Opening Ceremony for the Marac Community Centre
Saturday 18th June, 2011 - 10:00 am
Moreau Road, Marac Village,
Moreau Road, Marac Village,
- Thank you, Chairperson, Mr. Samlal
- Honourable Clifton De Couteau, Member of Parliament for Moruga/Tableland and Minister in the Ministry of Education
- Councillors – Philip Gonzales, Moruga; Alvin Lutchman and Rafi Mohammed of the Princes Town Regional Corporation
- Ms. Gwyneth Morris-Alexander, Acting Director, Community Development
- Staff of the Ministry of Community Development
- Members of the Marac Community Council
- Members of the media
- Ladies and Gentlemen
It is always good to be in Moruga, and I am especially happy to share in this special occasion of Marac Fest today; is indeed a great honour.
I want to thank you for your warm welcome, today, and also back in January when I was here to see for myself, first-hand, what could be done to expedite the delivery of this Community Centre to the people of Marac.
Well, Marac, today is that day. Today is the day of delivery.
June 18, 2011 will forever be remembered in Marac; not only because we celebrate Marac Fest, but also because we celebrate the opening of the long-awaited Community Centre in this, what is often called the last village in Moruga; but we all know the protocol.
We save the best for last.
Today, Marac becomes home to one of the most modern Community Centres in the country. This new centre is fully equipped with
- A spacious auditorium for all your events. Everyone in the area should think first of using this community centre when planning a wedding, a major birthday party, or other special event.
- This centre features a solid teak stage, complete with changing rooms and bathrooms for performers
- A teaching kitchen where you can learn about catering and food preparation
- Activity rooms, class rooms and a computer lab for cutting-edge education in the 21st century.
This Community Centre is a major step in developing the community of Marac, as it provides a meeting place to ignite community action. It will also help to meet some additional needs by providing activity rooms for volunteers from within the community, to start a Home Work Centre, and to conduct Adult Literacy classes in the area.
I know that many persons in Marac have lobbied for this Community Centre over the years, but for decades your cries fell on deaf ears.
I have come to assure you that this will never happen again, because this Government is about serving the people, prosperity for all. No community is too small. No village is too rural. I myself come from Barrackpore, so I know only too well, how Governments in Port of Spain can mistake the concrete jungle for development.
Of Government’s Seven Interconnected Pillars for Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Community Development upholds two:
- People-centred development; and
- Poverty Eradication (or wealth generation) and Social Justice.
This is what we are about. This is what the construction of this community centre is about.
I want to specially recognize those responsible for the construction of this Centre:
- the project manager:
- the National Commission for Self Help Limited; and
- the contractor:
- Faith Construction 2000 Limited, owned by Mr. Daniel George.
Together they worked hard to provide Marac with a community centre worth over $6 million ($6, 062, 426.74). It started in June 2008, three years ago and when I visited it in January, it was about 50% complete. We asked for the centre to be completed in six months and he did it.
I have every confidence that Marac will make the Ministry of Community Development proud of this investment.
It is our gift to the people of Marac, but it is also our investment in the community; and with it comes a great deal of responsibility. This is why the Voluntary Facility Management Committee, which will be installed today, is comprised of professionals with competencies in a variety of disciplines.
Marac’s Outstanding Achievements
Talent is what we have here in Moruga; and I know this because I was very impressed with the Report from the Marac Community Council, particularly the point on their Back-to-School Programme; and I applaud the council, the cultural and sports groups for the work they have done thus far.
Now that your Council has a home for regular meetings at this Community Centre, I look forward to hearing of even greater things from you.
Marac has also demonstrated its capacity for bringing about positive change. The Marac Fest, which we celebrate today, is testament of this. This eco-tourism festival is an excellent way to put your Community on the map, and to make it a destination for locals and foreigners alike. This two-day festival features local talent in sport – cricket, football and long-distance running - craft and culture.
The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition’s queen show “La Reine Rive” also plays an important part in this year’s festival. This is commendable because it helps to strengthen the bonds among the people of Marac and environs.
This festival should continue to be developed to attract visitors from neighbouring communities, and from the four corners of Trinidad, to stimulate the local economy in Marac and to generate wealth for you. La Reine Rive will be held this afternoon and you are invited to stay for that as well.
Marac’s Local Economy
On the topic of the local economy, I know that many in Marac are involved in agriculture, in fishing, and in construction, and I want you to know that the Ministry of Community Development stands ready, as a willing partner, to help you develop your skills even more, so that you can become self-employed and self-reliant individuals.
Your Government’s vision and the Ministry of Community Development’s mission are to strengthen communities across Trinidad by empowering the individuals who live in them.
We do this all across the country, through our District Offices.
The Victoria East District Office manages the Community Education (Skills Training) Programme in this area.
