Thursday, January 18, 2018
Old Harbour News

Old Harbour News

Should they have their wish, the Spring Village Medical Centre will become one of the finest health care facilities on this side of the planet.

The shared vision of groups of community members from this part of St Catherine South West has gained national acclaim by no lesser person than Governor General His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, who has joined forces with the community through his I Believe Initiative.

The Spring Village Development Foundation (SVDF), established in 1998, has been the main driving force behind this medical centre, among other initiatives, towards the development of the community through education, with support from the Spring Village Association UK and North American Chapters, and other local and international partners.

On July 30 what is now known as the Spring Village I Believe Medical Centre was officially opened to the public with Her Excellency Lady Allen, wife of the Governor General, having the honour of cutting the symbolic ribbon.

The realisation on that historic day, however, of what is being achieved by the community, goes way beyond tokenism. The presence of Jamaica Broilers Group, CVSS United Way of Jamaica, the Ministry of Health, and Jamaica Missions USA, is testament to the level of buy-in the community has received.

The Old Harbour Health Centre has outlived its capacity to provide efficient health care due to the continued increase in one of the fastest growing residential towns in the country. Certainly the medical centre in Spring Village will alleviate some of the existing burden faced by the Old Harbour Health Centre, while the expected savings in transportation by Spring Village residents is most timely.

It was a special Tuesday afternoon that will be forever etched in the minds of the residents and the annals of the community. But the goal of the SVDF, which is to provide health care, education and training to the community, is far from done.

Their goal, Randy Finnikin, Executive Director of the SVDF tells us, is to establish a centre of excellence.

“Right now we have four medical examination rooms and one dental room,” Finnikin told, following a tour of the facility led by Lady Allen.

He continued: “We also have a laboratory, a medical conference room, and an over-the-counter pharmacy. We have a sanitation facility and we’ve got a cafeteria for staff and of course there’s a reception hall which will not just be a place where you pass time. It will have multimedia training equipment so that while clients are waiting to be served they will be educated about lifestyle diseases, how to care for their ailments, all those kind of things.”

The opening of the medical centre represents the first phase of a grand therapeutic design of a five-year strategic plan to transform the campus into a technical college, Finnikin revealed. The facility started operations in May, offering post natal care and dental services.

An expanded dental facility, x-ray department and a mental health section represents phase two; while phase three will see a health training facility being established.

“Where we are standing was our rock garden,” the SVDF Executive Director said. “It will now become a medicinal garden. But as we move forward we’re moving into a technologically supported medical service.”

At the moment, he said, the facility is Wifi enabled courtesy of telecoms provider LIME, with a view to having all the staff equipped with supporting gadgets where information is uploaded and made available at the touch of a button.

“Our goal is to have all the practitioners working from ipads where as someone check-in their data is captured digitally and will be fed to the doctor who will know who is coming next based on the record that they have,” he said.

“The mission of the Spring Village Development Foundation is to achieve self-reliance, to improve their academic, social, spiritual and environmental wellbeing. So everything we do on this ground has that occupational component.

“Perhaps in the next six to 12 months we will begin using the facility at nights to start that (training) programme, working with Heart Trust/NTA, City and Guilds. We do host students from UWI – from the Department of Community Health - on an annual basis to study what we are doing here.

“But it’s a part of a vision to build this campus, offer more occupational opportunities for residents in Spring Village and adjacent communities to position themselves for the 21st Century in Jamaica and the rest of the world.”

A full staff complement of eight to 12 individuals will be required, he told However financing of the staff has hit a snag after the Health Ministry informed them of their inability at the moment to honour this aspect of an original agreement.

But the SVDF views this as a minor hiccup in fulfilling their destiny. Already Finniken said the organisation is positioning itself to attract medical interns from here and abroad, and has penned letters to organisations such as Doctors without Borders, among other global medical missions.

The value of the medical programme is quite a stretch for Finnikin, who conservatively put total cost at “roughly $35 to $40 million” of total investment so far. Having invested so many millions and with millions more to be spent shortly, the matter of security was raised.

Vandalism is a reality the SVDF recognised, he said but they also have their own unique approach to mitigate eventualities that may arise from time to time.

Finnikin said: “A part of the strategy in Spring Village is that the resources you see here are community-owned. And that’s a philosophy taught. Over the last 15 years we haven’t had much vandalism because what we teach to them is that ‘what is here is yours, it is owned by you’. In the few times we’ve had break-ins we’ve also had mobilisation of the community to go back for what was stolen and we’ve had it returned.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 02:49

Devon Sayers is champion goat farmer

An experiment into goat farming has landed Devon Sayers a national crown. Fresh out of Northern Caribbean University in 2005 the young farmer, who was making his Denbigh debut, got into the business after finding the job market very difficult and extremely frustrating.

