History of SPAT
By Gael Thomas
The Commonwealth of Dominica gained independence from Great Britain on November 3rd 1978. Following this came the struggle for self-development that many of the newly-independent Caribbean countries also dealt with. The slow development of Dominica was further stunted by the passing of Hurricane David; a category-five hurricane that ravaged Dominica in 1979 and left the country in a sorry state. The recovery work that took place after Hurricane David gave way to the initiation of SPAT, The Small Projects Assistance Team which was legally registered in 1981.
Interestingly, the initiation of the Small Projects Assistance Team was met by many difficulties. One of the more relevant reasons was the opposition from Dominica’s government at the time. There was a lot of division among the people of the country; those who were for independence and those who were against. In an interview with Mr. Ashworth Simon, a former member of SPAT, it was stated that the government in power at the time that SPAT had begun never fully accepted or embraced the organization and its ideas or visions of what Dominica could achieve. This made the early operation of SPAT difficult as government assistance was required to access some of the much needed funds that were donated to Dominica. Mr. Francisco Esprit, another former member of SPAT, presented that a lack of experience in NGO (non-governmental organization) work was another challenge faced in the founding of SPAT. However, this was combatted by receiving training and preparation from similar regional organizations which resulted in the formation of CARIPEDA (Caribbean Peoples Development Agency) made up of organizations similar to SPAT in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
The Small Projects Assistance Team was a non-government organization. At the time of its establishment there were a lot of small community-based projects and businesses on-island, all of which were very separate ventures. One of the main aims of SPAT was to bring together and crystallize these small projects, and take full advantage of the financial support and recovery funding that was readily available for the economic and social development of Dominica. In addition to this, SPAT was also geared towards developing these rural and local enterprises as well as provide assistance in educational endeavours. Furthermore, developing Dominica’s human resources by providing training opportunities was another important goal of SPAT.
SPAT eventually was forced to close its office as a result of financial constraints and the inability to continue sustaining the organization due to the increasing expenses presented by different projects and ventures. It is notable that work and meetings are underway in relation to the re-emergence of this group that had such a prominent economic and social impact on the Commonwealth of Dominica.