­ish man­ager for Trelawny, Paula Bar­rett, spoke glow­ingly of the ef­forts her of­fice has made to carry out its projects across the par­ish.

“The peo­ple are feel­ing our pres­ence. We have four of­fi­cers that cover the en­tire par­ish, and in all things we would want to have greater range. We treat as many prob­lems as we can,” said Bar­rett. “One of our main pro­grammes is the Lo­cal Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Sup­port Pro­gramme, which looks at get­ting our com­mu­nity groups to use the re­sources they have to es­tab­lish busi­nesses or to strengthen ex­ist­ing busi­nesses in their com­mu­ni­ties, and we cur­rently have 15 ini­tia­tives that are on­go­ing.”

NOVEM­BER 1, 2016


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