There are also Craft Skills Programmes available through the Export Centres Company Limited. I encourage you to find out more about these programmes, and to sign up for these classes through the District Office.
As participants, you will be able to increase your knowledge in different areas, and increase your income as you work for yourself, for your families, and for your community.
Marac’s Outstanding Residents
The story of Marac is a story of how a small village has made a big impression, on both the national and international stages.
Marac is home to the World’s most beautiful cricket Captain - Merissa Aguilera, Captain of the West Indies Women’s Cricket Team, and home to the Gabriel Brothers who have excelled in the fields of music and culture. There are other families like the Grahams, Grangers, Baptistes and Aguilleras who must be recognised.
I know there will be some presentations to other outstanding contributors to this community, and I want to encourage these persons to make use of the Community Centre to pass on their skills to the next gerenation. The future of Marac depends on it. Do not let your God given talents be buried with you when you pass on. Your generosity will redound to the benefit of this beautiful village and to all who come to know it.
I cannot emphasise enough that Marac is a community with a lot of potential, and this potential should be developed to the full.
For as long as I am Minister of Community Development, and for as long as you continue to place your trust in the Honourable Clifton de Coteau, you can be sure that you will see progress in Marac. This milestone, the opening of this community centre, is but the first. We take our partnership with the people very seriously, so that progress will come to all who seek it.
Marac’s Unique Natural Resources
I would also like to highlight some of the unique resources in Marac. This community has many well-kept secrets, and I want the residents, members of the Community Council, and the Community Development staff to help me to broadcast the highlights of Marac.
The Rock Museum at the Marac River can be promoted as a major tourist attraction in your village.
The Mud Pits and Tar Mines in this area can draw people from the South, and from beyond our shores, to witness the natural wonders and the beauty of this land.
So it is my challenge to you today, to start a group in your community to champion this project; or for an existing group to embrace it. Through our Community Action for Revival and Empowerment programme, I can make funding available. The Community Development Fund can also provide funding for projects of that nature.
The group can educate others on the importance of preserving the environment, and seek funding from the Green Fund, which since taking office, this Government has opened up like never before. Though this is part of the portfolio of another Ministry, for this too, you can count on my support, and I am sure, on the support of your MP.
Not only can you generate income from the promotion of the area, by offering tours and presentations on the local natural marvels, but you can also rally residents to Clean and Beautify the area.
Under the C&B T&T programme, which now forms part of my Ministry’s portfolio, you can enter your landscaped spaces in the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition, and compete to win very lucrative prizes.
To start you off, I am pleased to announce that as Minister of Community Development, I will source free plants for you for this purpose. If you wish, I will return to help you to plant some along with my staff.
Challenges and Opportunities for the Community
I know, however, that there are still some areas that need attention in Marac. Today, I hope you will all commit to becoming activists for your community by bolstering the community spirit, and by developing its infrastructure.
Marac has made significant strides but there is still a lot of work to do. Change does not come easy, and it certainly does not come overnight. There is still a need for a regular supply of water and reliable telephone service in this area. There have also been calls for road repairs, public transport and sporting facilities for residents. I am sure you are too, that all of your Government representatives and your MP in particular will not rest until these services are delivered to the people of Marac.
Support from the Ministry of Community Development
As for the Ministry of Community Development, our vision is to see communities, like Marac, transformed into proactive and self-reliant areas. While it is true that I am the Minister of Community Development, it is also true that I cannot do it alone. Your MP cannot do it alone. Your councillors cannot do it alone. We need your help. We need you to partner with us.
I call on you to summon the same spirit that built that first community centre several decades ago. Since then, I know you have felt forgotten, but a new day has dawned. We are here to listen. We are here to serve. We are here to deliver and so you must become the change you want to see in your community and in the world.
You can help me, and your Government representatives, by preparing proposals with the help of the Victoria East District Office, to get what you are entitled to in your area.
Clearly define what your areas of concern are. Garner community support and work to effect changes from the bottom up. Little Marac will again do great things.
That said, I want you to know, that you are not alone. You have the support of Community Development Officers who will work with you to prepare proposals, and to help you to liaise with those in authority to get what is rightfully yours.
I have already mentioned grants and funding for community groups through our Community Action and Revival Empowerment (CARE) Programme. It is also important that you know that the same National Commission for Self Help Ltd. – represented here today by its CEO and members of its Board – can assist you with infrastructural projects. Roads, bridges, repairs to public buildings, even repairs to homes affected by natural disasters, fire or any other calamity beyond your control.
As I close I want to remind you of the wealth of opportunity you have right here in Marac – both in natural and human resources.
As Minister of Community Development, my commitment to the development of Marac is firm, and you can be sure of our full support as you move forward.
Brothers and Sisters, I now take great pleasure in declaring the Marac Community Centre officially open, and I dedicate it to the people of Marac, Moruga.
Thank you and may God bless us all.