Senator the Honourable Katherine Smith said Wednesday, June 11, 2008, that Urban Renewal means more than just going into a community and cleaning up.

Her comments came as she officially opened a three day seminar being sponsored by the Grand Bahama Community Builders Club. The theme for the seminar was “Creativity for Economic Change – Promoting Urban Renewal.” It was being staged at the Xanadu Beach Hotel.

Mrs. Smith said she believes that The Bahamas can and will benefit from “real Urban Renewal and Community Development.”

She said that the Government must do its part to uplift its citizens by renovating the surroundings and investing in resources and expertise.

“However, real advancement must include empowerment of people through community development. We as leaders must motivate our own people to become involved. Development cannot be done by the Government alone, but only when people put in the same effort they can expect from the Government, I think we can all be successful.

“Our communities will only be enhanced if the Government and its people join together in unity and commit their resources, commit their time, expertise and hard work, and only then do I believe we really would see true Urban Renewal in this country,” she said.

Continuing to express what she said was her personal views on how to grow Urban Renewal, the Government Senator said, “I think one of the things that is eventually going to have to happen is the implementation of legislation to further strengthen and support the initiative.

“When one considers the various types of legislation that exists in the United States and other places, they are put in place to assist this whole idea of Urban Renewal. And so I think for us in the future, as we continue toward real Urban Renewal, we will have to put the legislation in place to support our efforts.

“And so in The Bahamas I think we have a lot of work to do, as it relates to how we influence people and how we get people to understand what Urban Renewal means and how it can transform not just the community but the individuals that live in communities,” she said.

She told those associated with the Grand Bahama Community Builders Club that they are doing a fantastic thing and they represent what is needed from civic organizations in community development.

Senator Smith said, “We have used it as a political football, and I think that, as a result of doing that, people are still confused about what really Urban Renewal is.

“I know that the Minister (Hon. Ken Russell) is working very hard in terms of organising Urban Renewal and trying to get people to understand that the program is also about empowerment.”

Again she reminded the audience that Urban Renewal is much more than just taking down dilapidated buildings and cleaning up surrounding. She re-emphasised that it starts with the people.

Senator Smith also pointed out that in addition to Urban Renewal, Governments should also be moving forward to community development and community building.

“These extend from the concept of improving surroundings to improving the people in those surroundings,” she stressed.

In addition, Senator Smith said that community development is not just a concept limited to Government but the initiative comes from community leaders, activists, involved citizens, professionals and organisations like the Grand Bahama Community Builders Club.

Community development, she said, also seeks to empower the people by providing them with certain skills that they need to effect change in their community.

“And we all know what the skills people need. We need adult literacy programs, computer programs, youth programs and we need people to be encouraged to find a church,” she said.

Senator Smith said that the Church plays an important role “in helping people to understand their way and what God does in your life and how His influence sustains you.”

She added that mentoring programs and sports go along way in helping to grow the communities.

Focusing on sports, the Senator said she believes it is still one of the best ways to keep young people involved in positive activities.

“I believe in sports development. I know what it can do in terms of helping one get an education and just really causing people to be more discipline,” she stated.

The Grand Bahama Community Builders Club was formed in 1996 out of the need to engage Bahamians in meaningful dialogue as it relates to inclusive community building.