REMARKS BY DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HAND OVER OF THE VALERIE O. THOMAS COMMUNITY CENTRE
SEA COWS BAY
27th February, 2023
A pleasant Good Morning to all the people of the Virgin Islands, especially those of you who are with us in person and those joining us online.
Today, we mark yet another milestone in our recovery from the devastating hurricanes of 2017 and our journey of development for sustainability and resilience.
Today, we have handing over ceremonies for two SMART Community Centres. At present we have the handing over of the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre here in Sea Cows Bay. Later this morning we have the handing over of the Gertrude and Christiana Warner Community Centre in Purcell Estate.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, we journey to Anegada for the handing over of the Emille Dunlop Community Centre. And, of course, persons would recall that in November 2021, we had the handing over of the West End Community Centre.
All of these facilities are equipped with SMART features to make them energy efficient, as part of the Government of the Virgin Islands’ commitment to sustainable development and environmental conservation. They are also equipped with resources that will be used as emergency shelters.
Community centres have long been an essential and intrinsic part of the Virgin Islands. They are places where many of our golden citizens meet for their cultural activities and to socialize. They are the venues where community meetings happen and where non-profit organisations come together to support different community members.
They are the venues where birthday parties, wedding receptions and other social gatherings take place. Most importantly, and as already implied, community centres throughout the Virgin Islands also serve as emergency shelters during natural disasters.
During the 2017 hurricanes, several community centres were significantly impacted. We have been working as a Government and together with our partners, to restore our community centres – with upgrades where possible.
The European Union (EU) has been our development partner on this important initiative, providing the funding, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has provided the technical oversight for implementing this project.
The contract for the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cows Bay was awarded to Tarris Hill and Associates, and works commenced on 12 January, 2021.
The Virgin Islands was fortunate to receive a grant from the European Union in the amount of 2 million euros to repair a few of the centres. The centres that benefitted from the EU's grant funding are:
- West End Community Centre
- The Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cows Bay
- The Gertrude and Christiana Warner Community Centre in Purcell Estate, and
- Emille Dunlop Community Centre in Anegada.
It is important for me to say here that the EU has been a very consistent and supportive development partner of the Virgin Islands for over three decades.
In addition to the funding received for repairs to the four (4) community centres mentioned above, the EU has is also provided the Virgin Islands with grant funding from the 11th European Development Fund (11th EDF) through the Resilience, Sustainable Energy, Marine Biodiversity and Climate Resilience Programme (RESEMBID) for the following projects:
- Strengthening the Virgin Islands Water Quality Programme to Inform Effective Environmental Management and Spatial Planning.
This project is being implemented through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour (MNRL) and will include a comprehensive water quality monitoring programme; procurement of a vessel to support the environment unit of the MNRL; establishing water quality baselines and training for MNRL Staff and staff of other government departments and partner agencies. A grant amount of 927,890 euros or approximately US$965,000 has been approved for this project.
- RESEMBID BVI Smart Schools Initiative.
This project is led by the Department of Disaster Management as part of their smart community initiative to ensure that communities throughout the Virgin Islands become more climate resilient.
Approximately 14 schools across the Virgin Islands will be participating in this initiative, and working with partners like Green VI, HLSCC, and BVI Red Cross and the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports.
We can expect to see initiatives that will result in the participating schools becoming safe, green and smart. The project will equip participating schools in the following areas;
- preparation of disaster management plans;
- achieving Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification, which helps them to better respond in cases of emergencies;
- First Aid Training;
- enhanced schools recycling programmes;
- improving and developing school gardens;
- conducting water and energy audits; and
- marine biodiversity and coastal resilience education.
A grant amount of just over 1.3 million euros has been approved for this project; and
- BVIEC COVID-19 Business Continuity Support.
This project is being implemented through the BVI Electricity Corporation as part of the COVID-19 response. This component was added to the project after the global impact of the COVID-19.
We thank the EU for allowing such flexibility within the programme to assist countries with their response to COVID.
The project involves introduction of Information and Communication Technologies, that will allow the staff of the BVIEC to be better equipped to respond to customers’ requests in a timely manner during times of remote working circumstances, such as we saw during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The project will also assist with developing new policies and procedures, to provide the foundation to guide both the employees and residents of the Virgin Islands during periods of disruptions mentioned above.
A grant amount of 245,481 euros has been approved for this project.
The Virgin Islands has also benefitted from EU funding in the past for a number of project. These include:
- Terminal Building Beef Islands Airport (now Terrance B International Airport);
- The H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Library and Auditorium Building; and
- The HLSCC Culinary Arts Building.
We also had the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Project through which the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Department of Disaster Management, benefited tremendously.
There was also the Regional Small Micro Enterprise Project, where the Department of Trade and many businesses in the Virgin Islands saw immense benefits.
The EU also partnered with us on the Repairs to the Copper Mine Ruins in Virgin Gorda, and we saw the construction and completion of the Visitor Centre at Mount Sage.
Sadly and unfortunately, as a result of BREXIT, the RESEMBID project will be the last opportunity for the Virgin Islands to receive direct funding for development assistance through the EU. Through the Premier's Office, the Government of the Virgin Islands looks forward to a continued working relationship with the EU as a development partner.
I also want to thank PAHO for its assistance and support during the implementation phase of the repair works completed on this and the other community centres, and for their continued support in the health sector. The presence of the PAHO Representative, Dr. Amalia Del Riego today demonstrates their commitment to our continued partnership. The Government of the Virgin Islands looks forward to a continued working relationship with the PAHO as a development partner.
I also want to thank the contractor, Tarris Hill and Associates who completed the repair works to this centre. Without your expertise and craftsmanship coupled with the funding provided by the EU and the project management services provided by PAHO today’s ceremony could not be possible.
The handover and dedication of this centre this morning means that the Sea Cows Bay Community regains the use of their community meeting space. They once again have a dedicated space for continued and enhanced volunteer opportunities; a dedicated space to meet, plan and execute community projects. They once again have a dedicated space to continue initiatives that positively impact the youths in the community; a dedicated space to continue to encourage and promote creativity and culture, and to share valuable and important information. By having this community centre restored, after school programmes and other youth development programmes and now be revived.
As I close, I want to encourage the residents of Sea Cows Bay and environs to make maximum use of their community centre. Use it to build and strengthen your community and your community spirit. I also ask that as you put the facility to use, you help us to take care of it; this is your asset.
The Government will do our part to keep it maintained, but we are relying on you to ensure that it is used in a responsible way, and that it is not subject to any unnecessary damage or ill treatment.
I thank you and may God continue to bless our Virgin Islands and our people.