Most community centres were constructed throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government. They played a critical role within the communities. They were used for: educational purposes, cultural activities, social events and other activities that took place in the community. When the Unity Labour Party (ULP) gained power in 2001, they deliberately refused to repair them or systematically deny members of the communities the use of these centres.
It is said that social bonds are created at community centers. They help to build strong, safe and inclusive communities. And, after-school programs at these centres can help deter at-risk youth from criminal activities and can provide a constructive environment for these young people. The NDP government had the vision to construct these centres which were used extensively by youth and women in various communities.
The ULP government does not understand the importance of these community centres. Some community centres across St. Vincent and the Grenadines are either in deplorable condition or locked up, making them unable to use while others are used for the purpose which they were not built for. The ULP government has erected similar structures but they are not being utilized. Then, why were they constructed?
There is an ongoing saga with the Paget Farm community centre. The centre has been taken away from the people of Paget Farm, Bequia, by the government and is now being used for police station and there are plans to use it for clinic and the Magistrate Court. This has made the people of Paget Farm and the wider community of Bequia angry. And, they are calling on the government for the immediate use of the community centre. Presently, the residents of Paget Farm are in the process of developing a petition to be sent to the government for the use of the centre.
Meanwhile, parliamentary representative for the Northern Grenadines, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Godwin Friday, is deeply concerned about the development in Paget Farm. So, he will on Thursday 29th July, ask of the Minister Social Development a question about the Paget Farm community centre. The following is the question: The Paget Farm community center was built under the NDP government for use by members of the public for their various activities. Over the years, it has been regularly used for wedding receptions, funerals, church crusades, youth group meetings, government departments meetings, Red Cross meetings, exercise classes, community concerts and other activities. Several years ago, the ground floor was taken over for use as the police station and more recently, the main floor has been used as the Court House.
Now, construction work has begun to divide the main floor into smaller sections that will make the Center no longer usable for the purposes mentioned above. Will the Minister please state: how will the remodeled Paget Farm community center be used; whether members of the public will continue to have access to the centre for their activities; and how will members of the public conduct the various activities in the community that the Center previously accommodated?
Also, in North Windward, Senator Shevern John, is worried about the lack of use of the community centre in Dickson which has been undergoing repairs for a decade. Her question to the Minister of Social Development on Thursday 29th July when parliament meets:
The community centre in Dickson which has been undergoing repairs for over a decade. Senator John wants Minister of Social Development to answer this question: The people south of the Rabacca Dry River have resettled into their communities and psychosocial support is needed in these communities to help affected persons cope.
To this end, physical space is necessary to host community activities. The community centre in Dickson, North Windward, has been in need of renovation over ten years. Will the Honourable Minister please state: if there are plans to renovate the community centre and how soon this work is expected to begin?
Parliamentary representative for South Leeward, Honourable Nigel Stephenson, is also dissatisfied with the state of the community centre in Penniston. So, on 6th July when parliament met, he asked a question of the Minister of Social Development about the centre. He asked:
The Penniston community centre was once utilized by the people of Penniston to enhance their quality of life. Today it is sadly in a dilapidated condition. Will the Honourable Minister please state: when that center will be rehabilitated, and the estimated cost?
The Minister’s replied was strange. He said that assessment of community centres across St. Vincent and the Grenadines which included the Penniston community centre had to be halted because of the eruption of la Soufriere.
So too in South Central Windward, the centres are in a dilapidated condition. In 2019, Senator Israel Bruce, asked of the Minister of Social Development: The Lauders and Greggs community centres have been in a dilapidated state for years now, making them eyesores to the residents. Are there plans in place to refurbish the Lauders and Greggs community centres so as to facilitate youth and community integration activities and; if no, would you give an undertaking to the residents of Lauders and Greggs that these centres will be refurbished soon? To this date, nothing has been done to these centres,
The ULP government continues to fail the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
They have allowed the community centres in various communities to deteriorate to the extent that they cannot be used. This action can be considered as one of spite because they were constructed by the NDP administration. Further, the government should construct the clinic, police station and Magistrate Court in Paget Farm and allow the community centre to be used by the people of the community for the purpose for which it was built.