Towards a stronger Hanbury community

Towards a stronger Hanbury community

Editor at Large
South Central Bureau

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester— Until recently it took Carlton Cochrane two days to cut the grass at the Hanbury Community sports field, using an old-fashioned lawn mower.

And, he laughingly remembers decades ago when he and others used machetes to cut the huge area, which embraces two full-sized football fields and a cricket pitch in the middle.

Hence his joy at the recent acquisition of a $470,000 four-wheel, 'driving' mower acquired through the Member of Parliament's Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

“Now I can cut the field in four hours, using just a gallon and a half of gas,” said a delighted Cochrane.

For Boysie Swaby, president of the Hanbury Community Club, and coordinator of youth football, the new grass-cutting machine is just part of a larger programme to upgrade sports and community life in Hanbury, located close to Kendal, just east of Mandeville.

The immediate aim is to improve the standard of the playing area to facilitate football, cricket and track and field.

Beyond that, Swaby remembers the 1970s, when Hanbury “was one of the top community clubs in the country...” and he wants a return to those days using sport as a prime vehicle.

“So far it's been a peaceful community and we know the power of sport in bringing good relationships within communities, to break down all the barriers that can cause conflicts,” he said.

Currently, more than 30 boys up to age 17 are formally part of the Hanbury football programme — some involved in high school and other age group competitions.

Swaby says a proper youth cricket programme is also in the pipeline with consideration being given to the development of batting cages, using concrete strips and netting at the northern end of the field. Steve Ashman, who has played a lead role in cricket development in the neighbouring Comfort District and also in organising blind cricket in central Jamaica, would be assisting the youth cricket programme in Hanbury, Swaby said.

Currently, Hanbury is a venue for community cricket, including the Social Development Commission's (SDC) T20 competition as well as blind cricket demonstrations.

Recognising the need to widen knowledge and experiences for youngsters, the club has facilitated motivational talks and seminars, said Swaby.

Multiple hurricanes have destroyed the once proud Hanbury community centre. However, a nearby building, which once housed a basic school — now relocated — is used by the club and community for meetings; and plans are in place for a small library and study centre to be accommodated there, Swaby said.

Yet, he hasn't given up hope for the restoration of the hurricane-wrecked building, given what he sees as a clear need for training and other community services.

He also wants perimeter fencing to protect against goats, and even cows, which find their way on to the play area, on an almost daily basis.

He cautioned that there is a real risk of animal-borne diseases being spread if the playing area is not properly protected.

Member of Parliament for Manchester Central Peter Bunting, (People's National Party – PNP) who endorsed Swaby's plans, has a vision of the Hanbury community field becoming the leading facility of its type in the constituency.

Pointing to the size of the space, Bunting said “a multipurpose court, stands for spectators, two football fields and cricket facilities, are all in the development plans”.

He noted that delays in getting proper title for the land which was donated by bauxite/alumina company, Alcan, decades ago, had proved a hindrance. But that problem had been resolved, with the title acquired last year, Bunting said.

Mayor of Mandeville and councillor for the Royal Flat Division, Donovan Mitchell (PNP), welcomed the development plans for Hanbury and praised Swaby and the community leadership for “doing a phenomenal job...”

Local pastor Bryan Wallace said the value of the Hanbury community project could not be overstated.

“It helps the young people in this community to be able to develop a sense of identity and to come together to find meaningful engagement and enrichment...,” he said.

But locals also told the JamaicaObserver that there was need for residents to become more involved in community organisation.

“The community needs to come closer together and do more... if they do that, this would be a beautiful place,” said resident, Merlyn Mollison.

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