Feature Address by Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at the Official Opening of the La Lune Community Centre, Moruga on June 11, 2020

Good afternoon

Today I smile,  I smile at the opening of every community centre. Thirty Seven (37) centres down from November 2015 and I want to from the onset congratulate and thank the members of staff at the Ministry and UDECOTT for the hard work that has gone into this. I really love the song and I am seeing Angela walking outside, I loved what she sang, it’s still a wonderful world and though we sit here today, socially distanced, though when I come to a community centre opening and I’m accustomed seeing throngs of people and I’m sure MP you had to keep away quite a few who would have wanted to be here today, because we heard from the secretary and we heard the history of what happened here and how long they have been waiting.

We heard the tone of resilience, meeting by the side of the road until better could be done, just to ensure that the togetherness was not lost and to ensure that the community spirit was not lost. So to be able to come and open the centre today is a sweet thing, but not having all of the persons who would have been waiting patiently to be here, that is  bitter-sweet. But, what can we do? We still have to admit to ourselves that it is a wonderful world. We are still here. We are still alive. Our circumstance in Trinidad and Tobago has not been what others have experienced and for that we must be grateful and thankful and as we speak now, our Prime Minister is addressing the nation and I am certain that our trajectory has been a positive one and we will begin to get back even more into our normal scheme of things.

So, we keep hope and though we are few in numbers today as we need to be to keep ourselves safe, we look forward to the time where everything will be back to the new normal because there is a saying, ‘never waste a good crisis’ so our post COVID must not be what our Pre-COVID was. There must be things that we have learnt. There must be ways we will adapt and we look forward to that. So, I am glad to be here because this is the first community centre that is being opened in the Post-COVID period. So La Lune, you have made history. I want to tell you that MP Lovell Francis has been after me for a while to deal with this centre. I want to tell you that in the world of a Member of Parliament, community centres are big currency, everyone wants one. I have a nice file on my desk of village councils that write me, month after month asking for either a completely new community centre where none existed before or refurbishment of a community centre that has been performing for years but is in need of work as La Lune was or a community centre that needs to be completely demolished and rebuilt, that’s big currency. Why? Why does everyone want a community centre? Admittedly, they are attractive buildings and it’s beautiful to drive by and look at them but it’s what happens inside a community centre that matters more to the community. It is the prospect of training as your MP would have mentioned, it’s the prospect of events that bring the community together, and it’s the prospect of sharing information across generations. All of those things are the reasons why a community centre are important, not just the building itself.

And if you compare this community centre I am sure to what you had before, you would notice that there is a lot more functionality involved here so you have a beautiful teak stage, lovely air conditioning so it’s nice and welcoming for the community, you have a training kitchen that’s well equipped. All of these things are now put into community centres to make them of more value to the community. To ensure that they not only serve as a place for events but that training, knowledge transfer,  capacity building all of that is what we take into account when we build a centre.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to deliver one of these to any community and having done so to quite a number of communities I can tell you that there are many communities that now will envy La Lune and when they pass and they see your beautiful centre, they will say “I wish we had one just like this,”

So what is now your responsibility? Because to whom much is given, much is expected. What is your responsibility and what is this centre to mean to everyone in La Lune and environs. It is to mean a place of refuge, it is to mean a place where everyone can find an equal space, and it is to mean a place that is jealously guarded and treasured and taken care of. No one should be able to abuse your centre. No one. Because you know how you struggled to get this here. This centre should not be a place that is locked up and not used, this centre should not be leveraged for community power, this centre should not be one where certain people feel they cannot enter and others feel they own.

This is the community centre so this is a place that should resonate with every member of the community whether the young, the middle aged, or the old. Everyone should find a space because that is why we put it here for you. That is why your MP advocated for it because it must mean something to everyone. And at the Ministry what it means to us is that you now have a platform for transformation. It means that you have the opportunity in La Lune after winning the Best Village in ’71 to once again take full part in that Best Village competition and let’s see what you can bring out. It means that you have to now find ways to utilise this centre fully. You have to be innovative, creative and in this Post-COVID time that’s the currency we are dealing with.

This is a time where you may want to have a computer class with a Facebook emphasis to show your older generation how to do things and your younger people get a chance to show them what they know. This is a time where you might want to have a seminar on zoom meetings so that everyone comes on board. We not wasting this crisis of COVID. We using it to fuel our transformation, our progression as a society and you now have a space to do that.

So social distance or not, this space available to you and you can use it and we want you to use it and we want to see positive benefits from it. We don’t just want to see the centre well taken care of, we want that to but we want to know year to year that this centre is being utilised to help everyone. So yes courses will come to the centre and the courses you accustomed to and you love all the community education programmes those will come and we also want to see the ones you want instituted using your community knowledge because I am certain there are many people in your La Lune community who have things to teach others.

And so I want to thank again the staff of the Ministry, the very hardworking staff of our projects unit, the very hardworking staff of the community development division led by Ms. Corbett and her staff members are here always smiling and making sure that things are in place, the very hardworking staff of other divisions of the Ministry that you may not realise are involved; the legal department, the communications department the head of our department is here ensuring that all goes well with the livestream. So there are many divisions of the Ministry that are involved in ensuring this one centre comes to fruition. I want to thank the staff at UDECOTT for really making a wonderful partnership with the Ministry over the last five years and that has allowed us to be able to deliver as many centres as we have in different communities. I want to thank the contractors who would have worked on the project, for delivering the project. It’s a beautiful centre yes? Very beautiful. I want to thank them for delivering that to the residents of La Lune. I want to thank your MP as well for his advocacy, he was relentless in ensuring that this centre was delivered to the residents of La Lune and I thank him for that. As a fellow MP, I know how it goes and as he said nothing comes easy. I want to thank everyone who was involved in ensuring that we are streaming to those who are interested in watching this who could not be  a part of today’s programme because of our COVID regulations. I want to thank them for doing that and as we leave this centre in your care, I wish you God’s speed, God’s blessings and I look forward to seeing the Best Village and I look forward to the transformation it will bring to this community of La Lune.

God bless you.