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'Lighting' the way to unity

Spanish Town communities promote harmony with Christmas tree competiton

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer writer

Wednesday, December 25, 2013    

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CITIZENS of Tryall Heights in Spanish Town, St Catherine recently used a Christmas tree-lighting competition to promote unity among community members.

Secretary of the Concerned Citizens of Tryall Heights Social Development Commission (SDC) Simone Allen said before the competition community members would "mind their own business" with little regard for their neighbours.

"Usually you would see members of the community pass each other and don't really stop to talk or ask if everything is all right, so we wanted to change that and develop a more harmonious culture within the community," Allen said.

Co-ordinated by the Concerned Citizens of Tryall Heights SDC, the competition saw the surrounding communities of Thompson Pen, Tryall Estate, St Jago Heights and Mountain View being grouped into four zones to vie for the top prize of a trophy named in honour of the former Mayor of Spanish Town, Owen Stephenson.

Allen explained that the idea to name the trophy in Stephenson's honour originated with whom she described as "notable community member Donavon 'Wee-Man' Mckenzie.

She further explained that each zone had the responsibility of creating and decorating a tree which would eventually be judged.

Allen said a part from unity boosting, the need for community members to become involved with their SDC group was another reason for the competition.

"The group wasn't as vibrant as before so Baldwin McKenzie, our SDC parish manager came around offering ideas and advise to bring back the community's interest and the tree-lighting competition was one advise," Allen said.

Interest in the competition, however, was not always on the citizens' agenda and this, according to Allen, proved a challenge up until the last minute as they [community members] believed the event was mainly political.

"Some were exited but others didn't participate as they believed it was the Member of Parliament and only SDC members who would be a part of it and buy the lights. So a few of us started by buying a few things to create decorations and what would appear to be snow as the competition was being judged on creativity," she explained.

"It was up until the week before the competition that other persons from the community started putting together small cash to buy items," Allen said, adding that since the competition the goal of increased attendance has been achieved.

"More persons are coming out to our meetings from the different zones and we are getting more ideas to help improve the community. One zone started with eight persons and the attendance has now grown to roughly 24 persons," she said.

Allen added that since the competition has passed persons have also gathered at the different Christmas trees to take photographs and to converse. This, she said, is the first step towards achieving unity and togetherness.

"People gather at the trees each night and I believe this will help to reunite the community and also improve attendance at the SDC meetings," she said.

Allen expressed thanks to Members of Parliament Denise Daley and Natalie Headley and Councillor Keisha Lewis for their support.

She noted that outside of the tree-lighting competition which will now take place annually, the SDC group is looking to host other events such as a community sports day to further promote unity.

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