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Members of the Flanker Marching Band participate in a street parade in Sam Sharpe Square during the St James Parish Council's Independence Day Civic Ceremony in 2013. - Contributed

Flanker: example of tourism dollars working for J'cans

Tourism is Jamaica's biggest foreign-exchange earner. However, some Jamaicans are of the view that the money earned from the industry is largely kept in the coffers of the industry players and not enough is spent in the communities from which the workers in the sector live.

There have been numerous studies which have been done in an effort to dispel that notion, and there have been glaring examples of communities benefiting from the tourism dollar, both directly and indirectly.

Montego Bay is home to 17 informal communities in which some of the island's best tourism workers reside. One such community is Flanker, which is the epitome of what the tourism dollar can do, not only for the development of its citizens but for the transformation of the area.

Flanker is home to approximately 10,000 residents, more than half of whom are below the age of 30. Over the years, several tourism entities have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of the people of Flanker and in community infrastructure.

The Flanker Community sits a stone's throw from the Sangster International Airport and is neighbour to several of the nation's top rated all-inclusive resorts. Employment in the tourism industry from the community is reported to be 30 per cent.

The work of the community is largely carried out at the Flanker Resource Centre, which is operated by the Government, but continues to receive tremendous support from tourism entities in St James. The support comes in the form of social interventions which are aimed at developing the skills of the residents and also to train them in conflict resolution and entrepreneurship.

Donations from tourism entities have also resulted in the establishment of a community library which facilitates research as well as non-fiction reading material for members of the area. There is a continuous book drive to enhance and widen the type of books available in the library. Students are encouraged to come in and do their School Based Assessment. The centre currently offers CXC classes in mathematics, English language and principles of business.

Residents who access the services at the centre are more empowered as they take advantage of the capacity-building programmes which are offered. Some of these are Alternative Dispute Resolution activities, mediation services, a homework-assistance programme, adult education night classes (remedial and CXC), computer classes, a skills training programme, a parent-education programme, job search assistance, a welfare programme, a youth-at-risk programme, a marching band, a youth club, senior citizens club, Flanker Folks Cultural Group, Flanker Performance and Creative Arts group, domino club, the Youth Crime Watch Initiative and our sports programme.

Residents of the area have vowed to protect the tourism industry as they see it as the life blood of the community. Hotels have staffed reading programmes, health fairs, parenting workshops, environmental projects and other social events there which ensure that they see in real terms the tourism dollar working for them.

One of Jamaica's leading resort chains has also implemented a training initiative for the youngsters in the community, which has equipped them in gaining full-time employment in the tourism sector at all levels as well as on the overseas work programme, especially in the United States and Canada. 

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