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  One On One

Uptown businessman making a difference to inner-city sport

AT 40 YEARS of age, Bruce Bicknell will not play football for Jamaica. As a matter of fact, he is of the opinion that he was a very ordinary footballer in his time. However, his contribution to sport, especially football, cannot be underestimated.

As a player of sport, Bicknell, a resident of Cherry Gardens, excelled in squash and has been a part of Jamaica's set-up since he was 12 years old, but that wasn't where his joy was to be found and that certainly wasn't where he was to have his most influential effect on sport in Jamaica, and on the society.

Eight years ago, Bicknell started work with the development of Olympic Gardens. Then in 2000, Finance Minister Omar Davies carried Bicknell down to Arnett Gardens and he got a taste of the kind of impact that helping in inner-city communities could have on the country.


Since that time, Bicknell hasn't been able to get rid of the bug, and through Tankweld, the company he runs with his brother Chris, he has made no end of difference, not just in Arnett but also in Waterhouse, which has come to be his second home.

Building the Waterhouse Mini-Stadium in 2003, Bicknell has made it his point of duty, along with a trusted executive body that includes Waterhouse president Peter Hibbert and managing director Donovan White, to ensure that the place where he has invested so much money and time can turn the corner and step away from the violence and lack of productivity that is commonly associated with the inner city.

But what is it that makes a Cherry Gardens resident leave the safety of his home to spend time and money in a community that can so easily turn on him? Questions like that have made Bicknell today's One on One guest.

Q: What is it that makes you continue to devote your time and effort to inner-city communities?

Bruce Bicknell: People ask me that a lot of the time. First of all, I love the Waterhouse people. I love the community and the children. What drives me is when I look back at the huge difference that has taken place compared to 2 1/2 years ago. I know that in another two years many more positive changes can be made. The people are what drive me. I go in and the people make me feel welcome. Sometimes I feel like not going back, but after a while you say to yourself that you have to continue because at the end of the day this is your country and you love it and you love these people.
You cannot let the good suffer for the bad and the real sad thing I've learnt is that this is one of 700 inner-city communities and it is only a handful of bad guys that are spoiling it for everybody and we can't pretend that we live in two Jamaicas.

Q: Why do you think more corporate entities don't adopt teams the way that you have with Waterhouse and other companies have done with Arnett, Harbour View and Tivoli Gardens?

BB: A lot of companies want to help. If they thought their money was going to be used right, they would. They don't know how. It is up to us, the relevant groups, to present a proposal that will show them how they can do this. They can get their mileage and help Jamaica and help crime.

Q: Do you think that you, as someone who is already involved, can have a part to play in attracting other corporate entities?

BB: Waterhouse is just an example of what takes place in the rest of society. It is just one of many similar communities and Waterhouse can be used as an example for others to follow. Let's build a big police station (following the example of Grants Pen); let's partner with the Government and the police, the churches and the community to send a message that there is a way to deal with these youths. That message can be used as an example for the rest of Jamaica.

Q: Apart from the finances that you have expended, what else does it take to make a difference in communities through sport the way you have?

BB: Sitting behind a desk and drawing a cheque is not good enough. We need to go in and get our hands dirty, and give the people more attention; see how they live so we can fix the problems they have. Two and a half years ago Waterhouse was a 'no man's land'. Nowadays people walk in freely. It is now a part of the rest of society. It's a lot safer.

Q: Why use sport to do this; aren't there better ways of getting into the community?

BB: Sports plays a vital role in many ways, in bringing about unity and also in bridging the gap between inner-city communities and corporate Jamaica, but it is really only a band-aid solution.

The bigger problem we face is in education, crime and violence, which need to be fixed; otherwise we will continue to fail as a country. I say band aid, because, while sport has reduced crime in Waterhouse, the situation is on a knife's edge and could change at any time.

Q: Does this mean that we can expect to see more of this kind of work from yourself and Tankweld in the future?

BB: Well our company has been there for nearly 40 years and I have no intention of leaving for however long it takes. You can expect to see me in Waterhouse and places like it until I am well and truly an old man.

- Paul-Andre Walker

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