Regional

Round robin

Hillside residents earn from corporate

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 17, 2014    

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THE scarcity of formal employment in St Thomas given the decline in banana, sugar and milk production has forced many residents to seek ingenious ways of earning a living. Enter the weekly staging of entertainment events referred to as 'round robin'.

Entire communities, in some instances, have very little to rely on to feed their families save for the proceeds from round robin events which are financed by pooling funds together. One such community is Hillside.

Here, some residents say this is the only source of income for them as jobs are almost impossible to get in the eastern part of the island.

Explaining the idea behind the concept, Joan Harris, who has been participating in the event for several years now said members of the group are required to put forward a sum of money each week. It is given to different individuals on a rotating basis each time for the staging of a particular event. Profit from the venture belongs to that individual.

A recent visit to one such staging saw the very young to the elderly converging on the venue from mid-morning, playing board games or just lyming. The day segment is said to attract the more mature crowd while the party, which is held later in the night is attended mainly by persons who support the bar, and is where the bulk of the money is made.

Harris was helping the resident whose week it was to stage the event with the cooking of stewed pork, curried and jerked chicken, and soup on a wood fire at the back of the venue.

According to her, several residents look forward to receiving round robin profits, which are sometimes reinvested into small businesses, as well as for sending their children to school.

"This is a good way to make a living," Harris said as she and her son, Jordan Powell, cooked in the kitchen.

She explained that in previous years the group was formed by residents from the community; however, it has been expanded to include neighbouring communities as the need to earn has increased.

"A lot of people don't have nutten else to do in these parts and this is the only way many people can make a money to help them to feed their families," she said.

Hillside's version of the event has approximately 25 residents who are each required to put forward a total of $2,500 per week.

"Each person 'throw' $2,500 and this is pooled together and given to one person each week to stage the event. Everyone who throw them $2,500 get to drink $500 worth of drinks out of it when them come to the round robin and this encourage them to come out and support the other person's event," she said.

She explained that the community initially started with an event dubbed 'Cow Foot Fridays', but it fell through when some of the residents could not even afford the sums which were required.

However, a month ago, Harris said they regrouped and recruited new members so the event could continue, given the great need in the area.

"Plenty people, is it them look up to because many people not working and so dem try hard and do little juggling here and there to hussle up dem $2,500 to throw each week," she said.

The community, she said, used to also host 'Chicken Back Wednesdays', which saw residents preparing

the protein in a variety of ways, from jerked chicken back to chicken back in coconut sauce.

"That was such a big hit that sometimes we all sell off five boxes of chicken back at each event," Harris said.

Rohan Williams, who is the organiser of the Hillside Round Robin, said the venture benefits the community in more ways than one.

"When round robin going on people not tiefing nobody things because everybody benefit from selling them things," he explained, identifying farmers who supply the livestock and ground provisions, to peanut and cigarette vendors who sell at the event.

Unlike some other communities in the parish where residents have complained that the police force them to end their events by 2:00 am under the Noise Abatement Act, Williams said the police have sought to work with them given the low crime rate.

"This venue is said to be one of the best and safest so we get the support of the police," he told the Jamaica Observer North East.

Resident Deborah Whyte expressed disappointment that she could not have afforded to join the group this year. Her participation, she said, had always helped her to support herself and send her children to school.

"Right now my son not going to school because I don't have the money, but it would be different if I was a part of it this time around," she explained.

Despite not benefiting directly this year, however, Whyte said she was at the event to lend support to fellow residents.

"I still go to lend my support and if I can buy a food, then I support it by doing so," she said.

According to Whyte, she and many other residents used to make a living from selling milk to Serge Island Diaries. These days, however, things have become harder as the proceeds from the milk generated from the four cows she now owns are barely enough to sustain her.

Residents explain that prior to the closing of the dairy cooling station in the community, they were able to make a living supplying milk to the factory. The station, they said, was closed because residents did not have enough animals to produce adequate amounts of milk to serve the facility.

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