Proud ‘Savanero’ comes Home to Help

Born and raised a proud ‘Savanero,’ in the oldest neighbourhood of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Iffat Walker returned home to reignite a neighborhood clean-up and revitalization effort in the area of Savan. Through the internet, phone calls and visits back to the island as often as possible, Iffat continues reaching out to all individuals, grassroots organizations and government agencies who have had or continue to have a productive and supportive interest in the Savan community.

Savan Community Volunteer Interest  Meeting Photo by Dara M. Cooper

Savan Community Volunteer Interest Meeting
Photo by Dara M. Cooper

On Saturday, May 10, 2015, she organized and facilitated the first meetings.

According to Iffat, “it was very well attended and very positive. I saw the willingness to collaborate without confusion and conflict. When I look online and Googled Savan, all I saw was confusion and conflict. That did not exist today.”

“My parents and grandparents are from Savan. I went to Jane E. Tuitt Elementary, Marcelli Annex and Wesleyan Academy schools,” she stated. One of the reasons she comes back home is to organize. She does a lot of organizing in Atlanta, Georgia where she currently lives. As an accountant and a political campaign manager, Iffat expressed that what she really enjoys doing most is grassroots community organizing, “I see the opportunity to improve something, and I go after it.”

She remembers Savan being a place where they could go to sleep at night and not need to lock their doors or camp outside and not worry about anyone violating anyone’s property. Now she says, “I almost feel like I’m in an environment that I know nothing about. There is so much history and culture here, and I’m not talking about the history you read in the books. I’m talking about family history.”

Economic Development Authority Director, Nadine Marchena Kean, was present at the initial organizing meeting and showed overwhelming support. According to Iffat, “Nadine has taken on the charge of being responsible for providing garbage bins, assisting with organizing and hosting the initial planning meetings, historic presentations, research on the specification of the type of paint, public relations support as well as providing new signage for the community.”

According to Iffat, “Now we need more community buy in from other individuals, home owners, non-profit organizations, businesses, corporations and government agencies.” She thinks that some people don’t even know that they have a right to determine how they want their environment to be. Returning in July, the group intends to continue its efforts inclusive of a clean up, resources day and more.

The overall mission is to clean up and ultimately restore the Savan community. She says, “Our short term goal is to physically clean areas of identified need. Long term goals are to create sustainable programs that foster community growth and development using a community led approach.”

For more information, check out the Proud to Be A Savanero Facebook group page or the main organization’s website based in Georgia. Photos are available here.

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