At the recent annual Denbigh Agriculture Show, Sayers’ massive doe by the name of Girl Giant won the Best Native Bred Female Goat title. A native from Bannister, Old Harbour, Sayers started his goat farming with four does. Today he has 125 heads of cross-breed high-bred Anglo Nubians.

Devon Sayers A remarkably achievement for Sayers, who now teaches geography and social studies at his alma mater Old Harbour High.

“I was really happy because I really wanted a first prize,” Sayers told after topping a field of 10.

“I was always a lover of goats,” he continued. “Since I knew I was not going to work in September 2006 I decided to try goat rearing as an experiment and just to have something to do until I found a job.”

Sayers love for these docile animals saw him juggling work inside the classroom and expanding his stock on the farm, assisted by a fulltime employee and two part-time workers. Animal farming in general has its setbacks and rewards, he told Thieves stole two of his prized animals in the past and accessing capital for farming as a business is limited in its scope particularly for small farmers.

Sayers, who financed his Mastered Degree studies in Business Administration at the University of Technology from goat rearing, said: “Goat farming can be very rewarding if you first develop a plan and put in strategies to achieve them… It’s not a get rich quick business.

“The average goat takes eight months before it’s ready for the market, so you have to be patient and discipline. “The main problem doing business in Jamaica is access to venture capital. Particular in agriculture land is a problem. You need land titles to access funding and most small farmers don’t own any land.”

He added: “Praedial larceny is really a big problem in Jamaica, but I believe it’s a problem we can mitigate if we utilise available technologies, such as surveillances, cameras, micro chip. But I believe the larceny problem has more to do with the people than the government.”

Despite his relatively young years in the business Sayers demonstrates a level of seriousness beyond his years. The 32-year-old is now second in command at the Jamaica Goat Farmers’ Association (JGFA), which comprises of over 100 members.

And the JGFA Vice President informed that the association is producing and looking at ways to expanding its organic compost, milk and cheese and even leather production - all from goat.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 01:37

Football unite a divided Church Pen

Football, as it has done ever so often, is being used to unite a fractious community. This time it’s the community of Church Pen, once on the brink of a gang feud that threatened to spiral out of control.

The intervention, however, by members of the Church Pen United Club – who established a community football competition targeting those neighbouring communities at odds – has seen the bad blood dissipate since the competition started on May 12.

Club Secretary Andrea Butler said the decision to organise a community football competition was most timely and accepted by all.

“When we went to them and told them that we are going to start a football competition they were all excited,” Butler told

“They said ‘a long time this fi gwaan because the place need something to uplift the community”.

Fourteen teams entered the competition which also involve teams from as far as Gutters to the east and Burke Road situated west in the heart of Old Harbour Town. The organisers have opted for two formats – league and knockout – operating simultaneously.

The KO final involving Burke Road and Young Strikers formed part the Independence Day celebrations with a $10,000 cash incentive and a trophy at stake. But the organisers were forced the postpone the highly anticipated contest after a Burke Road player was on the morning shot in an alleged shootout between gunmen and the police in that community.

The player remains in hospital in stable condition. August 17 is the new date for the KO final. Though the recent happening at Burke Road is a severe blow to that team on a whole, the spirit in Church Pen remain vibrant.

“Response has been great from the community as everybody come out on a Sunday,” said club President Courtney Porter.

“When we formed the club it was because of the crime and then we entered Division Two. The problems have lessened but we still had some problems last year so that’s why we come up with this concept during the off season to keep them together.”

The competition is run on a very low budget which stands roughly at $250,000 said Porter, while recognising the contributions of W&B Enterprise from Gordonwood Lane. It demands wise financial spending, as 50 % of the budget will go towards paying match officials.

Businessman Rudyard “Kippy” Mears, one of the more influential figures in the community has endorsed the initiative and is hopeful that other businesses in the area will do the same.

Mears said: “By bringing the communities together this competition is doing a wonderful, remarkable job. Seeing what is happening here almost the entire community is out today. You see the togetherness in the teams, the togetherness with the spectators. They are out in their numbers. These are the things that are needed, we have to sustain these things and we’ll find development through them too.”

