In just five days, members of the House of Representatives minority bloc and their staff, with the help of the Tan Siu Lin Foundation and other partners, completed a major restoration of the Dandan Children’s Park within the Dandan Homestead.
The restoration work—called the House Minority’s First Unified Community Project—began on Monday, Feb. 1, and was completed last Friday.
The park used to be covered with overgrown vegetation, the pavilions filled with graffiti. The basketball court was not functional and its floor was stained with debris from many months of soil buildup. Now the area is cleared of vegetation. The pavilions are newly painted and covered with beautiful murals. The basketball court’s boards and rims are new. The court’s floor is newly painted with thermoplastic paint. The parking lot is also newly painted.
Minority bloc members said the restoration project marked their first ever inter-precinct collaboration for the community.
Minority bloc spokesman Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) told reporters at the park Friday afternoon that shortly after the inauguration of the 22nd Legislature, they got together under the leadership of minority leader Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) and they talked about some of their goals and plans for this term.
“And what you’re seeing today is the community outreach project aspect of our plans,” Demapan said.
TanHoldings president and chief executive officer Jerry Tan said they learned about the restoration project early last week. “We actually stopped by and took a look at what’s going on,” said Tan, who is also chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.
He said they learned that the park has been out of commission for many years. “I looked around the neighborhood and said, ‘Wow! There must be a lot of kids here.’ So, we said, ‘Yeah, let’s get involved and help out,’” Tan said.
Tan said he gave the group a lot of credit because they restored the park in just a matter of days.
“I haven’t been here at night, but I understand the lights were turned on and the kids were already flooding the place,” said Tan, adding that basketball courts should be restored so children can come out, enjoy playing basketball, and just stay active and healthy.
Demapan said they plan to move into every precinct, represented by the minority, to work together with their field staff to bring positive change to the villages of their precincts.
Demapan said that, as a representative of Precinct 1, together with his three colleagues from Precinct 1—Reps. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan), Roy Ada (R-Saipan), and Joseph Flores (Ind-Saipan), they’re very proud to begin this project here in Dandan, with the support of their minority colleagues from other precincts.
“This project also would not have been possible without the support of our partners,” said Demapan, mentioning the Tan Siu Lin Foundation, the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers’ Public-Private Partnership, the Saipan Mayor’s Office, and the Department of Corrections.
“The Tan Siu Lin Foundation…made a significant contribution to help us defray the costs of transforming this children’s park to what you see today,” Demapan said.
He said the mayor’s office provided equipment, while DOC also partnered with the project. “So it has been a really collaborative effort by so many stakeholders. And we’re very proud to present this project to all of you today and in particular to the community of Dandan, where today the office of minority is pleased to return the park back to the people of Dandan,” Demapan said.
He said a lot of the work was done primarily by the community workers of all minority offices, as well as the minority members themselves.
Demapan said they also put a lot of their own personal touches. The “So we welcome you all to Dandan Children’s Park, reborn and ready for the community once again,” said Demapan drawing applause from lawmakers, their staff, partners, and some community members.
When asked about the costs of the restoration, the lawmaker said “it’s priceless” and that they haven’t quantified everything. “But just to see the kids come back last night and play and express their happiness and their joy about having their park and their basketball court back, you cannot put a price tag on that,” Demapan said.
He said there was no appropriation for this project as it was all funded by their work and their staff, as well as the contributions of private partners, government agencies and the Saipan Mayor’s Office.
As to why they chose the children’s park as their initial project, Demapan said they believe that investing in a facility like the park help nourish and develop children.
“Investing in a facility like this will not just bring the camaraderie and the spirit of unity to the children of the village, but pride to the village so that the people of this community have something to be proud of,” he said.
Demapan said they started work last Monday and that day, Friday, was only their fifth day. “But if you see some of the pictures, the before pictures and the before video footage that we’ll be sharing with you guys, you probably think that today was Day 14,” Demapan said.
He said the whole facility from the pathways to the basketball court, was water-blasted. The basketball court was completely coated with thermoplastic paint, then the backboards and the rims were donated. All the pavilions have been restored.
“When we came here, the pavilions were covered in graffiti. So in the spirit of the graffiti, we decided to put murals up,” said Demapan, adding that Rep. Joel Camacho (R-Saipan), who is known for making popular murals in the north side of the island, was able to bring that spirit here to the south side.
Saipan Mayor David Apatang said the minority bloc and their staff did a super job and he recommended that they also restore the San Antonio basketball court and its premises.
“I noticed the basketball court is down. We need to refurbish that so that young kids can play basketball, take their time and spend their time after school,” Apatang said.
Demapan said Flores has already brought that up so they are going to calendar the project as the minority bloc moves from precinct to precinct.
“We’re going to also have to manage the timeline for each project so that we can schedule the next project,” he said.