Digicel and Leiba Gardens: Shooting to Win
Kingston, Jamaica – April 9, 2010: On the face of it, Leiba Gardens seems no different from other communities lined off on the main road linking the outer environs of Spanish Town to Old Harbour and beyond. But one of the things the community is known for is netball, with its local team figuring prominently in the Open League of the Jamaica Netball Association. A local netball team has been in action sporadically since 1988, but without a proper home court for its development.
The Digicel Foundation has changed that. They recently handed over a brand new multi-purpose asphalt court, built at a cost of some $2 million, for the use of the community and environs. The court has additional markings for basketball and volleyball, but it is netball that will take centre stage at the outset. Those present at the handover ceremony on April 9th, expressed high hopes for the future of netball in Leiba Gardens and for the future of the community itself.
Digicel Foundation Executive Director Maj. Gen. Robert Neish encapsulated those hopes when he said, “We at Digicel Foundation are about fostering growth, and we want to see growth in this community. We want to see the netball team contesting for and winning the League Championship and we want to see young ladies from this team representing Jamaica at both the junior and senior levels.”
Bishop Roy Johnson of the Worship Centre in Leiba Gardens echoed those sentiments calling the facility a blessing. He said that before the completion of the court, the women’s teams would practice on facilities on the church grounds, which meant sharing with other groups. “Separate and apart from the team, this facility will mean other persons from the community will have a gathering point and a focus for activities,” he added.
Vernon Duncan, Secretary of the Leiba Gardens Citizens Association, who had spearheaded the application process, said he was very happy to see the project come to fruition and praised the Digicel Foundation team. “The openness and the responsiveness of the people at Digicel Foundation really made this experience a pleasure,” he said. “With this kind of start, I can see a positive future for the community and for Digicel.”
Co-ordinator of the Leiba Gardens Sports Club Sharon Pedlar said that it was a “dream come true” for the netball team in particular, having been in existence for so long. “This will make it that much easier for us to bring new talent on board and further develop our programme so we can become nationally dominant.”
Leiba Gardens goal-shooter and UTech student Keisha Bailey called the addition of the court a way to bring the community together, and this was borne out in the friendly match that followed between the Digi-Girlz and the Leiba Gardens team. Onlookers were vociferous in their support of the home team which emerged the winners — 30-9 —over the spirited Digi-Girlz team.
The match also had the distinction of being overseen by Shaniel May, who at 15, is the youngest Jamaica Netball Association (JNA) umpire. Shaniel has been qualified as a JNA umpire since the age of 11, and recalls accompanying her netball playing mother Jennifer to matches from as early as age five. The statuesque teen has her sights set on a legal career, with plans to attend Harvard University, but says that her love for the game means that netball will always figure in her life.
With renewed national and international interest in Jamaican netball sparked by the good showings of the ‘Sunshine Girlz’ at recent international events, netballers around the island will be vying to improve their position. Now with their own turf, the Leiba Gardens players have an important edge in their quest for national dominance.