“If more influential people come around and then come on board then naturally we’ll have some positive spin-offs from it,” added Mears, proprietor of S-Mart Wholesale during the first set of quarter-final matches on August 11.

Manager of Gutters United Samuel “Sagi” Bentley said: “If it wasn’t for this competition you wouldn’t see so much youth coming out. It brings joy to every community around.”

Psychologically the social benefits are incalculable and far-reaching when communities are united by events such as this. The camaraderie displayed on the weekends is captured by an air of optimism and happiness that permeates the atmosphere on match days.

This event says Mears will ease the mental pressures being faced by all, many of which are unemployed, during this harsh economic climate that’s rocking the country. Not wanting to be left out the women of the community have expressed their desire to see a netball competition start as well.

The absence of a netball court is a major deterrent for such plans materialising, Porter told In the meantime the focus is on the men but it doesn’t prevent the women either from coming out and cheer on their favourite team or player.

“Every day you hear the players saying how much they are glad for the competition and they hope it’s not just a one-off,” Mears said.

“They want to see this happening every year and I hope the management body stay together. We must have sports playing in the communities, it is an integral part.”

A trophy plus $40,000 is reserved for the league champions while second and third place will pocket $15,000 and $10,000 respectively along with trophies. The top scorer and most disciplined team will also receive special recognition.

Those cash rewards are mere tokens of appreciation. What is more important is the collective objective of the community.

Scores of mourners assembled at the Bethel Baptist Independent Church at Gutters to pay their last respects at the funeral service of the late Isaac Williams. Williams, 81, died recently after a prolonged battle with heart complications.

His 78-year-old wife Icilda, with whom he’d built an unbreakable marriage five months shy of their 60th wedding anniversary was understandably grief-stricken by the loss of her lifelong soul mate.

‘Pops’ or “Father Will’ as he was more affectionately called, spent 50 years of his life as a sugar worker at the now defunct Innswood Estate, toiling tirelessly to care for his family.

He was respected by all and lived an exemplary life in the flood-prone but quiet Nightingale Grove community, where he was among the first batch of home-owners in 1978, and where he lived up until his death.

Geneive, the youngest of his five children, spoke glowingly about her father.

“He worked tirelessly all his life for his family. He was a good husband, a provider and a great dad. He was a humble person, loving and kind to his family and whoever may need his assistance,” she said in delivering the remembrance, which was co-read with sister Claudeth.

Several tributes struck a familiar tone, describing the senior citizen as fun-loving, humble, a quiet achiever, hardworking, kind and irresistible.

“The Lord giveth unto us and He taketh back,” said Williams’ first daughter Deloris, her voice cracking as she fought back tears. “We are proud of the legacy he leaves behind as a father, husband and grandfather… May his soul rest in peace.”

Williams was an evangelist for Christ in his latter years, even on his dying bed, Pastor Khani Brown preached during the sermon attended by over 250 individuals.

“He was a man of great influence,” the preacher said of his elder church brother, drawing references from the books of First and Second Timothy.

“He followed the Lord faithfully. He exhibited the characteristics of a strong believer and follower of Christ,” the Pastor said of the deceased, whom he’d had a very close relationship with.

At least 10,000 residents from the Spring Village community are expected to benefit from its recently established medical centre, says Lyttleton Shirley, chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA).

Shirley made the disclosure during the official opening of the Spring Village I Believe Medical Centre on July 30.

“The opening of the “I Believe” Medical and Healthy Lifestyle Centre is indeed a considerable contribution to the development of the health sector, as it promotes improved access to health care services, a partnership that the Ministry embraces,” the SERHA boss said. “This centre is projected to serve 10,000 residents from the community with an expected 15,000 additional persons from the surrounding communities.”

The establishing of the clinic is being spearheaded by the Spring Village Development Foundation with assistance from several government and non-government organisations on the island and in the Diaspora.

According to Shirley the Clinic in Spring Village will complement existing public health services offered by the state in the parish of St. Catherine.

“An effective primary health care system can prevent many of the disease burdens, and also prevent people with minor complaints from flooding the emergency wards of hospitals... A problem we at SERHA are all too familiar with, having responsibility for 10 of the 24 public hospitals in the island, five of which are Specialist Referral Hospitals,” he said.

He noted the health ministry’s intense efforts to improve primary health services around the country, reiterating data released by Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson during his Sectoral Debate presentation in June.

