Sunday, February 14, 2010

Water woes

The dominant topic of the week has been the escalating water crisis. With only about 3 hours of rain since the deluge at Christmas the reservoirs and water tanks that service the city are almost completely depleted. Water is 'locked off' on a regular schedule and the pressure, even when the water is on, is very low. Water is available in some areas from 4 am until 2pm daily (the schedule at my apartment), in other areas from 4 am to 10am and 4pm to 8pm alternate days and for some it is never on. Many of the Garrisons have stand pipes for water collection that are on at infrequent intervals and the lack of water increases the stress of an already too difficult existence. Schools are being closed, the university is debating what it should do and there is much grumbling but also anxiety. The trees are beginning to show the stress and many of the lower fronds of the palm trees are yellow, the mountains have great swaths of brown along their ridges and brush fires are frequent. The rainy season typically starts in May/June, which at this point seems a long way off. It is hard to imagine what will happen if water runs out completely but that scenario seems to be a distinct possibility.

Work-wise the week was busy. Monday's travels took the management team to the Westmoreland Affiliate in Savannah La Mar, the Hanover Affiliate in Lucea, the Western Regional Office in downtown Montego Bay and the Flankers Branch in a troubled township in Montego Bay. We drove through Mandeville, a lovely city set in gentle hills, then along the coast with farmland on our right and ocean on our left. From Sav we headed round the coast and through the mountains to lunch in Lucea with several very committed members of the Hanover Board. The hospitality was wonderful and the meeting productive, though not without some difficult discussions that seem typical of growing and de-centralised organisations, wherever they are. We delivered much-welcomed office equipment at a brief stop in Montego Bay and arrived at Flankers as dusk was drawing in. The community centre was full of activity, a gaggle of teenage girls (the dance group) practising on the outside stage, the local planning group just concluding a meeting, the computer lab full of students finishing off homework. It was a hub of activity in the middle of a community in which there are too many groups of young men hanging around with nothing constructive to do. We arrived back in Kingston after 11pm having driven through a dry Fern Gully and crossed the Flat Bridge with very little water running under it. We acknowledged that to cover the west of the island in one day is challenging!

The rest of the week I focussed my attention on writing a funding proposal for the Youth Programme. If it is successful it will fund the island wide expansion over the next two years. It is a large ask and an ambitious plan and I am not confident. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so it was completed and submitted to New York before cut off time, and I am hoping there were enough noughts in the Jamaican dollar budget total!
Next week includes another trip for the Youth Programme Manager and me to Montego Bay to visit schools and spend time exclusively on the youth programme, and a holiday on Ash Wednesday!

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