East Canje mothers struggling in COVID-19 pandemic

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By Andrew Carmichael

With most businesses closed, reduced activity in the marketplace and less travel, COVID-19 has stopped more than 60 per cent of daily wage workers from earning. They are now on the breadline.

How are they coping?

The problem is compounded when it is a single parent like Cheryl Humphrey of Sheet Anchor, East Canje, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).

Single mother of 8 Cherly Humphrey

The mother of eight sells food at a roadside stand and said she is contented with what little she usually makes. She explained, however, that things have now become extremely difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said it is difficult to take care of eight children but she is still thankful to God for the little that he had been providing.

“I am contented with it and he is stretching it,” she added.

But while Cheryl seems to be coping, the situation is not the same for other mothers in the area.

Thirty-nine-year-old Sophia France of Betsy Ground Settlement, East Canje, also has eight children and told Guyana Times that sometimes life is very hard. Her husband makes a living by weeding.

Sophia France with her young daughter

“We are trying all the time.”

However, now during the pandemic, the situation has become even more difficult.

Four of the couple’s children attend school. According to Sophia, she is making all efforts to ensure that she can pay her internet bills so that her children can keep abreast with school work.

With schools closed due to the global health crisis, the Education Ministry has uploaded learning materials online for students to use while at home.

Meanwhile, another mother with more than a handful of children, Rishma Bess, of Sheet Anchor, East Canje, is also struggling to make ends meet in these times.

Mother of 6 Rishma Bess

The mother of six makes a living by working with roadside vendors outside of the New Amsterdam Market. Some of those vendors have not been doing business because of the reduced hours of the market, while others do not require help as a result of the downscaling of business in the region.

“Work ain’t stirring because of the corona. I struggling… Is six children [I have]. By God’s grace we surviving though,” she said.

According to Bess, her husband, who does odd jobs, has not been able to find work for some time now.

“Nobody calling him to do any work.”

In order to put food on the table for their family, the couple would go fishing in canals nearby.

“What lil two dollars he get, is that we does buy rice and oil wid,” the woman explained.

These helpless women were among 200 persons in the East Canje area who received food hampers from the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association on Saturday.

A representative from the Berbice Chamber handing over a hamper to the single mother, Cheryl

According to Vice President of the Chamber, Ryan Alexander, the organisation was trying to reach out to single parents, especially those who have no means of earning and those who have also lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

He said after a survey was done, persons with certain and specific needs were identified and with its limited resources, it tried to fulfil those needs.

“We have been distributing face masks to persons over the past few weeks and one of our auxiliary corporate members have heeded the call from the Chamber and provided food items for 2000 food hampers.”

Some 1400 of those hampers have already been distributed to villages on the East Bank of Berbice, sections of New Amsterdam and sections of East Canje.