Bloxburgh - Forgotten community on the brink of death
Bloxburgh is a small farming community of more than a hundred residents located high in the hills of East Rural St Andrew where Prime Minister Andrew Holness's wife, Juliet, is the Member of Parliament.
The residents boast that their high altitude and rich soils enable them to produce some of the best coffee in Jamaica. They are also proud of their breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains and the south eastern sea shores.
But with no piped water for more than 16 years, no government service buildings, and a treacherous roadway that is reduced to a rocky dirt path, lined with precipices in most sections, the residents say they feel forgotten and neglected.
"We feel like we no deh pon the map because all when we go a government place dem a ask where is that" Pauline Elliott, a resident for over 40 years told THE STAR.
The road that leads to the community is so taxing on vehicles that route taxis have refused to service the area. The nearest town is Nine Miles, Bull Bay, which is an estimated nine miles away. Every trip residents take there, has to be well-planned as there are only three vehicles in the community. They are privately owned but the drivers are sympathetic to the residents' plight and often help out.
One such driver is Kenneth Hibbert, who told THE STAR, "The road so bad me have to live a garage. Every week me affi get new tires. Once you drive pon dem road ya, you a big driver a town."
Otherwise, residents have to charter vehicles for some $3,000 to commute to and from home.
"Once my husband goes down for work on Sunday, he doesn't return until Saturday night because him can't afford to pay $3,000 to come back up here everyday," Elliott lamented.
The only sign of development in the remote community was the Bloxburgh Primary School, but the government ordered it closed some four years ago when the school population dwindled down to about 11 students. Since then, parents have had to send away their children to live with relatives in other communities so they can attend school.
Journeying through the remote community, THE STAR met Anthony Williams who was balancing a bucket of water on his head and a bottle in one hand. He explained that it was his third trip and that he had travelled about half mile into the bushes to fetch water from a spring. Residents explained that has been their reality for over 16 years as the pipe lines have gone bad.
The harsh living conditions have forced many to leave the community, but others remain optimistic that better days are ahead, especially with the establishment of the Bloxburgh Mission Forward Project launched last year. It is spearheaded by Michelle Henry, a former resident living in the Cayman Islands, who has partnered with others to raise funds to help rehabilitate the road, but progress is slow.
The residents are imploring on the government offer assistance. "Even though we are a small community, we matter too. It look bad fi know say the Prime Minister wife is the MP, and from she win she don't come back a Bloxburgh come look on us. It look like we a we own government up here," resident Haldorine Morris lamented.