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SDC shifts focus to empowering communities

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 11, 2013    

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THE Social Development Commission (SDC), once utilised as an effective vehicle for political education and distribution of State welfare, has shifted its focus to empowering communities to create their own wealth.

"Over the years, the SDC's mandate has been changed in... how it is implemented. It was more welfare-oriented, but now it is community-oriented and geared towards having the community members fend for themselves," Sandra Goulbourne, the SDC's parish manager for Kingston and St Andrew, told reporters and editors at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

Goulbourne was responding to a question relating to the SDC's current activities, compared to the 1970s when the organisation was highly visible.

Damion Hylton, community development officer at the SDC, and Alistair Scott, SDC field supervisor, corroborated Goulbourne's explanation and pointed out that, because of the shift in focus, it is more difficult for the organisation to get a buy-in from individuals who had grown accustomed to how the SDC once functioned.

"It is now lighter on the SDC doing, but heavier on the SDC enabling the community to do for themselves," Hylton said.

The 76-year-old SDC, on its website, states that its mandate is 'to promote and control schemes for, and to do any act or thing which may directly or indirectly serve the advancement of sport, social, cultural, and economic development for the people of Jamaica and workers in particular'.

Goulbourne recalled that, in the 1970s, the SDC focused on community centres as the central base of activities.

"The community centre was the hub of the communities' activities. You had training taking place there, sports taking place there, and even political meetings," she said. "The community centres evolved as the hub of the community as everything happened there."

However, in more recent times, focus has been given to community associations or groups rather than developing a centre.

Alicia Bowen-McCulskie, SDC field supervisor, said although groups are formed every day for different purposes, because of the change in how the mandate is implemented, funding such groups is challenging.

"The SDC is approached by persons on a daily basis who have formed a group or want to form a group, but under the mandate the funding is no longer there, so we encourage partnership and empowering persons to work towards business development and entrepreneurship," Bowen-McCulskie said.

She added that accessing funding from the Government for projects is no longer an easy feat.

"Gone are the days when groups were formed and people say they want to do this and the Government funds that," Bowen-McCulskie said.

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