Chambers Pen welcomes Govt's plans to develop the deep rural communityThursday, June 17, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
CHAMBERS PEN, Hanover — Residents and stakeholders in the deep rural community of Chambers Pen in Hanover have welcomed Government's recent announcement that it intends to develop the district into the first model community under its roughly $700-million Rural Development Programme in five parishes.
“They are now making it a model community, of course. So, we are just waiting and the community will do whatever it is supposed to do to ensure that we achieve the highest. That's where we are at now, stated Jeremiah Grant, principal of the Chambers Pen Primary and Infant School.
Last Thursday during a tour of the area, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie stated that, “Chambers Pen will be — what I want to make reference to as — the guinea pig.”
“So, we are using Chambers Pen as the test pilot for this project.”
Similar to the residents and stakeholders, Member of Parliament (MP) for Hanover Western, Tamika Davis, is equally excited. However, in reference to the term 'guinea pig' by McKenzie, Davis said all will be done to ensure that the project does not fall into a trial and error initiative that could result in cost overruns and the community short-changed.
Under the Rural Development Programme initiative, the five communities in various parts of the island, starting with Chambers Pen, will start to see, within the next three months, massive improvements in their social and economic life.
The other four communities to benefit under the initiative are Cheesefield in St Catherine, Cheswick in St Thomas, Lawrence Tavern in the constituency of West Rural St Andrew, and one community in Clarendon.
Under the programme, the Government is expected to install water, electricity, Internet, and the construction of roads, community parks, and indigent housing, aimed at giving new life to these rural communities.
A female resident of Chambers Pen, who did not want to be named, told the Jamaica Observer West that she is looking forward to especially the upgrading and refurbishing of the Chambers Pen Primary School, construction of better roads, and the provision of Internet service.
She noted that there is currently no fibre in the area, and as such, their only means of broadband Internet service is that from a wireless service offered by a local company, which she claims, is unreliable.
Besides, the woman is also longing for the return of the postal agency, which was closed more than 10 years ago, leaving residents with no other alternative but to travel approximately 20 minutes into the Hanover capital, Lucea, to access postal service.
Another resident, Tressan Cottrell, who describes the community as “a peaceful area that is free of crime”, pointed to the need for the establishment of a youth club and the upgrading of the football field, which, he said, would assist in keeping the unity in the area.
The manager of the Chambers Pen football team also cited the need for the construction of a basketball court, fencing of the property, and the installation of lights that would facilitate night matches at the community's playfield.
Cottrell also called for more job opportunities in the area.
McKenzie stated that under the programme, an undisclosed number of temporary and permanent job opportunities will be created. He noted that after the project is completed a maintenance component of the project will be implemented.
While there are other churches in adjoining communities of Chambers Pen, the Chambers Pen Seventh-day Adventist Church is the only church in the community, which has just over 1,200 residents, while the Chambers Pen Primary and Infant School is also the lone school in the area.
The school, which has an enrolment of 75 students, was constructed over 50 years ago and is made up of concrete walls and wooden flooring.
“The structure is kind of not in the best of situations but, again, we try to make the best of it. And, even the schoolyard as you can see seems as if it is in a state of disarray, but we are trying to get more space,” stated Grant, who pointed out that improvements have been made at the institution in recent years, citing the move from pit latrine to flush toilets, among other things.
The MP concurred that the school is in need of repairs.
She told the Observer West that “the roof is leaking and the wooden floor is not structurally sound to walk on in some areas, making that hazardous to students”.
However, she is optimistic that under the programme, “Chambers Pen Primary School will benefit.”
“ They are really going to do some extensive repairs to the primary school. There is no recreational area either. The yard, though big, is not conducive for playing,” she said.
Davis noted that the population of the school is small because parents are sending their children outside of the community due to poor infrastructure in the area, “which places a hardship on the parents and stress on the children”.
“So, we want to make it somewhere that persons who are from the area will remain and even attract other persons. And, that is how we develop our parish. So it will also take the burden off Lucea, which is fast becoming overpopulated, and give Chambers Pen residents a reason to stay.
Meanwhile, McKenzie said, “the municipal corporation will be the implementing agency of the project. The ministry [Local Government and Rural Development] through its technical team, the SDC [Social Development Commission)], ODPEM [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management] and other agencies, will be a part of the programme…”
Former Chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation Homer Davis, the state minister in the local government and rural development ministry, has overall responsibility for the implementation of the programme.
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