MONTEGO BAY, St James – Undaunted by the recent spate of violence that has rocked Salt Spring in St James, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has vowed to continue its work in the community.
“We have not left Salt Spring because we have not really finished our programme of works there; so we equally are disappointed by some of the activities that have taken place there,” JSIF Managing Director Omar Sweeney told the Jamaica Observer.
The inner-city area has a history of violence but had been calm over the past few years. That peace was shattered a few weeks ago with a string of murders in rapid succession. The Government is relying on a November 8 declaration of a 14-day state of emergency (SOE) for St James to stem the blood-letting. JSIF is looking well beyond that two-week period and intends to build on progress made since it began working in Salt Spring two years ago.
Work already done includes the development of a community park that is popular with residents.
“It’s been valued tremendously and a number of events have been held there. I’ve seen other initiatives like Project Star also being engaged at the facility,” Sweeney remarked.
He also pointed to the sidewalk and guard rails provided for use by students of Salt Spring Primary and Infant School under the Safe Passage Project in 2022. Sweeney is confident that when they are through with all that they have planned, the educational facility will be transformed.
“The school is going to be fully upgraded once we leave there,” he vowed.
He and his team members also have other projects planned.
“[At] the primary school a lot of work has been done and what we intend to do now is upgrade the sporting facilities,” Sweeney said.
He explained that work will be done on the football field, basketball and netball courts and the general exterior of the facility.
The JSIF is also working on a major project for Salt Spring that Sweeney anticipates will get under way in 2024.
“Our larger infrastructure package is now awaiting approval or going through the procurement approval process,” he said.
“This will now improve the road infrastructure, bring proper water supply and things like that into the community. The whole idea of that now is to restructure it so that the neighbourhood can be properly policed and that sort of thing,” he added.
The hope is that these projects will provide the push needed to get Salt Spring back on track to sustained peace.
Sweeney is hoping the actions of a few will not derail the good work that has been taking place in the community.
“Salt Spring is on a different trajectory, I think there are just maybe some individuals there that are not with the programme. We just have to preach solidarity at this point and try and keep the peace,” he said.
On November 6, seven-year-old Justin Perry and nine-year-old Nahcoliva Smith died after a man armed with a high-powered weapon opened fire at the car in which they were travelling. Twenty-six year old Tevin Hayle, said to be the target, also died in the assault. The bullets passed through his body and hit the young boys who were on their way home from school.
Hayle’s killing has been linked to fallout from a double murder, days before, near the gates of Salt Spring Primary and Infant School.