Overrun with grass and lacking proper equipment, the play park in Oxnards, St. James was not the best place of recreation for the neighbourhood’s children a few months ago.
But then two young University of the West Indies students pursuing Bachelors in Social Work, Allan Thompson and Anya Gage, stepped in and the Oxnard’s Toddlers Park was transformed.
Their involvement in restoring the park to an area conducive for child’s play started out as a assignment for Social Work Theory and Practice with Communities and Organizations. Their task was to identify a community with an environmental issue that residents felt were being ignored, conduct a needs assessment and then act on the findings.
The pair got straight to work after carrying out a needs assessment survey in the Oxnard’s community and the results showed that refurbishment and beautification of the park was what the community needed. They quickly acted on their findings, and created a theme for the project,Everyone Matters, Today and Tomorrow.
But it became more than just a simple school assignment. Thompson and Gage admitted it was an ambitious project that exceeded their expectations of what would be required of them. It took lots of planning, organizing, sweating, arguing and waiting. But undeterred, they pressed on.
From as early as 5:30 a.m. they could be seen in the park, carrying out various tasks including painting and assisting in the construction of a playhouse.
The Pride Of Barbados Kiwanis Club was the main sponsor, providing labour services and planning the official reopening ceremony. Carters, H&B Hardware, Illusion Graphics, Barbados Light & Power Company Limited, the National Conservation Commission (NCC), the Credit Union and residents were among others who assisted in the project.
“Members of the community helped tremendously with the initial phases and construction,” Thompson said. “They were instrumental in the completion of the park, and for that we are grateful. The guys on the block were the ones who dug the holes for the play house; it was real a community project.”
A smiling Gage added: “We don’t do things for the community but with the community.”
Parliamentary representative for the area and Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss, who spoke at the official reopening of the park, showered the students with praise. Admiring their hard work and dedication, he recommended to their lecturer who was also present at the ceremony, Dr. L Rock, that they deserved an ‘A’ grade.
They did get the top grade. But even though their assignment is finished, the students aren’t quite finished. They plan to carry out further improvements to the park.
Gage said the project was another way for them to show how much helping people meant to them, and why they wanted to be social workers in the first place.
“I always wanted to help people, and growing up there were certain times that my family needed different services and resources . . . and I realized that there are so many services out there that people don’t know about,” she told Barbados TODAY. “As a social worker, I want to make sure I can link clients with these services that they did not know about.”
Thompson said he “always had a heart for helping people and giving”, so studying to be a social worker was the perfect fit.
“If it was my last two dollars I would give it to [someone] and walk. So when I found out that there was a degree and courses you can take to gain more knowledge about different personalities and disorders and how to care for persons, I was excited to join the programme,” he said.
These two inspiring students shared a word of advice for young people on the verge of choosing a career path.
“Get into an area you love so that you can perform at your best always. Whatever your goals and aims are in life, just go for it and give it your best. It will be hard, it will not be easy; the good things in life don’t come easy, so just work hard and try to achieve your goal.”