REMARKS BY DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HAND OVER OF THE GERTRUDE AND CHRISTIANA WARNER COMMUNITY CENTRE
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.
This is a very special week for us – and today is a very special day – as we have handing over ceremonies for three SMART Community Centres.
Earlier this morning we attended the handing over of the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre in Sea Cows Bay. And now, we have the handing over of the Gertrude and Christiana Warner Community Centre here 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.
These are significant milestones in our journey of recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and as we continue to push forward with sustainable development and building our resilience.
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 the necessary resources for use as emergency shelters.
As we all know, 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, where we hold community meetings, where non-profit organisations come together to support different community members, and where we have some of our most important events such as birthday parties, wedding receptions and other social gatherings. Equally important, 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 one of our key development partners 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 Gertrude and Christiana Warner Community Centre in Purcell was awarded to DE Property Development, and works commenced on 22 November, 2021.
The Virgin Islands was fortunate to receive a grant from the European Union in the amount of 2 million euros to repair some of the centres damaged by the hurricanes. 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.
The EU has been a very consistent and supportive development partner of the Virgin Islands for over three decades, and for this, we in the Virgin Islands are deeply grateful.
In addition to the funding received for repairs to the four (4) community centres mentioned above, the EU has 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-19.
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 projects. 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.
- The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Project through which the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Department of Disaster Management, benefited tremendously.
- The Regional Small Micro Enterprise Project, where the Department of Trade and many businesses in the Virgin Islands saw immense benefits.
- Repairs to the Copper Mine Ruins in Virgin Gorda. And,
- The construction and completion of the Visitor Centre at Mount Sage.
Sadly, one of the effects of BREXIT is that 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.
Special thanks also go out to 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. We are very happy to have with us today PAHO’s Representative, Dr. Amalia Del Riego. Her presence 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.
Kudos also go out to the contractor on the project, DE Property Development. From what I have seen, the work appears to be of high quality, proving once again that we do have the capabilities on-island to do these kinds of projects. And may I say to our partners that they can have confidence in our local contractors whenever they consider future projects in the Virgin Islands.
The handover and dedication of this facility today means that the community of Purcell Estate and Environs regains the use of their beloved community meeting space; a dedicated space for continued and enhanced volunteer opportunities; a dedicated space to meet, plan and execute community projects. They once again have a base from which they can continue to host initiatives that positively impact the youths in the community; 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. This is something I would very much like to see, because the more we can work with our young people the more we can assure them of a bright and successful future.
I want to strongly encourage the residents of Purcell Estate 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.
We in the Government will do our part to keep the facilities 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.
Again, I say, thank you to all who made today possible.
I thank you and may God continue to bless our Virgin Islands and our people.