By Tracey Khan – Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Life in Durban Backlands, located behind the Chinese Embassy in Georgetown is anything but easy for the families living in that area.
The iNews team recently visited the crumbling homes of several families in the area to get a firsthand look at survival from the residents’ perspective. The visit was an eye opener for the iNews Team and drove home the fact that many persons take little things for granted.
The visit revealed a neglected community, infected with abject poverty and hungry children who grieve for proper clothes and schooling.
We spoke to several children, single mothers and a few fathers who were happy to invite us into their dwelling, regardless of some unspeakable living conditions. It was a shock to uncover that most of the homes were the size of anaverage washroom but would still manage to accommodate families with more than five members.
The structures are so small that adults are forced to bend over to enter and move around within. Several of the mothers in that area are single parents left to raise three to four children with no support system and live on ‘meal to meal’ lifestyle.
Some have gotten so accustomed to the struggles of their life that it no longer causes them stress.
The condition that most of these families live under is at the least unhealthy; the area is filled with thick vegetation, the drains are clogged and mosquitoes are prevalent. Even though the mothers are concerned about the health of their children, they said they have no other alternative.
Their main focus is providing meals and whatever clothing they can for their children.
Let’s look at the life of Alexis Hardy, a 26– year-old mother of three, with another child on the way.
She lives in the accommodations described above with her children; the roof of her home leaks so much that when it rains they have to climb under the bed for shelter, she claims.
The woman told iNews of her struggles even as she fought to hold back tears that had already soaked her cheeks; claiming she was hungry with nothing to eat. Hardy told us that Social Activist, Mark Benschop recently bought a pack of Tennis Rolls for her children, a gesture that went a long way and brought many smiles.
“When he bring the Tennis Roll, the children them eat it happy with one cup of sugar water each,” she explained.
But the woman’s troubles don’t end there. She claimed that she is unable to work because of her pregnancy and is left to wonder where her next meal will come from and how she will be able to buy new clothing for the new school term.
Alexis started working at the age of 15 after leaving school to live with the father of two of her three children.She is now seeking help from the public to build a better home for her children. If you are willing to help this desperate mother you can contact her on 665 – 6239.
“The future is hard for me…right now me ain’tget no school clothes for my son that gotta start primary school,” she told iNews.
Meanwhile, iNews spoke to another single mother, Carmalita Butters, who has been residing in the area for over 11 years, with her three children.
From all indications, this mother wants a better life for her children and although she owns land in West Demerara, she does not have the money to commence construction.
It is important to point out that those living in the area are in fact squatting but according the Benschop, he made several representations to the relevant authorities to have the area regularized but was unsuccessful so far.
While this area, which is home to almost 200 Guyanese, is filled with sadness, the residents have something to be proud of and that is 11 – year – old Garfield Dover.
He will be attending the St. Rose’s High School come September after completing his National Grade Six Assessment with 503 marks. He is hoping to become a Scientist or a Lawyer so that he can help his mother and two other siblings. This aspiring young man was presented with a bicycle from the Benschop foundation for his success.
“I studied hard and I prayed and ask God to help me pass my exams,” he told iNews.
Dover’s mother, Maria is proud of her son. She said she will continue to do her best for her children to ensure their future is better than hers.
“It makes me proud as a single parent with not so much help just trying to go through life one by one and with his faith believing that he would be successful.”
The child’s father lives in the United States and according to Maria, initially he helped but has since stopped which leaves her fending for three children as a domestic worker.
When asked about a day ‘in her shoes’, she responded: “to be honest I am just trying it’s not to the best but I am just trying until better could come.”
Meanwhile, there is only one water outlet in the community, which is used by the scores of dwellers.
They are appealing to the relevant authorities to assist them to clean the area so that it will become hygienic and healthy for their children.
The Benschop Foundation has been helping many of the families in the area after their plight was brought to his attention.
“We, through the Benschop foundation were able to give away something, reading books, a medical mission did a check up on all of them, all the kids everything and what is pleasing is that all of them 99.9 passed that thorough check….all they need is some attention and I think they should be given some sort of attention,” Benschop told iNews.
On this note he also reiterated the need for the area to be regularized so that residents can be afforded certain necessary services.
Benschop exclaimed, “There is nowhere on earth that people should live under these conditions because it’s horrible.”
He made the point that Leader of the Opposition, David Granger lives a few meters away from the poverty stricken community.
“Mr. Granger lives just a stone throw away from here, the Government seem not to be doing anything but I will put the blame also on the PNC supporters….this is an area that was developed by Forbes Burnham….I think apart from blaming the government, the Opposition has to accept some form of responsibility in not coming to the area and helping to fight and stand up for these people’s rights.”
But despite being neglected and battling challenges beyond their strength, the families continue so seek survival the best way they know how.