“Everybody is a hustler here,” is how Shakira Khan who vends at the busy Pomeroon River port of Charity in Region Two describes the area which is ideally poised to become Guyana’s newest town. The port is considered the gateway to the Essequibo Coast, and on any given morning, a large number of persons converge there to transact business.
Khan, who has been vending finger foods and beverages close to the Charity wharf for a number of years told Stabroek News during a recent visit that the area has been thriving “ever since I know this place.” She said that at the break of dawn, office workers, boatmen, vendors and travellers are among the first group of people to be seen, and as the morning “settles” the area would be transformed into a “busy scene,” as shoppers congregate at the market, the stelling and the stalls to purchase goods. Monday is the designated market day at Charity and close to 300 vendors usually occupy the market area while others vend at available spaces, mainly at the roadside.
Khan, one of several single parent mothers who ply their trade each day at Charity, noted that the riverside community had always been “business oriented since I know myself,” and that this gave the area the relevant ‘tag’ to become a town.
As she sells a cold beverage to a customer, Khan is joined by her business colleague Pamela Singh, who recounted the “good times we have been having here at Charity over the years.” She said that the community “is basically the end of the road [the Essequibo Coast public road] so you would always find people from nearby communities meeting up here.”
Residents from the Moruca sub-region, villages along the Pomeroon River, the Essequibo Coast, Georgetown and fisherfolk plying the Atlantic would traverse the area almost daily and according to fisherman Lancelot Bell, persons “from all walks of life pass through here every day” contributing to the development of the area.
Though he does not reside in the community, Bell said that he plies his trade at Charity and spends most of his time there. He too was of the view that the economic activities were bound to develop the area in time. The opportunities to market fish at Charity were numerous, he continued, even though there are times when the market would become “a bit difficult.”
The fisherman described his job “as a nice one, and I don’t have to be answerable to anyone as in an office job.” He said that he has been a fisherman for close to 15 years, and he explained that there are certain times of the year, such as December, when there is an increase in fish catches.
He said he and his colleagues would head out to the Atlantic where they would spend about a week, following which they would return to Charity to sell their catch, including the expensive gilbacker, snapper and trout, among others. The fishermen usually sell their catch at the Big Bird Fish complex or Alfonso’s processing complex, as well as to middlemen.
Bell noted that the fishermen operating out of the community have been fearful in recent times of piracy, since it was “a big thing” these days. He said that the pirates are usually in search of fish glue and engines, but not so much the catch. “I would get a little scared at times but I have to work to feed my family,” the father of three said.
Charity has recently acquired a more “foreign like appearance,” according to vendor Carleen Singh, with the completion of several buildings as well as an increase in vehicles traversing between the settlement and nearby Anna Regina. Recently businessman Afro Alfonso unveiled Charity’s only five-story structure, which is fast becoming a landmark. The bottom flat of the building, referred to as ‘the Gauling,’ houses a Dixie Lee outlet, a Canadian franchised chicken fast-food restaurant. The eating house is frequented by those in transit daily.
At the same time the Xenon Hotel and Hotel Purple Heart are traditionally the meeting spots of party goers or the man in the street who just wants to sit and relax in social surroundings. In the past five years Charity has seen an upsurge in ‘fun day’ events which are held at the community centre ground on weekends or holidays.
The community has also seen the recent completion of a multi-million dollar facility which will house the Charity Magistrate’s Court, and which residents observed will add to the positive image of the township.
Another recent infrastructural addition to the area has been the Charity Housing Scheme, which is quickly becoming populated. Residents there noted that the second phase of the project which commenced some two to three years ago, has seen an increase in the number of persons being able to own their own homes.
Further into the community, residents told this newspaper that Charity has had its share of problems, mainly with the utility services, and that potable water has been a bugbear in some parts. One resident said that there are times when the water pressure in the pipes would be “very low for days” and that there are some areas which do not receive water via the pipelines.
There is also the issue of accommodation in and the general maintenance of the Amerindian Hostel, which an occupant noted “is in a tough shape” given the number of persons who utilize it. He said that in addition to thick overgrowth which surrounds the building, the interior was in dire need of repair, “and if you jus look at the building from the outside you could tell it deh in a bad shape.”
There have been a few isolated crimes which have occurred in the Charity area over the years but residents commented that the community was generally crime free. “They got some people who would pass through here and do all sorts of bad stuff… so I won’t say is Charity people alone because everybody know everybody hey,” remarked a fish vendor as he placed a morocut head into a customer’s bag.
Residents have noted too that there was need for a commercial bank in the community, and Khan said that most business people in the area have been calling on the authorities to consider approaching the banking institutions to set up a facility there. In addition to the convenience, some observed that the investment would also create job opportunities.
It was noted too by a few persons that the community lacked a vocational institution for those who wish to learn a trade .Others thought that the establishment of a technical institute would see many persons of school leaving age staying in Charity to advance their skills.
According to the 2002 census, some 2000 residents live at Charity, but this number may have increased over the years given the number of persons from riverine areas who have relocated there. Charity is accessible by road and boat, and recently the domestic airlines have been ferrying passengers between Ogle Airport and Hampton Court, a rice farming community located less than 20 minutes by road from Charity.