Brave street sweepers keep city clean - Work long hours and in dangerous areas for greater good

February 27, 2023
Street sweepers Sophia Davis (left) and Donna Hamilton.
Street sweepers Sophia Davis (left) and Donna Hamilton.

From as early as 4 a.m. Donna Hamilton and Sophia Davis are out on the streets with their rakes, shovels and large plastic bags, ready to play their part in helping to keep the island's capital squeaky clean.

The pair, both of whom have Kingston addresses, shared that although the job as a street sweeper was difficult, it serves as a great joy for them when their efforts are appreciated.

"Nuff mawnins yuh get up tired or depressed, but when yuh go outside and start work and people say nice uplifting things fi weh yah do, it mek yuh feel really good," said Hamilton, 52.

She added that along with its tedious nature, the job also exposes them to danger.

"You have times when yuh get dispatch to work in a certain area and people say to yuh 'no go dung deh cause shot just a fire bout five minutes ago'. Sometimes yuh have to brave it and go with God," the mother of two disclosed. By getting up early, she stated that she often misses out on adequate rest and getting her children ready for school.

But despite this, and the risks of the job, Hamilton said that she loves what she does and was "happy to help beautify Kingston".

Her sentiments were eachoed by Davis, 46, who said that she gets her motivation from seeing a cleaner city.

"It's not a high-paying job, but mi love see when di place clean and nice. So that is what really motivates me fi wake up a mawnin time so early. Furthermore, it is a honest living and me can able to provide for my kids," said Davis, who has three children.

Like her colleague, Davis has been working as a street sweeper for the past four years. She, too, agreed that the job can be difficult and dangerous.

"You out there early in the mawnin and anything can happen, especially in these times. Yuh can be there sweeping and get lick dung by car or even get rob. Sometimes people pass yuh and big yuh up because dem probably know it no easy and that is a good feeling to have," she said.

Last Friday, Davis and Hamilton were present as the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) collected two manual push sweeper machines to help with cleaning the streets. The machines, which were donated by Delta Supply Limited, in a collaborative effort with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), acts as a vacuum built to manoeuvre the tough surface.

"Business strives best in a cleaner environment and so we are absolutely grateful for this donation here. We can't say enough thanks to Delta for this gesture, and so we want to thank you very much," said NSWMA executive director Audley Gordon. Each manual sweeper costs $105, 616, which, according to JCC president Michael McMorris, was a bargain compared with the purpose it can serve.

"It is very difficult to quantify the impact of littering and improper garbage disposal on business. When you speak to members in the business community, the overwhelming concern is the rate of which garbage is cleaned up. Look at downtown Kingston alone, beautiful harbour, close to the airport. You would think that everybody is pushing to locate there, but that is not happening. Why? Because the operating environment is not where it needs to be. What I mean by this is the infrastructure of sidewalks, street signage, security, public order in spaces and of course, cleaning garbage. These tools are needed by the NSWMA. But it also signals that businesses wants to partner with the authorities to get things done," McMorris said.

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