Feature address by Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at the Official Opening of the Bon Air Gardens Community Centre

Happy New Year!

What a wonderful way to bring in the New Year but in a beautiful, new community centre look around you and celebrate it, breathe in the air and give yourself a rounds of applause.  30 years must have been a long time to wait, to anticipate, to hope, to envy other people and their centres but today all of that has come to an end.

As we celebrate, we remember our parliamentarians and those that are here. We celebrate their advocacy, we recognize how hard they would have pleaded, begged, advocated. It is always something that any member of parliament feel happy to provide to every community and if we had the where it all, we will have ensure that every single community had its own community centre.

But there is something about a community, every single one not having their own; and that means if you don’t have your own, you will have to interact with another community to be able to use a centre. In that also lies a benefit. All the communities that are waiting for a centre, I say to you, interact with a community that is close to you to that have their centre. We have close to over 215 centres in Trinidad alone, and we have opened almost 30 centres in the last 5 years, new centres and ones that are refurbished.

I say to those like Bon Air Gardens, who have their own centre now, we are very happy that you have your own. I say to those who are waiting, get into another community close to you and use their centre as well and that will bring communities closer together. That will destroy some of the cliques that seems to be developing that are not necessarily a positive thing and very soon we will get to you; because our goal at the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts is building resilient, culturally rich communities and we know that community centres are integral part of building communities we want to see in Trinidad and Tobago.

This community centre is a physical building, as Alderman Kwesi Robison mentioned, but it represents so much more to a community; it represents all the things you can do together, all the knowledge transfer, all the events you can have, a place for all your community groups to get together so that we can have more performances that we saw here today.

It’s clear that all of our communities are filled with talent, and as your member of parliament would have mentioned, the idea of the community centre started with our first Prime Minister when he recognized the talent of the communities and with foresight that they will need a space, a proper space to bring all of that talent together; to hone it, to be able to develop it and lead our rich cultural heritage, so when they appreciate the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, how rich and diverse it is, that is in no small part a result of the devotion of the government of Trinidad and Tobago to build community centres in almost every community.

If we compare, what we have here in Trinidad and Tobago to what is present in any island in the region even internationally, we’ll be challenge to find another community that is benefitting from what we are benefitting from today and we must be grateful for what we have. This centre represents an investment in over 16 million dollars of the government in the people of Bon Air Gardens in difficult times. And that represents, we hope and expectations that the people of Bon Air Gardens will use this to better their lives, to unlock their potential in the community.

In November of 2019, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts made the first ever National Policy on Sustainable Community Development in parliament.  What is a sustainable community? And what does your community centre has to do with that? I think all of the speakers touched on it. A sustainable community is one where you use all of your resources to better the lives of all the members of the community, all, not just some and use those resources in a way that those coming after you, your children, your grandchildren will be better off.

Certainly, this centre is built and handed over to you in 2020 but the way you use this centre should benefit those who come after you, and the centre, beautiful as it is, should remain that way, largely, for generations who are coming behind. As we use it, we want to keep that at the forefront of our minds, this is for our children and our children children. We want them to benefit from that so we use it with care, with love and what we use it for, to benefit the community to make it a better place and if all of us have that attitude then the centre will allow the right potential, it will have the right benefit and our country will be better.

As we make our community better together, the holistic effect is to make our country a better place. The investment is not only an investment in only the now but an investment for the future. As you take part in the Community Education classes, you are accustomed with those? Now you will have these classes in your very own centre right here so you come to the centre, you do your class and you benefit yourself. Your Best Village group, you make sure that they have a space here and make sure that the young people get involve in the programme.  Do you know that in the Best Village programme, every year, Trinidad and Tobago fully funded by the government, over 10,000 young people under the age of 25 take part every single year? Those are young people that are driven, those are the young people who have purpose because they are involved in the arts and many of them have resident community centres, just like this one, coining their part and making our country a better place, productive young people and that is what these centres have the potential to unlock.

I am confident that you will take good care of this centre. I am confident that you will allow this centre to be a place of rest for all. It will be a place where everyone find a space and everyone can be treated equally as they develop their own intro to the community. It will be a space where this community can grow, can transform and it will be a space where future generations will look back and say, Thank God for this centre that was given to this community in 2020. God Bless you as we give you this centre to transform your lives.