TREASURE Beach in St Elizabeth has topped the National Best Communities Competition and Programme for 2012, earning $2 million from the Digicel Foundation for its efforts.
Mount Peto in Hanover placed second, while third place went to Runaway Bay in St Ann, earning $500,000 from the Jamaica National Building Society and $250,000 from the Tourism Enhancement Fund, respectively.
The announcement was made at the Stella Maris Church Pastoral Centre on August 23.
The three national winners were selected from the 13 first-place parish winners, including:Irish Town, Kingston and St Andrew; Port Morant, St Thomas; Balcarres, Portland; Jeffrey Town, St Mary; Albert Town, Trelawny; Flanker, St James; Petersville, Westmoreland; Grove Place, Manchester; Curatoe Hill, Clarendon; and Bushy Park, St Catherine.
The National Best Communities Competition Programme was launched in 2006 to encourage the development of sustainable communities through their involvement in a variety of activities that promote local governance, self-help and self-reliance.
Of the 783 communities in Jamaica, 248 — comprising 1,456 districts — took part in the 2011-2012 competition.
In addition to the three national prizes, the Digicel Foundation is awarding $300,000, $200,000 and $100,000 to each of the 13 first, second and third place winners, respectively, at the parish level of the competition.
Cash awards are also given to eight communities in each parish, based on their work in the following areas: culture and heritage; youth development; community spirit and self-reliance; most beautiful; most improved agricultural practices; best kept facilities; best kept educational institution; and best visitor's experience.
"I tell you, it has helped us; it has motivated people, the enthusiasm is there," declared Reverend Inez Thomas, president of the Runaway Bay Community Development Committee (CDC). "I am glad Digicel is a proud sponsor of the competition. We really appreciate and recognise them for the tremendous part they are doing."
Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation Samantha Chantrelle said the work achieved at the community level is an inspiration.
"And [it] shows that as a nation we have the potential to become self-reliant," she noted. "In recognition of the tireless work of community members and in celebration of our 50th anniversary of Independence, the Foundation has invested an additional $5 million this year to support a capacity-building programme for 50 communities across the island."
For the past four years, the Digicel Foundation has served as one of National Best Communities Competition Programme's major partners committing $10 million annually to the competition.
This year, the foundation has invested a total of $15 million to support the National Best Community Foundation, the capacity-building programme, and prizes for winners at several levels in the competition, bringing the total invested to date to $55 million.
"This competition and programme would not have been possible without our major partner, the Digicel Foundation, and other partners like the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the Social Development Commission and so many others, including the Jamaica Observer," said Jacqueline daCosta, chairperson of the National Best Communities Foundation.