70-year-old Oriemay Evans had been sleeping in a rundown house on Sunflower Street for many years. In the rainy weather he had to place several buckets inside her home but she still was fully shielded from the elements. Today, however, from a chance meeting with the Belize City Mayor, Evans received a new home. We were in the area today and spoke to Evans who was beyond delighted.
Oriemay Evans, Homeowner: “When the rain comes I get wet up. When the breeze comes it’s like a rocking chair so you’re afraid to sleep because you’re afraid the house comes down with you.”
Reporter: How long were you living in that condition ?
Oriemay Evans, Homeowner: It’s about fifteen years because I’ve lived back here for twenty five years.
Reporter: When did you find out that you were getting a new house ?
Oriemay Evans, Homeowner: Well because one day the mayor was on that street there because they had just renovated the street so I went to him, I told him I want to see him. So he said when he’s finished and when he was finished he came to me and I said “Mayor I need a new house or even repair the house for me.” and he came and he saw the house and he said “I’ll see how I could help you.” So well I just said as usual everybody likes to make promises and they go about their business and the next day his workman came and he said the mayor said he would see what he could do for you. So I felt good. So when he came about a week after they came back and he said we need to take down the house I said what? I’m really getting a house? He said yes the mayor said he would help you with a house. Well I didn’t know – I told my daughter “What ! I’m getting a house.” She said why, I said “Because the Mayor said he would send somebody to fix the house for me.” but when they came they said the house is beyond repair.”
Mayor Bernard Wagner via a brief handing over ceremony this afternoon noted that while building houses is not a part of the legal mandate of the Belize City Council there is an urgent need to look after the elderly.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “As a council that came in on the mantra of “All bout the people.” infrastructure is good, cement streets and all the other stuff is good I’m not going to knock any of those but taking care of our elderly, taking care of our youths is more important to me. Governance is about prioritizing, it’s about prioritizing and I believe that today what we celebrate this great story of this lady of humility and we were able to help not by ourselves but by collaborating with the business community. Because the City Council let me tell you something the City Council doesn’t have the resources to be building homes our mandate is very clear we’re about streets, drains, garbage and burial grounds that is our legal mandate but we go beyond that. They have some unwritten rules in the city council which goes beyond streets, drains, garbage it goes about caring for our people and we couldn’t care for our people if we didn’t have the collaboration that we were able to collaborate with the Belize Bank, Golden Bay and Benny’s and GelQuary this was a collaborative effort and every day we need more collaborative efforts such as this. I’ll be calling on other business entities in our city to work along with this city council to help alleviate some of the living conditions of our elderly.”
The mayor went on to say that he is not in the business of making these projects public there is the need to thank the corporate sponsors.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: It has to be through your relationship, your business relationship with many of the business entities that do business in your city and I over the years have been able to build significant relationships through my banking career for thirty years and so I’m able to call on these entities when we see it fit and when we see it that we as a City Council do not have the necessary resources to fund these type of projects. The Golden Bay contributions was in the area of the accessories, the interior accessories the sewage, the sink and those type. Benny’s obviously they were in the material that were used for the exterior of the building. Belize Bank they gave us funding, cheque towards acquiring some of the other materials needed for the home as well so over all this home here ran us about $24,000 total and as you can see it’s a well built home, well constructed, we never cut no corners here and the money was well spent. We had some measure of labor from the City Council through our works department who has the necessary knowhow to carry out work such as these and so at the end of the day by collaborating all these entities together we now have Ms.Oriemay out of those living conditions that she was living in.
Reporter: How many projects such as this has the council taken on under your term ?
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “Under my term I have done several homes but I’ve never really put it out there I’m pretty low key in those areas but I did two homes just prior to this one here; one in the Port Loyola area – two in Port Loyola actually and we did this again through the collaboration with business entities. “
Reporter: And in exchange do these business entities ask for anything or is it merely just good will ?
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “It’s merely good will. We have some very good business and corporate citizens in our country but they just want to see that you are operating in a transparent manner and by and large our council has demonstrated that to the business community.”
All the donors had representation at the today’s handing over.