The tight knit community of Hunters located in the Central Grand Bahama Constituency was abuzz on Saturday.
Residents, family members and friends from the neighboring settlements and, by extension the entire island, converged on Hunters for the official reopening of the the Young Mens Training Association (YMTA).
A historic landmark in the Hunters Community, the YMTA has had its share of challenges, having been severely impacted by hurricanes over the years. However, thanks to the community at large, corporate entities, and the founding fathers of the YMTA, along with Member of Parliament for the Central Grand Bahama constituency Hon. Iram Lewis, the YMTA was officially reopened in grand style, for all, from near and far to enjoy.
Equipped with state of the art smart technology, the YMTA now boasts one of the very first free WiFi accessibilities, powered by renewable energy. Three strategic aspects of the YMTA were also renamed in honor of stalwarts of the community, namely, Wheatley J. Grant, Fletcher Lewis and Bernard ‘Tampa’ Russell.
A number of government officials and members of the clergy were in attendance, inclusive of, Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and MP for East Grand Bahama; Hon. Iram Lewis, Member of Parliament for Central Grand Bahama; Preston Cunningham, Administrator, Local Government, Freeport; Don Cornish, Administrator, West Grand Bahama,;Hon. Shonel Ferguson, MP, Fox Hill; former parliamentarian Maurice Moore; Rev. Lindy Russell and Rev. Michael Pinder.
The ceremony was well attended, followed by fun activities for the children and festivities for the adults, well into Saturday evening.
During the official ceremony, MP Lewis thanked his constituents of CGB for the opportunity to serve them.
Passionate about bringing the restoration of the YMTA to fruition he noted: “I believe that one of the greatest requirements from God, is that we are to serve our fellowman. One of the commitments that I made during my campaign was that I recognized that there was an imbalance in Grand Bahama. We, the real, old Grand Bahamians abandoned our homes, our settlements, our communities and we went into the city of Freeport and most of us poured all of our efforts into Freeport, but, some of us stayed at home, like Mr. Maurice Moore.
“When the city of Freeport bottomed out, Grand Bahama had really little to fall back on. There were some industries like Buckeye, Bahama Rock, a few of them that kept the economy going, but the city of Freeport pretty much was dead. I believe that in order to create balance in Grand Bahama, we must start at the foundation and the foundation are these small communities, the West End, the Hunters, Lewis Yard, William’s Town, High Rock and Freetown. My commitment was to empower the local Bahamians, in the event that after Freeport comes back, because it will come back, if something happens again, we will have something to fall back on.
“What you see here today is the first step towards empowering the local Grand Bahamians. A building is only as strong as the strength of the foundation and these foundational communities need to be strengthened. What you see here today is not the effort of one man, it is a team effort; a team effort led by Almighty God. I was grounded in the principles of the Bible, coming from the household of a pastor,” said Lewis.
He added that the team that was given to him, bought into his vision to rebuild the community center.
“They bought into the vision plan and we recognized that the economy of The Bahamas is not where it used to be,” Lewis explained.
While he admitted that he and his fellow Parliamentarians were not afforded large allowances that others may have received in the past, they were creative with their resources and thanked the Minister of Finance for his assistance.
“He understood the economy. He recognized that in order for us to bounce back, we had to tighten our belts, we could not splurge, and, as such, parliamentarians like myself, we do not have the big allowances that others got in the past so we had to be creative.”
“We have partners within the community, partners who really stepped up to the plate to help us out such as Bahama Rock and Lance Brown. Every phone call I made to him, I received a positive response. Local Government, Don Cornish, every phone call I made was a positive response, even Freeport’s Administrator, Mr. Preston Cunningham. Every phone call, positive response.
“To the staff of the Ministry of Works, and NEMA, every phone call was positive because they understood the concept of community building. Each and every one of you, I want you to understand that this country can come back but it will take the concerted effort of all of us.
“I believe in empowerment. This is built for you. The level of beauty is what I see in you; the level of cleanliness, the manicured lawn, the basketball court, this is because I believe in you. This will be turned over to you, to mange. This is the first. I expect you to be responsible custodians. You take care of you. Show that you have pride. You can now, get your peddlers license, have events, fund-raisers and put money in your pocket, and, after you would have done that, look out for your fellow man,” Lewis stated.
He then went on to thank others wjo made Saturday afternoon’s official opening a memorable one, noting that the YMTA can now boast of having smart technology on its grounds, the first of its kind in the region.
“Today, the first device in the entire Caribbean is a device that is powered by the sun and the wind. It offers Wi-Fi, with an LED lighting system and, for parents, whose children enjoy playing on the park, there is also the ability to put in a 360 degree closed circuit television camera. The first in the Caribbean, now sits on the property, right here in Hunters,” stated Lewis.
DPM K. Peter Turnquest offered brief remarks as well, with particular reference to the newly installed smart technology.
“I listened to the advertisement for this new device and know, that for the last two days I think, it is, your MP has been bragging about this device. All of us in our parliamentary group have been trying to figure out what this device is, and what could it do. Today, I guess I can say that the proof is in the pudding.