According to Shirley, a total of $54.8 million has been spent on renovating 20 health centres this year by the ministry under its Primary Health Care Infrastructure Improvement Project, which saw other St Catherine communities, such as Waterford, Christian Pen, Harkers Hall and Kitson Town, benefiting.

“Congratulations to the Spring Village Development Foundation, not only for the opening of the exceptional facility, but for its 15 years of outstanding service to residents of this community.

“It is a milestone worthy of many accolades and the Minister of Health is looking forward to visiting this facility shortly to witness first hand the tremendous work that has been achieved,” said the regional head.

The opening of the medical centre represents the first phase of a grand therapeutic design of a five-year strategic plan to transform the campus into a technical college, informed Randy Finnikin, executive director of the Spring Village Development Foundation.

Phase One of the medical centre entails four medical exam rooms, a dental room, a laboratory, a conference room, a cafeteria, a reception hall, sanitation facility and a dispense area for over-the-counter medications.

Saturday, 10 August 2013 04:43

SVDF lauded for establishing medical centre

No amount of praise was too high for the Spring Village Development Foundation (SVDF) for following through on its dream to establish a medical centre to serve the community.

Her Excellency Lady Allen, wife of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, led a host of government and NGOs in lauding the efforts of the SVDF, a non profit organisation celebrating its 15th year in existence.

“This proves what we can achieve when you dare to dream,” said Lady Allen, before cutting the symbolic ribbon and declaring the facility open to the public during an official launch at the SVDF centre on July 30.

The Spring Village I Believe Medical Centre, as it will be known is supported by the Governor General’s I Believe Initiative. The facility represents phase one of a three-phase therapeutic wellness centre. Phase one entails four medical exam rooms, a dental room, a laboratory, a conference room, a cafeteria, a reception hall, sanitation facility and a dispensing area for over-the-counter medications.

Currently the facility is offering post natal care and dental services to the community.

“The opening of the “I Believe” Medical and Healthy Lifestyle Centre is indeed a considerable contribution to the development of the health sector, as it promotes improved access to health care services, a partnership that the Ministry embraces,” declared Chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) Lyttleton Shirley.

An expanded dental facility, x-ray equipment and a mental health section represent phase two; while phase three will see a health training facility being established. The SVDF is managed by members from the community with a Board of Directors and an executive body in place.

Their work is oftentimes sited as a model by several NGOs, stated Winsome Wilkins, CEO of CVSS United Way of Jamaica. And it was most befitting when the community was named National Model Community last year by the Governor General’s I Believe Initiative.

“I want to congratulate all those who have contributed to the re-development of this community and pledge that we will continue to support the programmes that will empower residents of the area, which has been the home of our Best Dressed Chicken brand for decades,” said Nicole Marshall-Walker, Public Relations Manager of the Jamaica Broilers Group.

She added: “This is just an extension of the vast improvement to the social infrastructure of the community.”

Jacqui Banton-Lawrence, who is president of the Spring Village Association UK Chapter implore community members to work together and protect the facility. She applauded the various chapters in North America for supporting the initiative.

“It’s good to dream and to have visionaries,” the Spring Village native said to loud applause from the audience.

Tuesday, 06 August 2013 02:47

History of Colbeck Castle

Colbeck Castle’s strong walls have stood fast for centuries. Solid and imposing, it is one of the largest and best constructed fortified buildings to have survived in Jamaica.

However, the origins of this building are shrouded in mystery; there is almost no reference to it in the early records, but it is believed to have been built towards the end of the seventeenth century when the island fell into the hands of the British.

Measuring 27.4m by 34.7m, Colbeck Castle was a fortified three storey structure designed along the lines of a seventeenth century Italian mansion with elaborate colonnades, balconies and unusual circular windows. The main building is constructed of dressed limestone walling with red and mottle brick quoins. The four rectangular towers were connected by brick arched arcades.

This impressive ruin is sited within a terrace-wall compound; at the four corners of this enclosure and forming part of the enclosing stone walls, are out buildings which may have been part of the defence system. The one on the south-west corner has two large underground vaults. These were probably used for storage and in an emergency, perhaps used as cells.

The building at the north-west corner contains brick-ovens. Adjacent to the room with the ovens is a sunken bath,similar to a tiny swimming pool. The pool has a depth of 1.2 metres; five steps of brick and stone lead down into it. The north-east building is distinguished by its arched façade.

Many speculate that it may have been a stable, as the large openings would facilitate horses, or even a wagon. This building also has vaulted cellars. The south-east building once housed the caretaker and originally, it may have been a guard-room. It is likely that Colbeck Castle was intended to be a key point in the defence of the island from the Spanish and the marauding pirates.

