Swift River
Rises Again


Recovery was slow, but the spirit that once made Swift River a vibrant community, although stifled, was not dead. In August 1988 some members of the Gray family who had their origins in the valley, committed themselves to revitalizing the community. Three weeks after that meeting, Hurricane Gilbert struck.

However, as a start, the family concentrated on improving the Bloomfield Primary School. The building was wired for electricity and the windows and doors repaired. Other old students living in the United States also took up the challenge. Among other things they resurfaced the school floor, restarted a Government school-feeding programme and provided supplies of teaching materials, gardening and carpentry tools. They also repaired broken benches and desks and provided financial assistance to needy students who had gained places in secondary schools.

In about 1993, through the initiative of Pauline Stuart and Hazel Bennett a community organization gradually began to take shape. With the financial help of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), the community now boasts a building that is also being extensively used by environmentally conscious agencies. The benches in the building were constructed by local workmen from lumber trees donated by the Forestry Department. With the assistance of EFJ, the Association also cleared some 12 miles of a pre-nineteenth century trail, once used by villagers to trade with farmers in the Port Royal Mountains, to go hunting and to travel to the Blue Mountain Peak. A section of the trail beyond the 12 mile mark is badly eroded but the Association encourages guided hiking and bird-watching tours along the section cleared.

Over the past 9 years the community has benefitted from the work of a small group of American missionaries through the Christian Service International programme. They have quietly adopted the Bloomfield community, upgraded and built modest dwellings for the indigent, provided starter programmes in poultry and pig rearing, and contributed the material, which painted the exterior of the community centre. The Association offers training to some 10 young men in Commercial Arts, under the guidance of an art teacher from Port Antonio. The results of their work can be seen in the banners and posters which advertised the August 2000 Bussu Festival.

In recent months the village has attracted the interest of Greenstar, an environmentally conscious organization from the USA. Through their efforts the Association has received a portable computer and scanner, a digital camera, a small solar oven, and a set of solar voltaic panels to power the building and computers, which the Association plans to acquire for the teaching of computer skills. Greenstar has also recorded local traditional music on CD and these are on sale on the local market, and over the Internet.



For info. Contact Pauline Stuart, Tel. 876-942-2411; E-Mail: polyjam@hotmail.com
Beryl Aitken, Chairperson, Swift River Re-Development Association, Swift River Post Office, Portland Parish, Jamaica
Hazel Bennett Tel. 876-925-8246; E-Mail: wybels@cwjamaica.com