He goes by the name of Slim Shady.
He’s not sure where the moniker originated, maybe it’s because of his svelte figure, maybe it’s because he likes the music of a certain rapper. Perhaps, it is because of behaviour, as he admits honestly that he can be shady at times. However, there is nothing shady about Shawn Hudson when it comes to keeping Zika out of his community. In fact, in that aspect, he demonstrates definite leadership qualities as he is emphatic about the fact that keeping the community clean is the responsibility of the persons who live there.
“We have to do it, it is our responsibility as it affects us.” He says in his distinct Jamaican parlance.
Shawn is one of a number of young men from Allman Town in Kingston, Jamaica, who came out to clean up an abandoned house lot in the neighbourhood that had become a dumping ground. The residents explained that the owner of the lot had migrated some years ago and tried to sell the property but the price was too high. The lot remained on the market, becoming more and more overgrown, the place where residents discarded their unwanted items such as old fridges and stoves and even a rusted-out car or two.
When the officers and volunteers from the Jamaica Red Cross explained to them how the space had become the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos and encouraged them to take some action, they listened and they did. One hot morning, they came together to improve not only the appearance but the health of their community. Rousing each other to get the proper gear, encouraging those standing on the sidelines spectating to participate, they removed litter, old appliances and bush. With the music of popular Dancehall artiste, Alkaline, blaring in the background as incentive, they made quite a dent in the task.
There was talk of playing football when the space was fully transformed and the installation of a bench or two for Sunday evening relaxation. Another young man, Fabian Paline, when questioned about his reasons for participating in such an exercise, replied that he “chose to participate because I like to see good things happening and I like to be a part of good things.” And after having interacted with the Jamaica Red Cross Zika Team, Fabian could speak quite knowledgeably about the dangers of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and benefits of destroying the breeding grounds. So much so that the JRC has asked him to be part of their Community Action Teams in response to the dengue outbreak and hope to secure his services as a volunteer.
This story does not have quite the happy ending as yet though, as a few months later some residents and persons outside of the community continue to use the site to dispose of their rubbish.
“It’s the mindset of the people,” explains JRC volunteer Dennal Shim, “that has to change.” Unsurprisingly, the residents of Allman Town are not giving up as they have proved quite steadfast in their commitment to keeping their community clean, going so far as to using their own money to hire a truck to remove the garbage. They even have the support of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who paid the area a visit and advised them to report the perpetrators. The residents vow to continue to take responsibility for their area especially since they have different plans for the space. It is now a means for them to earn some income. Perhaps with the help of Shawn, Fabian and their friends, the Jamaica Red Cross Zika Team can successfully convert the holdouts, until then it remains a work in progress.