The people of Matthews Ridge have their say…
Stabroek News recently visited the community of Matthews Ridge in the North West District and persons there were asked about life in their community, issues affecting them and matters which needed to be addressed by the authorities. The following are their responses.
Interviews and photos by Alva Solomon and Zoisa Fraser
Sheriel Gunpat – security guard
`I work at the hospital here at Matthews Ridge and I used to live in Mabaruma but we moved here years ago. I was 19 at the time and that is about 20 years ago. Life really hard here and it hard because me live far from here at Pakera about 2 miles from here and me got to walk to get here. Cost of living hard bad because in the shops you have to pay about $700 for a gallon and other foodstuff high. I don’t get electricity because we live far out from here so we does depend on lamp and flambeau for light. To be honest me didn’t leave here in years because it expensive to get from here to other places. I work day and night but only about 3 to 4 days a week. My husband works in the mining area so I does have to take care of the younger children. We have four children and two already move on.’
`I born and grow here at Matthews Ridge and I work as a cook at the primary school here. I work from Monday to Friday at the school. Now that school out I do domestic work around the area to keep me going. I have 3 children and they are 9 ,6 and 4 years old so I have it a little hard but I am trying to live with all I have. Life is hard here because we don’t get much attention from anybody but we have to do with all we have. I would normally travel out from here to Port Kaituma and to Georgetown but the fare sometimes does be hard to raise.
Inez Fraser –laundress
`I work at the hospital doing laundry work and I been working there for the past 19 years. I live at Pakera and right now is me alone and my husband because all my children get big and they move on. Life here hard for us and is all about hard work when you living here. Right now in addition to this job (laundry) I do a little business by selling sweets and other little foods. My husband works at Five Star backdam and he might come out in a couple weeks time so when he come out it will be better for me. Things expensive here because you know the shop people them have to pay plenty money to get things in here.
Leon Peters – driver/mechanic
`I came here in 1966 to start working with the manganese company. I use to live in Mackenzie in the Upper Demerara but I am a Vincentian. I left the islands a few years before independence to work in Linden. At Matthews Ridge it’s a tough life. I grow my 11 children here and they all big now but they came through some tough times. Life is not so bad here but just the price for things could be high in the shop. My wife owns a shop here and it’s costly to bring things in so that’s why you would find the prices high on stuff.’
Sophia Delon –midwife
`I am 47 years old and I been living at Matthews Ridge since I was a child. Recently the manganese company came here and it restart things here again for us so it is a bit improved. Before that life use to be a bit hard but some of us making the best use of what we have. In the early years this area was thriving and life was easy but that’s since the 1970s. I am a trained midwife and I also have business here which helps me and my family.
Some issues affecting us really bad here and one is the education system. We have a primary school of about 400 students and only 5 teachers to teach them so we need more teachers here. We did well this year at the exam (National Grade Six Exam) because some children get more than 400 marks. Mining is the main thing here and it has benefitted the area over the years.’
Ouhia Bascom –Domestic
`I am working at a hotel, the only hotel here in Matthews Ridge. I am a mother of five and yes life can be easy and it can be hard because I have to find money to buy things for my children to go to school. I have two children going to secondary school and I hope they do well in school. One of my daughters writing the CSEC examinations next year so I hoping she does well. I work from 9 am to 6 pm each day so it is a bit hard. But life in Matthews Ridge isn’t that bad you know. It’s a nice and quiet place.’
Stanley Roberts –labourer
`I am 66 years old and I came here to the area in 1958. I belong to the Pomeroon but I came here like many others to work with the manganese company. I have 9 children but they all big and move on from the family house. When they left I started doing other things like gold mining. I still go in the backdam but I getting too old for it so I would do weeding or other jobs and then when I think I am able I would go and do mining. For me life is ok here. We do not have everything but we trying with what we got.’
Julia DeFreitas –pensioner
`I am living at an area called “the hole” here at Matthews Ridge for about 30 to 40 years. I am originally from Leopold Street in Georgetown but I came to live here with my husband years ago. I use to work as the laundress at the hospital then I use to be the cook at Pakera House or government house as it use to be. I have four children but everybody get big now. The prices for things go up and now we paying far more than before but I can tell you I stretch what I have like elastic.
I receive the two pensions (Old Age and NIS) so it helps me and now that I receive the NIS book today it will have to carry me a far way.’
Nelly Stoll – university student
`I was born here and life is quiet and peaceful here. I came back home to spend time with my family and help out in the family business. There is need for development here because there are no jobs for people, especially young people.
Another thing is the roads and water. At the front of the community there used to be a pipe which everybody use to go and get water from. When the manganese people came they shut it down so some people in a serious situation. Then the roads were in a fairly good state but they (manganese company) started to use it and yes they did some work but right now it’s in a terrible state. Maybe they should have cut another road to access their sites.’