Whoever possessed it had strategic control over the important port of the Old Harbour Bay. It also provided valuable protection for the capital, Spanish Town, against attack from the South West.

John Colbeck

Colbeck Castle was named for John Colbeck, the owner of the land after the British occupation and a man of great influence. Colonel John Colbeck came to the island in 1655 as an officer in the invading forces of Admiral Penn and General Venables.

Many of the soldiers were happy to settle in the island, taking over the estates of the fleeing Spaniards. Colbeck was only 25 years old at the time. He was granted 1,340 acres of land by Oliver Cromwell.

He had a distinguished career serving as a soldier, and also a member of the island's first Assembly, where he served for eleven years; and he was Speaker of the House in 1671/72.

The Sunbeam Boys Home continues to be a shining example for all to follow, amid limited resources and their continued reliance on Non-Government Organisations.

Since this year the Home, which houses 40 boys amongst other staff, built two bio-digesters to begin producing its own methane gas for cooking purposes.The two units - one fully operational, while the other is set to come on stream very soon - will enable the non-profit organisation to eliminate its monthly gas bill of approximately $20,000.

Using the more common type of digester known as the “wet bio-digester”, methane gas is being produced from two piggery units which can accommodate over 100 pigs. Production is not at optimal level as yet, however, explained Sunbeam Boys Home manager Desmond Whitely.

“We need about 45 pigs to produce a fair amount of methane but we are getting there slowly,” Whitely told Old Harbour News.

As the piggery business expands Whitely stressed that the vision is to become self-sustaining. According to a bio-digester online fact sheet, a bio-digester uses bacteria to break down organic matter and capture methane released by the bacteria, in a process called anaerobic fermentation.

The project is the first stage of an initiative towards self-reliance, efficiency, and a healthier environment and is being funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, the Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Proposal, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Later this year the Home will commence work on constructing a solar generator that will enable them to dramatically slash an annual expenditure of about $760,000 for electricity. Just two years in the managerial seat, Whitely said: “We want to start producing our own electricity. The order has been made to install solar lights.”

More details will be made available at a formal launch, he said.

Whitely further stated that more recently the organisation has placed special emphasis on agriculture and has even enrolled a full-time specialised teacher solely for this purpose.

“All of this forms part of our Agri-Science Department,” he said. “All our boys are being taught to rear pigs and to do farming in a scientific way. We have already employed the services of a full-time agriculture teacher, as we want to start a revival of agriculture among our young boys.”

In coming days their fortunes will be significantly enhanced as well, as the North Iowa Jamaica Mission Team - a Lutheran Christian organisation - is set to complete a 50,000 gallon water storage facility.

Head of the overseas mission, Pastor Daniel Hart, who has been visiting Sunbeam Boys Home since 2000, says the water project has been long in coming.

“This project that we’re working on right now is the culmination of many years of frustration with the water system. Sometimes the water is off for four hours a day. And it’s never the same four hours. And when you have 40 boys, 10 staff and 20 team members and there’s no water it gets dry real fast,” said Hart, a pastor of 38 years at the St John Lutheran Church in Iowa.

“That’s the main project,” added the missionary, who spent nine years on the continent of Africa before shifting to Jamaica. “But we end up doing all kinds of other projects. We’ve been doing some painting; we have been adding some fans, just general maintenance.”

Saturday, 03 August 2013 13:50

Colbeck Castle gets facelift

The more than 300 years old Colbeck Castle had a much needed facelift by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and the Leo Club of Downtown Kingston.

Both organisations collaborated on a beautification exercise on the once splendid Italian mansion built in the late seventeenth century.

Several tertiary students who are members of the Leo Club of Downtown Kingston assisted in the planting of a number of the island’s best known flowers. Signs and storyboards were also erected at the renowned heritage site, located a little more than a mile north of the Old Harbour town centre.

The signs were developed with the support of the NCB Foundation and CIBC First Caribbean.

Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:17

About Us

Andrew Hancel - is a community-based Internet portal, highlighting current affairs issues covering news, sport, entertainment, politics, science, religion, commerce, etc in South West St Catherine of which the town of Old Harbour is its main commercial hub.

Through this medium aims to deliver accurate information to its approximately 50,000 (Statistical Institute of Jamaica 2011-2012 population census) residents in near real time fashion daily.

This website also presents an ideal and most economic platform for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) in and outside of Old Harbour to advertise to its targeted audience.

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