Editorial: At the end of the rainbow

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Recently, we pointed out that there is an opportunity in any difficulty. It only takes the ability to see things through a different lens. We opined that the Giant African Snails could be a giant opportunity if we look beyond our prejudicial negatives and were willing to accept an alternative reality where the pests became a marketable and edible product.  
We then began to think of all the ways we could transform our nation by simply using a different set of lenses to see things differently. It does not always take gobs of money to make a difference. Sometimes, the biggest differences are made with the least amount of money.
With crime becoming too frequent a news item, we returned to our idea of police patrols on bicycles. There is no downside to this type of programme, as far as we can see, yet it remains sidelined for reasons unknown. In 2014 the police talked about it, and we have seen some limited presence but no sizeable rollout. Just think of the benefits … a fleet of affordable, easily maintained bicycles for the price of an SUV or pick-up. Greater police presence on our streets and in our communities. Fitter police officers. And the list goes on. Why are we not rushing to make this a reality?
To give you an idea of how creative thinking makes a massive difference, we would like to take you on a journey half-way around the world to Indonesia; to a place called Kampung Pelangi, a small village that was once a slum but is now a popular tourist attraction. Now referred to as “Rainbow Village,” the community has shed many of the negative characteristics associated with your stereotypical slum.  
The vision for this metamorphosis came from a 54-year-old junior high school principal named Slamet Widodo, who suggested that the village be painted in vibrant colours so as to bring energy to the village and its people. For just $22,467 worth of paint
(supplied by the government), 232 slum houses and their environs were converted to giant, living pieces of art.  
The idea was inspired by three other towns that had adopted elaborate paint schemes, proving that there was no need to re-invent the wheel, just re-paint it.  
We invite you to investigate the story of Kampung Pelangi because it is inspiring. It is proof that citizens, when given the chance at improving their surroundings, will do so, if for no other reason than selfish benefit. It is worth noting, however, that the Rainbow Village has seen a huge increase in international tourism since the makeover. Naturally, the increased number of tourists has brought a considerable economic benefit to this once slum town. Villagers are now able to lift themselves out of abject poverty and reclaim a sense of pride. All for twenty-two thousand dollars worth of paint and some ‘good ole elbow grease.’  
And there appears to be no letting up. The vibrantly coloured village is a photographer’s paradise and social media gold, with the Instagram hashtag #kampungpelangi becoming a bit of viral sensation.   
That brings us back to home and all the areas that could benefit from just a bit of vision, a few dollars and some of that ‘good ole elbow grease.’  We think of all that potential that sits ignored or abandoned in our bit of paradise, and we wonder why we have not created our own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
We think of a recent video of the overgrown bush at Fort James that is so tall that it blocks the view, and we cannot do anything else but shake our heads. Who is responsible for our historic sites? How much does it cost to keep the grass cut so that we can maintain a tourist attraction for
the many history buffs around the world who visit our shores looking for insight into our unique heritage?
We should be taking advantage of what we have and leveraging everything to the maximum, not allowing precious assets like historical sites to perish in the underbrush. If it is a case of personnel, then there is a whole prison of inmates who need to repay a debt to society. Plus, their work can form part of a rehabilitation programme for the prison. That is certainly something that is sorely needed.
A properly structured programme, built around restoring and maintaining historical sites alone, could produce reformed criminals. As they leave prison, former inmates could depart with a marketable skill; maybe landscaping, or masonry, or painting. At the very least, they may leave with a greater sense of pride knowing that they paid their debt to society in a productive way rather than just biding time in the prison yard.
Having said all of that, we would like to suggest that we all look for the rainbows in our communities because they are all around. You may just need to squint a little.

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