Story and photos by David Pappanah
Located on the Corentyne coast, 25 minutes away from New Amsterdam and bordered by Rose Hall Town and Hampshire, is the friendly, peaceful village of Williamsburg.
This village used to be a part of the Albion sugar plantation, but in 1987 it became a part of Rose Hall Town. It is home to approximately 17,000 persons of both Indian and African ethnic backgrounds.
This multiethnic area has at least six Christian churches. The Lutheran church has been in the community for over 50 years, for 27 of which Errol Inshanally has been the pastor. He told Stabroek News that Williamsburg is a very quiet area with cooperative residents.
This newspaper interrupted Ilona Lashely, 65, during her relaxation period around midday; she was not offended by the disturbance. She said she was born and grew up in the area, and would not leave Williamsburg for anything because it is such a quiet and peaceful place, and she loves that. Lashley said that the area has gone through a major transformation, since it used to have mud roads, and now they had been surfaced. In addition, there are a lot of new houses and businesses.
Lashley recalled that when she was growing up there were “cinemas and place that you could have gone and hang out, but now there is no such thing for the youths and they would turn to drugs.” She said that she loves typing, so she opened her own commercial school which used to be filled – “I had to get three sessions per day Monday to Friday” – but owing to everyone’s eagerness to learn about computers there were too many to accommodate and the school closed down. She added that she would still do some typing in
her spare time. She now runs a small sweet shop and the children buy from her on their way to and from school.
When asked what developments she would like to see take place she responded, “a playfield for the kids and things for the young people to do.”
Kami Madramootoo, a wedding planner, has been residing in the area for over a year. She finds Williamsburg very relaxing; the problems are flooding and the lack of resources to occupy the young people, she said.
Elwena Dey, a pastor of one of the churches in the village and owner of a food shop said that she has been residing in Williamsburg since she was a baby. According to her the area used to be highly populated by Indians but now that is changing, and there is a mixture of ethnicities. When she was growing up, she said, there were only four African families: the Deys, the Nelsons, the Lashelys and the Corts.
Shanta Gopilall, a housewife, was doing chores around the house when Stabroek News visited. She said she has been residing in the village for 38 years and like her fellow villagers, finds the environment quite relaxing and friendly. She said that the neighbours do not fight and abuse anyone in the area. Gopilall pointed to some of the things she would like to see done in the community, however, such as some street lights and the cleaning of the drains so there would be proper drainage.
Most people in Williamsburg work with the Guyana Sugar Cooperation, while others are housewives, cattle farmers and business persons. However, many of the youths, this newspaper was told, are unemployed. Most persons would hang out at the highest grade wash bay and bar.
Williamsburg boasts a health centre, a funeral parlour, small shops, a supermarket a bank, doctors’ clinics, a police station, a nursery school and a fire station.
According to residents some children do not go to school at all, while others attend nearby schools. When it comes to worship, in addition to the churches and a temple in the area, some people go to temples in Hampshire and Rose
Hall Town while Muslims attend the mosque in Rose Hall Town. Marketing is done too in Rose Hall Town or on Fridays at the market right there in Williamsburg.