Belize City and particularly Southside has few places where youths or indeed anyone can safely congregate to have fun and enjoy themselves. The Roman Catholic parish of St. Martin de Porres aims to change that with a brand new Parish Hall now under construction at its corner Vernon and Partridge Street compound. According to Parish pastor Father Matthew Ruhl, the “Swift Hall,” as it’s being called, will serve many purposes for the community:
St. Martin is creating what we’re going to call swift hall, named after Detrick brother, Belizean Detrick brother called swift, he served the south side and Belize for many years. He is still with us, I don’t want to make it sounds like he is passed away. It is going to be a gymnasium/auditorium and it’s going to be a rent center there is going to be a basketball and maybe a volleyball court and of course some indoor soccer. It’s going to serve the neighborhood as a place where the youth can get together and play basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer and hopefully put the guns and the anger down and come and play peacefully in this place. It will also be a facility where people in the neighborhood can host a funeral, a place for community meetings and displays, I know that sergeant Hamilton want to use it for his cadets it with definitely be at service to the neighborhood.
The steel structure will be erected over the current basketball court which will be expanded to NBA-size with either wooden or synthetic fixtures; a FIVB-approved volleyball court will also be added. The expected capacity is 500 for smaller events and 1,000 theatre-style. In addition to community activities Swift Hall will also serve the church for its own events. A town hall meeting was held at the end of May with residents and parishioners and the project received approval from area representative Hon. Cordel Hyde and Sergeant Brent Hamilton of the Police Department, who handles community policing for Precinct 2 which covers the area. Father Ruhl tells of the importance of the project for community pride:
Fahter Matthew Ruhl, St. Martin de Porres Parish Pastor;
I think this is a beautiful neighborhood, I love the St. Martin area. I love it, I love the people, I’m sorry that the social situation is so terribly distressed and that there is so much anger and fear and hopefully, please God, that this facility can begin to dispel some of the Anger and some of the fear in the neighborhood and it brings not just kids, I want Parents to come and I want Grandparents the entire family and people from different parts of the St. Martin area. I want them all to come together and I hope they will come together and begin to play in peace and after they learn to play in peace perhaps learn to live in peace.
Phase 1 of the project should be completed by September 4th, 2016 when the Parish celebrates its Golden Anniversary. This includes driving piles, erection of the steel frame and roof, and the casting of a new floor (8 feet above street level). Phase 2 will see the erection of external and internal walls, bleachers, kitchen, bathrooms, etc. and will take between 8 months to another year to complete. According to Father Ruhl, the Parish is using a combination of its own funding, outside funding from a group in St. Louis, Missouri, and business donations from Belizeans to fund the project. Estimated total costs are about 700 thousand dollars. The Swift Hall is the first of several projects under the Belize 2020 initiative established by St. Martin’s, Saint Louis University and the Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus, which will take five years to complete. These include a brand new church building, school building for the primary school and annex for Jesuit residence and parish offices, as well as an enclosure for the football field behind the school.