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A forward moving process

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When I graduated from my studies overseas and returned in 2005, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my years in some way contributing to the development of my country. How was I to do this? At the time, fresh out of Law School, I had many personal ambitions. We all know the typical ones: applying like every other returning student for a job; trying to start a small business as an option to get by; rekindling friendships and the like, but I also had a general plan, that I wanted to see the community in which I live, grow and advance in such ways so that as a group we will always be able to find new solutions for the ever evolving problems which we will face.{{more}} Teenage pregnancy was still rearing its ugly head in many corners, the fight against HIV/AIDS had to be maintained and alcohol abuse was the root cause of many criminal offences. I appreciated from the start that the way forward must be built around a well articulated plan to empower people, and it was pivotal that the youth be given a chance to achieve their lifelong dreams.

My childhood experience of growing up in a small rural village taught me that being your brother’s keeper was an integral part of the success of the entire community. This was to inform my efforts to begin to assist in whatever little way. The cause was always going to be greater than one individual and getting the community mobilised was critical.

An endeavour to write whether it was in the newspaper or elsewhere, or a lecture addressing critical issues affecting our youth was the first step. Topics such as youth and entrepreneurship; developing the right work ethic to succeed; rekindling a love for agriculture among the rural youth; and our youth as active participants in nation building were a few of the areas I explored. Well intended yes, but I was quick to find out that most times mere writings without more in most cases will only reach the ears of the converted.

How then do you make contact with persons who need the information most? The answer seemed clearly to be in reviving our many dormant community based organisations in a bid to set the right framework in place to begin a mass empowerment programme through community based interaction geared at solving many of the problems experienced at the grassroot level. Getting the small things right would definitely be fundamental in the way forward.

Invitations to meetings to discuss the way forward for our community did not work. Most persons simply ignored the call for participation or for some reason simply thought that the future was predestined so one’s input made little or no difference. It was then that we decided to meet the people, and we met them wherever they were. As we met people in their living rooms, in their shops, on the bridges and blocks, on their farms, in churches, in village meetings, at funerals and weddings and all over, they all started telling the same story about where they wanted to see their community in the years to come. It was out of this broad based consultation that we moved towards the formation of the South Central Windward Development Organisation.

At the beginning the resource base was extremely small, but the vision was large. The organisation began to grow in numbers, and soon we were able to approach funding agencies seeking assistance with our efforts to push ahead. In less than two years we have been able to play an integral role in securing many things which will impact positively on the social and economic development of our communities. Yes, the playing field projects in Mt. Grenan and Diamonds Village; the signing of a memorandum of understanding to secure a pan yard for the South Central Windward District; the collaboration with various bodies to construct a vegetable market at Union and further encourage a structured type of agriculture through the development of the Massarica Land Project are just a few of the projects being advanced currently.

However, the efforts of the organisation to conduct regular capacity building, programmes must be singled out. Over the past twelve months, a large number of persons and community based organisations have benefitted directly from training in project writing, accounting for organisations and several subjects which concern the development of interpersonal skills geared at group development. The Social Investment Fund has played a central role in the entire process.

After four years of group dedication, commitment and hard work, there is still a mammoth task ahead for the South Central Windward Development Organisation. We are far from completion and particularly so since the cause continues to evolve. Our cause is a constantly changing synthesis of ideas, thoughts, dreams and aspirations, and as a community organisation we must continue to find new ways and means of renewing our commitment to the growth of our people. Adaptation is vital to this forward moving process!

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.

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