“I cannot say it much better than Iram (Lewis )has said. This is the foundation of Grand Bahama, and without communities like these, Freeport could not exist, would not exist, as it does today.
“Today, we have come to celebrate the reopening of this wonderful facility. This facility has a very strong history. It has been through several hurricanes, been closed, damaged and reopened.”
He thanked all whom played a significant role in helping to restore the facility.
“This is a community effort, and one that this community certainly should be very proud of. One of the focuses of the government is to ensure that we provide wholesome spaces for our young people, to grow, to learn and to recreate. This facility is certainly in keeping with that aim. The services and the experiences that will be provided here, are going to assist in building the kind of citizenry that we want; the young adults that we want and that we need in order to build this community and indeed this island and this country.
“I looked at some of the programs that you hope to run out of this center. This is going to be a safe haven for these young children. This is going to be a place where they can come and learn, where they can come and experiment, where they can come and play, in a safe, secure environment, and that is a an admirable aim. It is also going to be a place where they can learn new skills, where they can engage in productive pursuits, to help them with their homework, with issues that they may have in their homes.
“I am sure that Urban Renewal will participate, to help them identify and to assist with some of the physical needs that they may have, as well as the social and mental issues that may arise.
“The Prime Minister (Dr. Hon. Hubert Minnis) is committed to ensuring that there is no community in this country left behind; that there is no community in this country that does not have access to technology, to Wi-Fi, and to all that this country has to offer.
“Indeed we understand that one of the ways to bridge our diverse and separate islands is through technology. Many of you would remember that in his first stint as the Minister of Health. He was big into the telemedicine project, which unfortunately was delayed, but is now going to be re launched in a real way. It will assist these communities to have access to online, real time diagnostics services, so that we can utilize our specialists in the more effective and efficient ways.
“Likewise, we understand that technology will allow us to beam into these communities, educational programs, putting resources here, through the use of that technology that we could not afford as a country. This offer of free Wi-Fi is absolutely in keeping with what we are trying to do throughout this country and it is a major initiative of the PM, in Nassau, with his ‘Over the Hill’ initiative. I am sure that we are going to take from here today, this solution to Nassau, for them to be able to use on the parks there. This is an efficient way of getting that service to these parks and a cost effective way, of getting this service to those communities,” said DPM Turnquest.
He continued by encouraging the company responsible for installing the Wi-Fi device, iQ Energy, for playing such a pivotal role in bringing the advancements of technology to the community of Hunter’s.
“I want to congratulate iQ Energies, for being creative, for going out and blazing a trail, doing their research and their homework, and bring back to The Bahamas effective solution that can contribute to this country. This is a local Grand Bahamian country, father and son; I want to congratulate them for taking this bold step into entrepreneurship.
“This is what it is about ladies and gentlemen. It is about empowering our people. It is about offering opportunities for those Bahamians who are bold enough, and brave enough, to step out on their own, to go into unchartered territory, unchartered waters and to bring solutions to our country, to our communities that will provide real, tangible benefits to our people.
“I am very proud of them, and what you are doing here in Hunters, Mack Town, Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard, to empower your people, because that is what it is about. No one will do it for us. We are fortunate to have good corporate partners, but no one will come here to rescue us, we have to do this ourselves. In doing it ourselves, we get the satisfaction, but we also create opportunities for our people, and that is what is so very, very important.
“I want to again congratulate the founders of the YMTA, which has had a name change over the years, from the Young Men’s Travel Association…but the name changed to the Young Men’s Training Association, and I’m sure that Men, at this time, has to refer to women too, because we cannot leave out our females. I am going to use ‘Men’ as in ‘Mankind’. You pioneers, you have started something here that I think is going to produce, real, tangible benefits for this community.
“Thank you for your sacrifices, thank you for this gift that you have given this community and thank you for all that you continue to do, to support this community.
He also used the opportunity to offer accolades to Lewis for the “tremendous” work that he is doing throughout his constituency of Central Grand Bahama.
“Ladies and gentleman, you have elected, just a little over one year ago, a wonderful gentleman who has been driven, and focused on this constituency. We are very proud of the work that Iram is doing here in this community, as well as the wider Central Grand Bahama. We celebrate his and this achievement; we trust that you will continue to support him, that you will continue to give him guidance, to pray for him and to encourage him, because the road ahead is still very difficult. But, we know that he is able with your support, to make great things happen for this community.
Congratulations to you, and I officially declare your center, open,” concluded Turnquest.
Joshua Williams, Director, iQ Energy also shared how proud he was to be a part of such a significant aspect of the center.
“The device is a wind and solar powered, LED lighting system, but it offers so much more than that, security cameras, and free WiFi, that you all can enjoy right now. This is first Smart Park, so to speak. This, I hope will inspire others to see the future. This is what the country is moving toward, being able to communicate, having kids come out in the evenings, to do their homework, over the Internet.
“I think that this is a positive step into the future and I hope that we are able to do much more, throughout the communities here and the entire Bahamas.
“iQ Energy is about finding solutions for renewable energy, finding solutions for government and commercial clients that want to save money on energy as well as to improve their energy efficiency.”