Christmas tree lighting delights Salt Spring residents
UNDAUNTED by the recent flare-up of violence that has rocked Salt Spring in St James, more than 200 residents turned out to have a good time at the community’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
The event, held last Thursday, was sponsored by Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). Approximately 120 children enjoyed the evening of activities that included a bounce house, face painting and a Santa Claus. The children also received refreshments and gifts at the end of the event.
For managing director of JSIF, Omar Sweeney, Thursday’s event was a testament to the organisation’s commitment to Salt Spring. Sweeney told the Jamaica Observer that JSIF continues to work closely with the residents of Salt Spring through various programmes aiming at social and developmental intervention.
“This time of the year is a good time to show appreciation to the children and the families here. While throughout the year we do many different types of social events, now is a good time to show that appreciation,” Sweeney explained.
He pointed out that it is through events like these that JSIF measures the quality of work done throughout the year.
“One of the main things is that it allows us to also test the work we are doing in terms of how the community is feeling about what’s going on, how aware they are of what’s going on, and how they participate. It is good to see the turnout, especially of the families and children,” Sweeney told the Sunday Observer.
At the same time, the managing director stated that Thursday’s turnout indicated that change is being made in the community.
“I also heard that maybe five years ago [the residents] would not be contemplating attending something like this – that is one of the things that show there has been meaningful transformation, not only in the physical aspects of the community but also in terms of the mentality of the residents. I know that the police have done some work here with the community, and that has increased their perception of safety. It is a combined effort and we are glad that we can be here to be a part of that,” said Sweeney.
Also sharing in the festivities was Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor candidate for the Salt Spring Division Gregory Harris, who told the Sunday Observer that he was impressed with the level of turnout to the event.
Harris believes it shows that the residents of Salt Spring want to come together and unite in their community.
Harris expressed gratitude that both JSIF and the Salt Spring Community Development Commission (CDC) delivered the event for the families in the community.
“I was a bit worried that the event wouldn’t happen this year because of the flare-up of violence in the community but I am happy that JSIF and the CDC pushed it because we know the importance of it. A lot of the kids in the area were asking if it was going to happen,” Harris said.
He continued, “It shows that even though we have a flare-up of violence, the spirit of Christmas is still here and the residents are out in their numbers to say that they will not allow any criminal elements to put fear in the community to the point where they cannot come out and have a merry Christmas. I am looking forward to having this event many years to come because Salt Spring will not be daunted by any negative activities.”
A resident of Meggy Top in Salt Spring, Afrika Scott also expressed gratitude for this year’s staging of the community Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Scott pointed out that not many of the community’s children were able to experience the parish’s lighting ceremony in Sam Sharpe last week.
“This is an awesome idea and I love every single moment of it. I wish this could go on for many years because my daughter enjoyed it. She didn’t go to the lighting in Montego Bay so this was a memorable moment for her, and she also got a nice make-up toy as her gift,” Scott told the Sunday Observer.
At the same time another resident, Colleen Beckford-Aikman, said that her three children and two grandchildren were excited to be at the event. Her only complaint, Beckford-Aikman said, was the time limit given by lawmen due to the ongoing state of public emergency (SOE) established in the parish.
“It was wonderful. I think we could have gotten a little more time but we understand and it worked out well,” she said.
“I didn’t expect so many people; I was here last year and this year’s turnout was bigger. Despite what happened in the community this shows that people want the community to go back to where it was,” Beckford-Aikman added.
As the curtain closed on the event, acting president of the Salt Spring CDC Donna Wedderburn told the Sunday Observer that the residents are committed to their community and its development.
“We can’t allow a few bad apples to spoil our community. It is a beautiful community. We were downhearted when all the crime started to flare up and we thought the event wouldn’t happen but we are grateful that we got the go-ahead from the Jamaica Constabulary Force,” said Wedderburn.