Unlike 2009 when Amerindian leaders were on hand to bless the San Fernando North Community Centre following unexplained occurrences at the construction site, the facility was finally opened despite an eerie light show.
At a cost of $16.8 million, $9 million more than the initial cost, Community Development, Culture and Arts Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello finally opened the multi-storey facility along St Vincent Street, San Fernando.
In 2009 members of Amerindian tribes from Arima, Guyana and Suriname, dressed in their native wear, visited the site believed to be a former burial ground.
It was reported that there were unexplained accidents and tools falling during the initial phase of construction which was believed to be the work of spirits.
Back then, some stakeholders objected to the construction on the sacred ground. Regrello, who was the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs said there was no evidence that it was an Amerindian burial ground.
Speaking to the media following the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, Gadsby-Dolly chuckled when asked about supernatural occurrences at the centre. She said T&T was rich in folklore.
She said burial sites are revered by T&T’s first people and were happy to have done the right kind of ceremony, which had the blessings the Amerindian descendants.
“We feel that we are honoured to be on this site. We feel that it is a good addition to the foundation and it means that the whole centre is steeped in the good values of our ancestors and we look forward to that continuing,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
She again chuckled at the weird flickering of the lights and the power failure to the sound system. However, said it was any foreboding of doom and evil but had a reasonable explanation.
The facility consists of an auditorium with a capacity to hold 275 people on the top floor, inclusive of a changing facility and washroom. There are an elevator and ramps from the differently abled.
On the first floor, there is a gymnasium, audio-visual room, computer room, administrative room, kitchen for the teaching of culinary arts and a multipurpose room. There is parking outside the building and in the basement. The facility also boasts of a view of the San Fernando waterfront. The construction at the centre halted in 2010 with the change of government. However, with the PNM returning to office in 2015, in 2017 work resumed.
A few Springvale residents were also honoured for their contributions to the community. Regrello, who advocated for the completion of the building during the People’s Partnership tenure, said that it will now be used for events and outreach programmes spanning police, health activities and public education campaigns.
He said it would be a safe haven and under the right guidance and circumstances, an avenue for NGOs, volunteers, city officials and government representatives to educate and uplift individuals and society.
“These activities are simply some of the everyday initiatives that community centres such as this can host. However, one of the most critical factors that we all must pay heed is ensuring that all those who utilise this facility take responsibility for it. Treat it as your own. The long-term sustainability of this building, as well as many of the other upcoming projects in San Fernando, hinge on our citizens accepting responsibility for the general upkeep of these buildings.
“In so doing, we will have initiated the necessary steps towards true cultural and social changes that are needed if we expect to elevate and progress as a city and a nation,” Regrello said.