Craig Village lies nestled, serene, on the eastern bank of the Demerara river, mid-way between Georgetown and the international airport at Timehri.
The village exudes a rural charm, despite the bustling urbanization of the neighbouring Grove-Diamond development.
People live close to the river, with the back lands forming a network of farms, swamps, empty land and forest. It used to house a big farming community, with ground provision, fruits and vegetables, poultry and cattle forming the backbone of the local economy.
Almost every household across the village boasts of migrated family. A few re-migrants returned to retire, and live in the nicer houses.
But the population suffers from a severe brain drain. It slides slowly into a state of languid pathos, with gross poverty visible everywhere.
This promising community lacks leadership. For more than a decade, leadership at the local village council lapsed into a demoralized state.
Concerned citizens constantly express their dismay at the lack of local leadership. Some try in vain to correct this anomaly, looking for someone to take on the council leadership.
This local neglect of communities all across the land forms a sad story.
Village after village in Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo suffers from this lack of leadership.
The building housing the Craig village council looks battered, with peeling paint, padlocked gate and painfully closed windows.
How could the Central Government allow this utter state of disrepair to set in? Local government plays a crucial role in national development.
Yet, for more than a decade, we ignore the effects of the burden people face. This lacklustre attitude to the development of our villages, towns and city hurts people.
Craig Village tells a tale of the apathy that stalks the land.
But even in the city we find the effects of this neglect.
Government boasts of its legacy of democracy. But without elected local government, democracy exists as a mirage to the people of Craig Village. And in the city it’s no different.
Charlestown’s residents know what it feels like to live in a neglected community.
This section of Georgetown used to be home to furniture factories, the mammoth Gafoor manufacturing plants at Broad Street and at Sussex Street, bakeries, lumber yards, soft-drink plants and several retail shops.
Today, Charlestown feels like a small forgotten place hiding aback of the city. Its streets look ugly with garbage, formerly thriving businesses lie nailed shut, and people walk about in fear of bandit attacks on the streets. Things fall apart from neglect.
In fact, residents easily point out drug houses where narcotics sell retail, with rampant allegations of police “taking a raise” to turn a blind eye to such goings-on.
In Craig Village, an indomitable soul in Everis Baptiste plugs away. He has served as Pastor of a local church for the past 30-odd years. He has seen a constant shift in the population, as migration takes a heavy toll on the village.
Such great people remain in this country. They serve with little recognition, and almost no support from Central Government. They need local government to function.
Baptiste visits homes in the village to counsel people suffering from the gross poverty that stalks the village. People suffer all sorts of problems, and they turn to him for prayer, counsel and moral support.
Such services mean a lot to a community.
The more urban Charlestown lacks such neighbourliness, and so those who fall through the socio-economic cracks must fend for themselves.
Such daily battles for the bare essentials of survival breed a life of brutal hardships.
It seems as if citizens feel helpless against the onslaught of this crawling apathy that eats away at the soul of their community. With no big crisis to galvanize action, neglect takes over, to gradually weaken social structures.
Communities all across this land must start to rouse themselves out of this crawling apathy.
Across the world in this socially-mediated 21st century, citizens of communities choose to engage with each other to find solutions to their problems.
People realize now that they cannot any longer sit with folded hands looking to a central authority to fix things.
Solutions lie with people coming together, engaging with each other, to create a livable social environment. Once the local folks start engaging in their communities, they develop self-confidence and power to lobby central authority. Some of these lobbies turn into social protests, as we see all across the world today, from North Africa to Western Europe.
The future of this land lies in the hands of people like Everis Baptiste, the pastor of Craig Village, who care enough to dedicate their lives to community service.
Craig Village and Charlestown could become such inspiring places in this global village, instead of lying dormant as little forgotten backward communities.
That is the dream we must dream – that we could rise in the world.
We must see our communities as marketable products, as a brand that could be developed and marketed. This is how they do it in developed societies. In America and Canada and Europe, and even in the Caribbean islands, communities become exotic brands.
Such is New York, Toronto, Paris, Barbados, Port-of-Spain.
We must lift ourselves out of this place where we see ourselves as being worthless.
We must see ourselves as valuable, as brand-able, as communities that could give a unique gift to the world.
Craig village could become a breadbasket to this country, and to the Caribbean and the world, where a food crisis takes shape.
Charlestown could become a manufacturing base in our capital city, and a place where we could see new office towers and investments, where we could even develop a community for social innovation.
We must dream such dreams and work to bring them to reality.
Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover wrote a recently-published bestseller book called ‘Wikibrands’ that would contribute to this idea of seeing our communities as assets – assets that are brand-able.
Although the book concentrates on business, its thesis applies well to the building of communities.
We must see Craig Village, Charlestown, and communities all across this land as socio-economic units that make up the national economy, and stop causing them to die in apathy.
We must care, believe, look deep into what we could become.