Thirty-two community-based organisations serving rural communities in Jamaica last week participated in an assessment exercise to help them to enhance their skills and build capacity so as to better serve residents. 

The exercise was carried out by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) which is managed by the Caribbean Development Bank. It benefitted organisations in Ramble, Llandewey and Trinityville in St. Thomas, Savanna La Mar in Westmoreland, Jeffrey Town in St. Mary and Peckham and surrounding districts in Clarendon.

The assessments looked at capacity building in areas such as financial management, proposal writing, and governance. In line with the CDRRF’s community engagement approach, the Fund collaborated with the Social Development Commission (SDC), the principal community development agency in Jamaica for the exercise. The assessment exercise included community-wide meetings, surveys looking at community perception of the CBOs and focus group sessions, all aimed at determining the areas in which the organisations need the most strengthening.

A community meeting being held in Ramble, St. Thomas to discuss the establishment and strengthening of community groups to address community needs including building climate resilience and disaster response.

The assessments will be used to determine the training courses that will be rolled out for the Community-based organisations (CBOs). CBO members could benefit from a mix of topics including project proposal writing, governance, financial and meetings management, governance and fundraising.

“We want to ensure that the community groups have the skill sets to sustain themselves even after the CDRRF is no longer present in those areas,” explained Richardo Aiken, Community Development Specialist at the CDRRF. “So these assessments will provide us with information as to where the training needs are and then going forward, we will then be able to design the training to meet those needs.”

The first phase of assessments ran from April 1 to April 8, concluding with a workshop where a report on the findings of the assessment was shared to guide the next steps.

“We are happy to see the process coming alive in the communities,” said Mrs. Sherine Francis, Director of Governance at the SDC.  “From the assessments, we have done so far, we see that communities value the work of the CBOs. They see it as critical to getting sustained development in their space.”

Community members from Trinityville in St. Thomas participate in a community assessment exercise organised by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund and the Social Development Commission.

She, however, explained that while the work of the CBOs was valued, they faced several challenges.

“Sometimes it is tough to get most people in the community together. You won’t get everyone. You also need resources – not only money but the CBOs need to have the public relations element and the human resource element – and sometimes they are not always aligned. These are some of the challenges that are faced by CBOs and we hope that we can find ways to address these issues through the assessments,” she said.

The organisations implementing CDRRF sub-projects and community groups will also benefit from the capacity assessments. Some of these groups are the farmers’ groups involved in the Environmental Health Foundation project in communities in Clarendon, the Llandewey/Ramble Community Development Committee Benevolent Society, the Trinityville Area Development Committee Benevolent Society in St. Thomas,  the CBOs within Russia, 12th Street, and Llandilo Phase 1 in Westmoreland, the water catchment and tank management committees and other groups involved in the Jeffrey Town Farmers’ Association Limited project in  St. Mary

Holding a reasoning – Richardo Aiken (right) Community Development Specialist with the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund of the Caribbean Development Bank speaks with Richard Simpson (left) and Derrick Bowen (centre) members of the Ramble community prior to a community meeting on Sunday, April 7, 2019.

The assessments and subsequent training are another aspect of CDRRF’s approach to providing capacity building support to organisations working at the community level.  The five sub-projects in Jamaica are part of the eight CDRRF sub-projects being implemented across the Caribbean. Other sub-projects are based in Belize, the British Virgin Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  

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