Where there’s life, there’s hope, even in Jamaica

Alright, alright, OK. I am going to look the other way. Jamaica is the best place to live on Earth. Should I just leave it there, and get on with a day long session of watching English football? It’s Saturday morning, so why should I stress myself trying to paint a picture that many people feel is a waste of paint and canvas? Because, I believe that the difference between the good and bad in Jamaica is slight. Why?

I drive often through the gully community in Cassava Piece. I have notched something strange over the past year. No, the gullies are not clear and bordered by clumps of Bougainvillea. But, something similar is going on. Amongst the zinc fencing and the less-than-legal looking waste water pipes pointing into the gullies, I’ve seen a little change. A section of the gully is now lined with fencing made from wooden pallets. First, they were in a stack. Then, they were put together as a fence. Now, the wooden slats are being painted. Alongside, I see some extensions being adds to houses. The community is heading towards a certain character change.

Now, I’d be a dreamer to say that the residents are trying to turn this area into a sought-after location. But, pride is on display. The same pride that is seen every day in the groups of parents taking their young children to the school near Constant Spring police station.

So, why is this happening, in a country which seems to be in such a funk, politically and economically?

Jamaica has always been about people who know how to survive. What that means is that the instincts to get ahead are there, for good and bad reasons. We know too well the many bad characteristics. But, do we often see the good? I think so, if we are not too quick to just dash ‘way everything.

Jamaica is the land of the nine-day wonder. But, is that because people don’t care?

I think that Jamaicans are very rational and work well with the incentives they perceive.

What is happening in Cassava Piece is suggestive of a desire that is being unsatisfied by other agencies. The government has not provided housing in affordable areas for the many people who want it. Private firms think they cannot do so and make a decent profit. Philanthropy is not in this business. So, individuals have to help themselves. Building a house out of available materials is one thing, but to add amenities takes a certain vision.

My wild imagination can foresee a cool out spot coming soon, where patrons can sit by the gully side for a nice beer or a Q. Romantic notion? Maybe, but stranger things have happened as areas transform. If you want to get an idea of how little enhancements work, look at a report of how gardens have been planted in an industrial area in New York City, which aim to soak up storm run-off water.

Not for one moment do I think that Kingston is about to become a model garden city in the Caribbean.

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Garden enhancements in an English town. Not Cassava Piece, but…

But, I’m prepared to believe that the hopelessness that many say pervades our country is at least being dinged in places where you would expect it to be less evident.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

4 thoughts on “Where there’s life, there’s hope, even in Jamaica”

  1. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Help Jamaica project, funded by the Germans. They started a library in Cassava Piece along with various community projects. It’s such a poor community, I can’t imagine the residents got up one morning and said, “Let’s buy thousands of dollars worth of nice wooden slats to pretty up the place.” Or maybe they got a private sector donation.

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    1. Thanks for that thought, Emma. The library and Community Centre funded by Germany are relatively well constructed and painted structures, as one would expect. The pallet area is truly in keeping with the style of the community, i.e. rough and ready. These aren’t ‘fancy’ pallets, but look like some that took a journey from the port, or somewhere similar where they are used in plentiful supply. How the pallets were obtained? I won’t speculate.

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