Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland. (FP)

Community centres are viable resources which can be used to empower communities and the youth, both socially and academically.

This is according to Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland, as he delivered remarks at the ground breaking ceremony for the new Bathsheba Community Centre, St. Joseph, this morning.

“We recognise the decay in our society in terms of how violence has crept in…., and we believe the way to build back our society like in the 80s and early 90s, is through communities and through programmes,” Mr. Sutherland stated.

 The Minister also pointed out the role community centres had previously played in transforming Barbados. 

He said the centres were used for social gatherings which bonded people in the community, as well as to display the various talents of people in the area. The centres were also a place for sporting activities and the “birth place” of many youth groups.

In recent times, the Community Development Department (CDD) has been transforming the role community centres play across Barbados, by adding an educational aspect. In so doing, the centres are now referred to as Resource Centres and offer persons the opportunity to learn a new subject or skill.

Explaining why the CDD has been moving in this direction, he stated: “You often hear the phrase, ‘this is the age of technology’, and as we begin to become more international and as we begin to have that thrust towards becoming a first world nation and becoming very competitive, which is fundamental. We saw the need to utilise community centres, as training hubs, where persons will gather indeed to get that knowledge and get that cutting edge as it relates to information technology.”

Mr. Sutherland also disclosed that the Ministry has partnered with educational institutions, including the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology and the Barbados Vocational Training Board.

“During the [academic] year 2021 – 2022 commencing from March, we’ve partnered with the Ministry of Energy and the Barbados National Oil Company Limited, to provide training in the area of photovoltaic installation and maintenance. We intend to train some 2,000 young people and to utilise community centres as training facilities,” Mr. Sutherland reported.

He further noted that in order to better provide educational training, the department was engaging in infrastructure modification to equip most of the community centres with computer labs.

Stating that the effort was ongoing, the Community Empowerment Minister added that the Ministry would continue to upgrade existing centres across the island, as well as build new centres, including a multi-purpose community centre in The City that will cater to 500 youth.

The new Bathsheba Community Centre is being built by Hackleton Construction Inc. and the project is being overseen by Robertson Ward Associates Ltd. The estimated cost to build the fully Wi-Fi, training and social facility, inclusive of an area for artists and vendors, is BDS $2.4 million.

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