354 James Walter Francis Drive
RJT Edifice Building, 5th Floor
Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
Fax: 284 468 2750
Remarks by Hon. Marlon Penn, Minister for Health and Social Development
Handover and Dedication Ceremony of the
Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre
Sea Cow’s Bay, Tortola
27th February 2023
Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley, Premier
Hon. Julian Fraser, Leader of the Opposition and Third District Representative
[Other Members of the House of Assembly]
Dr. Amalia Del Riego, PAHO/WHO Representative
Senior Public Officers
Principal and students of the Ebenezer Thomas Primary School
Other Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
A pleasant Good Morning to everyone.
It is my great pleasure to be here in Sea Cow’s Bay to celebrate the handover and dedication of the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre following its full rehabilitation from the damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
In the spirit of Mrs. Valerie Thomas, who was a stalwart in the Third District, I trust that this building will continue to be a beacon of hope and carry a similar legacy of service to this community. I am told that Mrs. Thomas was actively involved in the organization and execution of various church and community events, and that she ran a library out of her home and taught crafts at schools. Mrs. Thomas represented what it means to be a community-oriented person who lived out her faith, and sought to better the lives of others.
In keeping with her legacy, the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre serves as a multi-faceted space for the residents of this area and the wider Virgin Islands. In addition to its designation as an emergency shelter, the building has accommodated the Senior Citizen’s Programme, Community Health Clinic, community gym, a space for public meetings and social events and, as recently as last December, it temporarily houses the Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre. The importance of this facility to the community cannot be overstated and, for that reason, I am grateful to the team at the Ministry of Health and Social Development for carrying out the initial emergency repairs to protect the building from deterioration following the storms.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to our development partners - the European Union and the Pan-American Health Organization - for the roles they played in the completion of the repairs, and upgrading the building to SMART standards that increase its resilience to future disasters. The excellent work of the project team, including the General Contractor - Tarris Hill and Associates, and the coordinating role played by the Premier’s Office, all contributed to this wonderful achievement.
Let me also say how grateful I am to everyone involved for remaining committed to this project despite major setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent supply chain disruptions. In fact, this Centre played a significant role as a testing site, and distribution centre during peak periods of the Territory’s COVID-19 response. We could not have arrived here today without your support and dedication.
[As you would have heard], the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre is the second such facility that has been rehabilitated through our partnership with the EU and PAHO. The first community centre that was upgraded to meet SMART standards and outfitted with modern equipment to facilitate its operation in times of crises was the West End Community Centre in November 2021. Later today, we will celebrate the handover and dedication of the Gertrude and Christiana Warner Community Centre in Purcell Estate, and tomorrow we will be in Anegada for the handover of the Emile Dunlop Community Centre. These buildings demonstrate what it means to build back better, stronger, and smarter.
I am therefore pleased to say that PAHO’s SMART standards are also being applied to locally-funded projects to ensure a consistent level of structural integrity and resilience of these important facilities throughout the Territory.
In addition to works already carried out by the Ministry of Health and Social Development to repair the Long Trench and North Sound Community Centres, funding has been allocated in the 2023 Budget Estimates to complete repairs to the Cane Garden Bay and East End/Long Look Community Centres, and begin the process of rebuilding the Brewers Bay Community Centre.
Today, we celebrate with the people of Sea Cows Bay and surrounding communities who have been patiently waiting to return to the full operation of this deeply cherished community centre. We look forward to resuming the Senior Citizen’s Programme and various other community-based activities for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together, socialize, learn and grow.
We are truly grateful to everyone who has contributed to the rehabilitation of this facility. To the Representative and other residents of this district I say, today marks a new chapter in your community’s history. As we embark on this new journey, let us all work together to make this community centre a vibrant and welcoming space for everyone. In this way, we continue the great legacy of Mrs. Valerie Thomas and others of her generation, and light the path for present and future community builders.