The Borough of Arima celebrated the opening of its long-awaited community centre on Thursday, ten years after the old one was demolished.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Minister of Housing and Urban Development and Arima MP Pennelope Beckles and Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe.
Beckles thanked stakeholders, past and present, for their involvement in the completion of the project, including former MP Anthony Garcia, former Mayor and now MP for D’Abadie/O’Meara Lisa Morris-Julian and president of the Arima Community Council Dr Hilary Bernard.
“It is…imperative," she said, "that I pay tribute to those who were the flagbearers and who, for many years, were associated with the Arima Community Centre and who struggled and lobbied…to ensure that the new centre became a reality.”
The original centre was opened 55 years ago by the first Prime Minister of TT, Dr Eric Williams. The centre was one of the first ones he opened.
The facility is 9,500 square feet,sits on 25,000 square feet of land and has a teaching kitchen, gym, changing rooms, stage and audiovisual rooms.
Beckles said the completion of the project brought her “special joy.”
She said, “During my last incarnation as a member of Parliament I remember the many discussions, debates and sometimes disagreements between the various users of the facility…about the construction of a new community centre.”
She said because of the time between the demolition of the old centre and building of the new one, people were not convinced the project would be completed.
In her address, Cudjoe said the government recognised the need for community structures.
“We continue to provide state-of-the-art facilities geared to improving the quality of life and fostering sustainable development throughout the country.”
She said in 2019, the Ministry of Sport and Community Development delivered 13 community centres, and urged, “The activities held here must serve to attract everyone rather than discourage them. (The centres) are supposed to be a place of community and peace.”
Mayor of Arima Cagney Cashmire said the borough is working to improve its infrastructure, adding in his opinion, Arima is the capital city of TT. “Arima is clean. If you look at our town, we have good infrastructure (and we are going to improve that infrastructure.”
He said the community centre is a starting point for the community to continue developing the area.
The ministers recognised several community leaders at the ceremony, including retired teacher Sylvia Viola Lewis Shallowe, premier athletics club Abilene Wildcats (received by club president Shedley Branch), creator of the social media platform Arima Vibes Diedre Rahaman and 93-year-old Arima resident Maxie Andrew Assee.