Story by Tifaine Rutherford
with photos by Arian Browne
I bet that you have never heard of a road called ‘Carilla Street,’ unless, that is, you are from De Willem.
A culturally diverse community, De Willem on the West Coast of Demerara is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by Zeeburg and on the west by Meten-Meer-Zorg. It is home to nearly 2000 persons of mostly East Indian descent, the majority of whom are employed at the Uitvlugt-Leonora sugar estate and the vibrant fishing port at the Zeeburg koker.
The residents here say that the village got its name from, “dem [Dutch] people who owned it long, long ago.”
The school-age children in the area attend the De Willem nursery, Sarsawat Primary and Zeeburg Secondary Schools. The nursery and primary are located in the community, while the secondary school is only a stone’s throw away in Zeeburg.
The community also has houses of worship for residents of all religions. There is a Baha’i centre, a Hindu temple, a mosque and a church.
Shops catering to the needs of the villagers are dotted along the public road. On Saturdays residents come out in their numbers to shop at the local market while fishermen head out to sea to earn their daily bread. For public transportation, the residents normally use the Route 32 (Parika to Georgetown) minibuses.
Ram Persaud called ‘Carilla’ was relaxing with his wife at home when Sunday Stabroek caught up with him. Living in the village for the past 40 years, he was eager to share some of its history. “This place wasn’t like this long ago. Even though we didn’t have all these fancy things, things were better then,” he said.
Originally from Uitvlugt with his wife hailing from Leguan, Persaud said that he bought a house in De Willem after he began working on the GuySuCo estate as an operator. He recalled that there was no road where he lived. “Here didn’t have road, the road only build last year. The street ain’t got name, but everyone does call it Carilla Street.”
“They used to always seh that they can’t build road for two people, cause wasn’t a lot of people living here. The other day the Baha’i centre open and that is how come they end up building the road,” he explained.
Once a budding farmer, Persaud said that owing to multiple floods, his many fruit trees have died out. “Me does mine duck and so. The place does always flood out man. I used to plant at the back but I can’t plant any more. I had lots of fruit trees but the salt water kill out the trees.”
The major complaint for many was the state of the roads, especially those in Area G. “The road going into Area G in a deplorable state; when the rain fall and the place flood, the children does have a hard time going to school. We really want this road look after,” one resident said.
In 1984, several residents said that the community suffered severe losses to the sugar industry after the drainage sluice which was abandoned in the 1970s suffered a breach. The commissioning of a $169M sluice they said was able to bring some relief to many of the farmers in the area as well as boost the operations of the Guyana Sugar Corporation.
According to many of the villagers, crime in the area is not rampant. “We does get the little petty thief and so, but nothing major to talk about,” one resident said.
Kavita (only name given) a housewife who has been living in De Willem for the past 15 years said that the area is one in which everyone lives like “brother and sister.”
Her complaint like that of many others, was the road and the drainage. “The roads in the scheme bad. Especially when it rain, the place does flood out. We need someone to look into this for we,” she said.
She said that the community is in dire need of a playground. “We need a playground so these children can have something to do in the afternoon and on the weekends.”
When Sunday Stabroek encountered Jonas (only name given) he was busy making preparations for his son Jaden’s second birthday party. He informed this newspaper that the area was once a thriving sugar estate, “then it became a squatting area, then a scheme and now they are opening a next scheme at the back.”
He said that there are not a lot of job opportunities in the village, but that most of the men work on the estate and the river.
For the most part, everyone in De Willem gets along well with one another. “Everybody here friendly. We does get on good with everybody. African or Indian, everyone does live nice,” a resident said.