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ZOSO’s solid start - Social intervention in Denham Town gets thumbs up

Published:Friday | February 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Michael Logan putting the finishing touches on a wall being erected in Denham Town under the Zinc Fence Removal Project.

Ricardo Wittingham was all smiles last Thursday as his yard was among the latest to be fenced under the Zinc Fence Removal Project, part of social-intervention initiatives earmarked by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) in the Denham Town zone of special operations (ZOSO).

Wittingham was one of several persons in the west Kingston community singing praises for the much-needed attention that many in the impoverished community have longed for.

"It is really good. I am very happy for it. I have been living here for 13 years with zinc fence and is just now I am getting a wall. It helps to keep the youths them off the streets. Some of the yard them never have any wall to begin with, so it really helps to keep the kids inside," said Wittingham, as he added that the concrete wall offers greater protection from flying bullets.

Last Thursday, at least three workmen made the final touches on the fence which is shared by his neighbour Marvette Allen, who only recently received a birth certificate for her two-year-old son during one of the social-intervention fairs put on by the authorities in the war-torn area.

More than seven sets of initiatives have been outlined for the community by JSIF and its partners at a cost of some $176.2 million. They include the Zinc Fence Removal Project, a water regulation and debt write-off initiative, improvement to the road networks, and training for youths in the area.

Late last week, Omar Sweeney, managing director for the JSIF, noted that it has been a little over 90 days since the Denham Town initiatives started, as he asked residents to be patient.

"You can see the density and the dynamics of the community, and in any situation like that you are not going to have an all-inclusive position where everybody believes that their needs are being met.

"It is not possible to do that. When you do social intervention you go through a process," said Sweeney, as he responded to claims that the social intervention in the zone has been negligible.

He cited civil registration, health services and job training as major priorities for JSIF in Denham Town.

"Our feedback really is in response to the wider spread of needs that we encountered in the community first, and then as time matriculates we will begin to get into the nooks and crannies. So we have to manage the expectations in terms of our response," added Sweeney.

He was supported by president or the Community Development Committee, Pauline Perez, who told our news team that the social change in the community is coming on stream.

"For the four months so far we've had a run, we've had two health fairs and there is one more planned for next month. They are also going to start the building of some houses in the community. So I think it has been going well," said Perez.

She noted that more than 100 children had received their birth certificates through the fairs held in the area, while some residents have been helped to acquire their food handlers' permits and access to health professionals.

Other residents agreed that for the most part the social-intervention activities have been going well, but some have taken issue with the sustainability of the jobs being offered.

They noted that labourers on the Zinc Fence Removal project are paid up to $10,000 weekly, but the work is not consistent.

"What do they expect? Everybody has to eat food. So every week we have to give a different person. It is not a long-life work," said Perez.

She noted that JSIF and its partners have been offering skills training to sustain more long-term occupation and entrepreneurship endeavours.

"So come on; it cannot be something where they expect to be employed forever. Some of them are selfish. Look how many persons are living in the community and many of them are in there and have never made a dollar," added Perez.