Features

Labor Day Endeavor

Written by John Casey

Labor Day is May 23rd in Jamaica but this year because the 23rd fell on a Sunday it was celebrated on Monday the 24th.  This is one of the times of the year that civic organizations, companies, and communities unite to “Spruce Up Jamaica”, to borrow a slogan from the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism.  It is a time where walls receive paint, roofs are fixed, or any one of a dozen or more projects are organized across the island.  Our community was no exception.

 The community consists of two roads, one main road and a cul-de-sac where I live.  Usually the projects we do benefit the entire community rather than catering to a few citizens.  It was with this belief that I decided to approach my neighbors to see if they would be supportive of repairing our cul-de-sac.  You may be wondering why the local government isn’t fixing the roads instead of the residents.  Well… to make a long story short, funds are not available for all roads in every community.  As a matter of fact, it is like pulling hen’s teeth to get them to repair the main roads let alone the side roads.  The response to my enquiries was overwhelming.  The first gentleman was very enthusiastic about the idea which encouraged me to continue pursuing this project.  The very next person I approached donated all the sand and stone we would need to repair the road.  I was really getting fired up now!  The only other cost would be for the cement itself.  The more homeowners I talked to the more money I was generating but there weren’t enough homeowners to come up with all the money that was needed.  Undaunted, I started approaching families with cars who were renters on the street.  It is very unusual for these people to donate to community projects because they don’t have the commitment of a homeowner.  I know from the past that flyers left at people’s gates never generated any response.  My idea was to personally speak to each one and to my surprise nearly everyone of them gladly contributed to this project.

Shortly thereafter the community held its monthly meeting where I casually mentioned my project to the president before the meeting started.  He asked me to bring it forward during the meeting which surprised me.  It was well received by everyone including many who didn’t live on the street.  With overwhelming approval of the members present the community donated several thousand dollars and several made work commitments for the project to be done on Labor Day which was but a few weeks away.  

One of the difficulties in planning any Labor Day project in Jamaica is not in finding the man power or money to complete them, it is the weather.  Labor Day occurs during rainy season making completion of any outdoor activity iffy.  I remember six years ago our project centered around the repairing and beautifying of the entrance to the community.  It was a good day for all of us.  Not only did all the work get done but there was plenty of socializing to go along with it.  However, shortly after we finished the rains began.  It was light at first but got steadily heavier.  The biggest worry was that the rain would wash away the cement in the newly filled potholes.  Did the cement have enough time to set, was the question on everyone’s mind.  The next morning our worst fears were realized.  All our hard work was washed away.

With that experience in mind, my original plan was to wait until after rainy season to avoid wasting all that money and manpower for nothing.  However, I was convinced at the meeting that Labor Day would be the best time to do the project as more people would be available to help and less traffic on the road than if a Saturday or Sunday were chosen.  And, it would also get the road fixed sooner.

The big day arrived.  Everything was in place including the women who prepared breakfast and lunch for the hungry crew.  The cement and all the tools needed were gathered together in advance.  Starting time was set for 7:00 AM for two reasons.  The more we could accomplish before the sun got too hot would be easier on the workers and hopefully it would give the cement more time to set to prevent reoccurrence of that time six years ago.  It had rained every day for about two weeks before Labor Day but not on the day before, the real Labor Day, if only we could have another dry day.

The day started out perfectly even though we had to overcome an existing water problem in the community.  The supply of piped water has not been consistent for longer than I care to think about which necessitated filling five gallon containers from the nearby river.  In the past we’ve always used a hose for the water supply so I never realized the amount of water that was used.  I was shocked to see that we used over a hundred gallons of water.  Work went smoothly all morning as each person, most of whom had never worked together before, did whatever it took to get the job done.  By eleven o’clock we were finished but would there be enough time for the cement to set if we got rain in the afternoon.  All we could do was wait and see.  Then it happened, late in the afternoon it started.  The rains came but not in torrential downpours.  Luckily we had finished in plenty of time so that all of our labor was not in vain.  Our road repair work may not be to the standards of the government but at least it is repaired and should last for a long time to come.

I would like to thank the whole team that contributed their time and money so that this project could be completed and that the quality of life on the street could be greatly improved.  I would like to give a special thanks to one member of the work party who not only doesn’t live in the community but doesn’t live in Jamaica.  When he heard about the project he was eager to lend his assistance and to experience the community spirit in Jamaica.  Thank you, Jim.

It is a pleasure for me to write from time to time what life in Jamaica is all about.  Too much is presented in the media about the negative things that are part of Jamaica but there is so much more that never gets told.  In all the years I have lived in my adopted home of Jamaica, I have found the people more loving and caring than anywhere else I have lived.  Jamaica, Jamaica, Land I Love.  Later…

About the author

John Casey