One can always have dreams, one can always develop a vision but without a good corporate partner, without good funding, nothing becomes a reality. These words from the head of Castries Football Council (CFC) Francis Daniel aptly sum up the important contribution of the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) in helping Saint Lucians realise their dreams. On Monday, the SSDF with the Ministry of Social Transformation, Youth and Sports and the CFC provided an update on one such project.
The Vigie playing field rehabilitation project promises to be one that will drive the aspirations of many. Already, the facility is legendary, particularly among footballers in Castries. Appropriately, football is the motivation behind the current reincarnation of the sporting facility, which will benefit the surrounding community, other sporting clubs and disciplines.
Daniel, current head of Castries football, explained. “This all stems from a vision of the CFC to produce the greatest number of senior players on the national team by 2012. To achieve that we have developed a number of strategic initiatives, one of which is venue development.” Consultation with the Ministry of Social Transformation, Youth & Sports and the SSDF saw the project being funded under SSDF’s HOPE Project.
Executive Director of SSDF and former footballer Joachim Henry revealed that the project cost approximately $800,000 but says, “$800,000 sounds like lot but when you hear of a murder by a young man, you’d be willing to spend more to prevent that. Spending $800,000 on the rehabilitation of a playing field is very insignificant for what it can do for our young people.”
One of the major playing grounds in Saint Lucia, the Vigie playing field has deteriorated over the years, creating hazards for the adults and children who play and practice there. Among them are increased risk of injury, and health problems caused by dust inhalation.
Donovan Williams, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Transformation, and one of the sportsmen who still use the Vigie Field, also voiced strong support for the project.”At the Ministry I don’t think there is any question about our commitment to ensuring that we provide sporting facilities, we create the right environment for sports to flourish but we cannot do it alone. This facility is getting the sort of facelift…critical to the development of young people in Castries. We needed to find an organisation that was focused, committed, organised, that could take on the responsibility. The Castries Football Council made it clear to us they were serious, they were ready.”
The CFC, under Francis Daniel, has undertaken the task of ensuring the project is delivered on time and that a high standard of work is maintained. In addition to resurfacing the playing area, there are plans to rehabilitate the building that currently serves as a boxing gym to a combination gym and office space for sports associations and the Olympic Committee (SLOC) on. A second smaller building on the site will be remodelled as a concession/sports booth.
The final design from Scott’s Project Engineering makes provision for raising the level of the playing surface by 24″ to 28″ inches; placing approximately 400 metres of perimeter drains; and installing an irrigation system similar to what exists at Beausejour with five points and four inch distribution mains.
To achieve the slope of 1 degree from the centre line (Beausejour has a slope of 2-2.5 degrees), approximately 9,800cubic yards of river sand was mined from the Roseau river, with the authorization of the Ministry of Communications, Works and Public Transportation.
Heavy equipment is now levelling the sand in preparation for fertilising and grassing, due to begin this week. Sports Saint Lucia Inc., which manages the Beausejour Grounds, is responsible for cultivating the grounds over the next three months.
Human resource will also be cultivated during that time. Two individuals closely linked with the CFC will be trained to continue the maintenance of the facility. Work at Vigie is being carried out by contractors who have been advised to hire unemployed Castries footballers. These workers have also benefitted from personal enhancement training focussing on drugs, violence and self management.
“These are the cornerstone of the SSDF. We believe not just in implementing projects but allowing people to have ownership”, says Henry. “We currently employ roughly 700 persons around the island. With the youth being a great percentage of the poor and unemployed, we thought that it was necessary to provide support for young people.” This financial year government has invested approximately $10million into the SSDF in response to unemployment as a result of the economic downturn.
Says Henry, “I know Castries footballers will not just be responsible for seeing this project come to an end but also the maintenance and we will have a better facility.”
“We have been very pleased to walk away”, adds Williams who notes that management and maintenance are perennial problems, at the root of which is the belief that government must take on these responsibilities.
Consideration is being given to similar improvement works at facilities island-wide, particularly the Marchand and La Clery grounds but Williams says, “We will only do it where we see the level of organisation, of commitment. To do it any other way would mean we would be spending money unwisely.”
This week’s update at Vigie also served to remind the media of the open door policy of all individuals involved the project. The occasion served establish the basis that will ensure clarity in the future dissemination of information.
The Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) is the amalgamation of the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) and the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). The core mandate of the SSDF is to ensure the delivery of basic services to disadvantaged and marginalized communities in Saint Lucia. This involves implementing infrastructure projects, providing vocational skills training and upgrading, building capacity and institutional strengthening, and facilitating the construction and rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems and social assistance services, in an efficient, responsive and accountable manner. SSDF is funded by regional and international agencies.
(published by Star Newspaper)