Minister Emil Lee; Fabiana Arnell, who spoke on behalf of Minister Silveria Jacobs, who was off island; Department Head of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA) Aida Holaman; CDFHA staffers; Department Head of Youth Affairs Shermina Powell and staff; representatives of the three contractors (KS General Construction and Maintenance Services, Elite Development Team and Denton’s Quality Builders NV) and subcontractor PD Production Link; management team of the vocational section of the Milton Peters College, Shawn Philander and Richard Garrin and guest speaker; and SCELL Director at University of St. Martin Eion Maison.
PHILIPSBURG–Authorities have kicked off the elderly home repair project, designed to assist “the most vulnerable in the community” to live in decent homes.
The Department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA), Youth Affairs, contractors and vocational students came together for the project. Students involved will gain work experience to equip them to enter the labour market. In anticipation of the launch, contractors for the project and participating students gathered last week Thursday for an introductory meeting before repairs on the first 12 homes began.
During that event, Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA Emil Lee gave an insight into the inspiration behind the project. “When I came in as a Minister, there was a gentleman that used to come to our office on a regular basis seeking assistance and one day he came to request some help to have his house repaired. To get an idea of what kind of repairs the gentleman was referring to, we took a trip to see his living conditions. He lived in a small room, you could see the zinc sheets from his roof peeled back and the bathroom was deplorable,” Lee was quoted as saying in a press release from his cabinet on Sunday.
“When it rained he had to put a plastic sheet over his bed so his bed wouldn’t get wet. It was heart wrenching to see elderly that contributed to building this island, living in socially substandard conditions. Certainly, thereafter I came back to the Ministry and said ‘Look, here is clearly a person who has a social problem. We need to find a way to help him immediately.’
“But when you looked into it, our system didn’t allow us to help him. So in the end, according to our governmental rules there was nothing we could do to improve his living environment. But sure enough, come election time somebody fixed his roof and the guy had on a T-shirt from a particular party. So what happened? He had to sell his vote, his dignity, for a roof over his head,” Lee added.
The point Minister Lee echoed was “something is fundamentally wrong if that is what our people need to do to live with pride and dignity.”
With this in mind, the Minister tasked Head of CDFHA Aida Holaman with figuring out how to solve this problem. Lee said he couldn’t be more proud of how the project developed and he thanked everyone for their contributions.
“Aida has brought her charm, her charisma, her commitment to the community and her dedicated team to do this project. And in a sense, the fact that I had so little involvement is really just a testament to everyone’s commitment to the project. I had nothing to do with choosing the contractors or nothing to do with selecting the people who are going to receive the help that they so desperately need. These are simply the people in our community who based on an assessment by the Ministry of VSA have been identified as eligible for the assistance and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your political allegiance is, but simply these are the people that need the most help in our community.”
Guest speaker Eion Mason emphasised the need for students to always be persistent no matter what obstacles or challenges they encounter while working in the field. Also addressing the gathering was member of Milton Peters College (MPC) management team Richard Garrin, who expressed enthusiasm in collaborating for the programme that was a direct link to the vision of the school’s vocational section. Garrin outlined and shared this with Holaman during her many visits at the school.
Department Heads Holaman and Shermina Powell also addressed students. Holaman said the students present were setting the trend for the next generations to follow. “What you do and how you embrace this opportunity will pave the way for your younger brother, sister, or cousin.”
Students were also told that people they will meet in the community are opening their homes to them, and they must remember to treat them kindly.
Minister Silveria Jacobs: “Opportunities for education to meet the labour needs are always promoted and appreciated. This is truly a great example of Education on the Move … I encourage the students to make great use of this opportunity, as it connects the youth to community involvement. The students will gain the experience of giving back to a greater cause to those who are in much need of the help.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/66762-elderly-home-repair-project-kick-starts