“Why isn’t mummy here?”
This is a question that often comes from the tiny lips of four-year-old Danielle Ramsoomair.
It’s a steep climb up the hillsides of the Maraval Valley to Paramin Village. The roads are narrow and each turn seems sharper the higher one gets. Paramin’s location is the reason given for its slow receipt of amenities like a truck-borne water supply and access to medical services. It is also the reason why, according to one resident, the Paramin community has learnt to be self-reliant. “Nou dependan en sou ko nou (We are dependent on ourselves),” says Luke Joseph.
Joseph is giving informal patois/French Kweyol lessons, after the opening ceremony for the new Paramin Activity Centre. Many Paramin village residents still speak French Kweyol or patois and this is one of the features of the community that make it unique.
“Speak a little bit of patois,” Joseph says in a Paramin-specific dialect, to Minister of Community Development, Winston “Gypsy” Peters. “I speak a little bit of Paramin patois everyday,” replies Peters, with surprising mastery.
During his feature address, Peters explained that he feels an affinity with Paramin and that from the first time he visited, he felt he had been there before.
“Paramin reminds me of Mayaro but Paramin has been able to retain what Mayaro has lost,” said the Member of Parliament for Mayaro.
Describing the village as a model community, a title officially given to Paramin by the government in 1977, Peters urged the residents in attendance, especially those from the Paramin Development Committee (PDC) to continue to “have harmony in figuring out how the centre will be used.” He described the completion of the first floor of the activity centre as “a community effort” which although a long time in coming, “shows the cohesion of the community”.
After committing to provide Government programmes available at community centres across the country, Peters pledged a further TT$75,000 towards continued community efforts, which include constructing a second floor for the activity centre.
“We’re trying to build resilient community,” said Peters later, speaking of Paramin and his ministerial role in community development. “We’re trying to do exactly what they are doing here, to be self-sufficient, to do things on your own, to find ways of doing it with the help of the Government, not to be totally dependent on the Government for everything. Because at the end of the day, the Government is everybody.”
MP for Diego Martin East Colm Imbert was also at the event. The presence of the Rotary president for Port-of-Spain West, Gary Sobers, as well as representatives from Habitat for Humanity, among others, was testimony that the building project benefited from sponsorship. But, explains PDC chairman Colin Romain, the land for the centre was purchased in the 1980s and so the construction was not “a three-year event but a historic event.” Sponsorship, which Romain described as “hard work to get” was critical to the PDC’s ability to realise its goals, and more is needed, he said.
The PDC took the opportunity to recognise those who, in understanding the importance of community and what it means to support its growth, had exceeded what is usually expected of an individual. There was dentist Fagan Bob, who has given free dental treatment in Paramin for more than 35 years; and Molly Tardeau who allowed members of the PDC to use her house for meetings and small gatherings.
Explaining that the PDC’s major source of income came only from parang, Romain said that it remained “a challenge to have events applicable to the community” and that the “community lacks facilities” and was in need of “infrastructural development,” but that the PDC had used its parang profits to assist with medical bills, flood assistance, and support the rebuilding of two homes destroyed by fire. Other successes included securing medical services, establishment of a village rounders team and a scout group which participated in an exchange programme with a group from Leicestershire, UK.
“I do not look at finance, I look at helping out, working for people,” said PDC PRO, Liston Nicholas. Asked about his favourite PDC undertaking, Nicholas said “Water. The PDC is responsible for getting water to Paramin, in addition to that we have worked over the years and developed a lot of the sporting activities.”
Lamenting the PDC’s inability to attract a substantial number of new members, he said that he hoped that the activity centre would act as catalyst in this regard, especially as the community begins to attend the well-structured personal development programmes that will be on offer, including career development and mentoring.
• Sponsors of the Paramin Activity Centre included Rotary Club of Port-of-Spain West, Ministry of Community Development, Habitat for Humanity, Trinidad Cement Ltd, Neal and Massy Foundation, Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Campbell & Associates, NH International, National Quarries, and Mepco Ltd.