$16.8 million community centre opens in San Fernando

Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 03:45

Un­like 2009 when Amerindi­an lead­ers were on hand to bless the San Fer­nan­do North Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­tre fol­low­ing un­ex­plained oc­cur­rences at the con­struc­tion site, the fa­cil­i­ty was fi­nal­ly opened de­spite an eerie light show.

At a cost of $16.8 mil­lion, $9 mil­lion more than the ini­tial cost, Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment, Cul­ture and Arts Min­is­ter Dr Nyan Gads­by-Dol­ly and San Fer­nan­do May­or Ju­nia Re­grel­lo fi­nal­ly opened the mul­ti-storey fa­cil­i­ty along St Vin­cent Street, San Fer­nan­do.

In 2009 mem­bers of Amerindi­an tribes from Ari­ma, Guyana and Suri­name, dressed in their na­tive wear, vis­it­ed the site be­lieved to be a for­mer bur­ial ground.

It was re­port­ed that there were un­ex­plained ac­ci­dents and tools falling dur­ing the ini­tial phase of con­struc­tion which was be­lieved to be the work of spir­its.
Back then, some stake­hold­ers ob­ject­ed to the con­struc­tion on the sa­cred ground. Re­grel­lo, who was the par­lia­men­tary se­cre­tary in the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment, Cul­ture and Gen­der Af­fairs said there was no ev­i­dence that it was an Amerindi­an bur­ial ground.

Speak­ing to the me­dia fol­low­ing the cer­e­mo­ni­al cut­ting of the rib­bon, Gads­by-Dol­ly chuck­led when asked about su­per­nat­ur­al oc­cur­rences at the cen­tre. She said T&T was rich in folk­lore.

She said bur­ial sites are revered by T&T’s first peo­ple and were hap­py to have done the right kind of cer­e­mo­ny, which had the bless­ings the Amerindi­an de­scen­dants.
“We feel that we are ho­n­oured to be on this site. We feel that it is a good ad­di­tion to the foun­da­tion and it means that the whole cen­tre is steeped in the good val­ues of our an­ces­tors and we look for­ward to that con­tin­u­ing,” Gads­by-Dol­ly said.

She again chuck­led at the weird flick­er­ing of the lights and the pow­er fail­ure to the sound sys­tem. How­ev­er, said it was any fore­bod­ing of doom and evil but had a rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tion.

The fa­cil­i­ty con­sists of an au­di­to­ri­um with a ca­pac­i­ty to hold 275 peo­ple on the top floor, in­clu­sive of a chang­ing fa­cil­i­ty and wash­room. There are an el­e­va­tor and ramps from the dif­fer­ent­ly abled.

On the first floor, there is a gym­na­si­um, au­dio-vi­su­al room, com­put­er room, ad­min­is­tra­tive room, kitchen for the teach­ing of culi­nary arts and a mul­ti­pur­pose room. There is park­ing out­side the build­ing and in the base­ment. The fa­cil­i­ty al­so boasts of a view of the San Fer­nan­do wa­ter­front. The con­struc­tion at the cen­tre halt­ed in 2010 with the change of gov­ern­ment. How­ev­er, with the PNM re­turn­ing to of­fice in 2015, in 2017 work re­sumed. 

A few Spring­vale res­i­dents were al­so ho­n­oured for their con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­ni­ty. Re­grel­lo, who ad­vo­cat­ed for the com­ple­tion of the build­ing dur­ing the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship tenure, said that it will now be used for events and out­reach pro­grammes span­ning po­lice, health ac­tiv­i­ties and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns.

He said it would be a safe haven and un­der the right guid­ance and cir­cum­stances, an av­enue for NGOs, vol­un­teers, city of­fi­cials and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ed­u­cate and up­lift in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­ety.
“These ac­tiv­i­ties are sim­ply some of the every­day ini­tia­tives that com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres such as this can host. How­ev­er, one of the most crit­i­cal fac­tors that we all must pay heed is en­sur­ing that all those who utilise this fa­cil­i­ty take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for it. Treat it as your own. The long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty of this build­ing, as well as many of the oth­er up­com­ing projects in San Fer­nan­do, hinge on our cit­i­zens ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the gen­er­al up­keep of these build­ings. 

“In so do­ing, we will have ini­ti­at­ed the nec­es­sary steps to­wards true cul­tur­al and so­cial changes that are need­ed if we ex­pect to el­e­vate and progress as a city and a na­tion,” Re­grel­lo said.

 - by Kevon Felmine. Photo by Tony Howell.