with photos by Anjuli Persaud

Situated about 8 miles from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at Timehri is the small East Bank Demerera village of Sarah Johanna, the community was originally an estate purchased by the late Donnie Roberts who divided the land among his three sons, Samuel Jaisingh, Paul Jaisingh and James JaiSingh.

The area which delineates Sarah Johanna has an estimated size of 750 rods in length and 60 rods in width, and is about 24 miles from the capital city. The community’s immediate neighbours are Land of Caanan to the north and Pearl to the south.The population consists of approximately 500 people of mostly Indian descent, and most of those residing in the community belong to the Hindu faith.

The community is divided into three sections, one of them being the Sarah Johanna squatting area which, according to residents, is called ‘Somalia’ because of its present condition. The other two sections are the housing scheme and the old road. The main economic activities in the community are poultry and cattle rearing, fishing and farming – mainly ground provisions. As such, most of the residents are self-employed.

This newspaper spoke to Jewan JaiSingh, one of the oldest residents living in the community during a recent visit, and he greeted us with a glass of cold coconut water.

As he relaxed in his hammock, Jaisingh reflected on his experiences growing up in the community. He cheerfully recalled his childhood days of climbing the fruit trees and swimming in the nearby canal and catching fish, which he would take home to fry. “I had memorable experience that I can share with my grandchildren about this village… I enjoyed picking the fruits from the trees

One of the oldest buildings in the community

especially the spice mangoes… me and my friends were the leader of the village.”

Everyone in the area seems to know JaiSingh, and he is described by many as a very cheerful man and the ‘historian’ of Sarah Johanna. As he told his story, Jaisingh related that in the olden days he was once a driver salesman at Banks DIH Limited, after which he resigned and started to rear poultry. “At one time I reared over 400 pigs in the area… everyone here know that I have a lot of pigs so if people want they come here to buy from me,” he explained. He further

Picking cherries from the tree in the yard

stated that the rearing of cattle is a good job in the area because it helps to bring in a lot of income to sustain one’s family. The small community is home to a mechanic‘s shop, a pharmacy, and a welding shop.

According to residents, the community is described as one where “people put their hands to work,” adding that almost every home has a kitchen garden. Residents take advantage of the rich, fertile soil by spending most of their time planting. During the visit one resident was working in his kitchen garden where he grew cabbage, bora, ochroes and other vegetables. There are also a variety of fruit trees in the area and many coconut trees.

Most of the residents told this newspaper that the daily routine starts as at 5.30 in the morning. “It is the best time to get your work started … so by the time the morning sun start to rise you almost finish,” one resident said.

Free range poultry foraging

Most of the residents complained about the bad roads that have been a major hindrance to development in the area. They also said that there is no medical facility in the village although there is a pharmacy where a medex comes sometimes, and residents in need of treatment go to the Soesdyke health centre or the Diamond Diagnostic Centre. There is also no nursery, primary or secondary school, and the children of Sarah Johanna attend primary school at Supply, although they have to go further afield to

The road leading to the squatting area

Soesdyke or Georgetown for a secondary education.

When asked about the level of crime in the community, one resident promptly replied that the crime rate is very low, and that she could not recall the last time anyone from the area complained about any unlawful act committed by residents within the village, though she noted that the area had seen crimes such as robberies in the past.

Most persons working outside the village are employed at the nearby Gafoors hardware store at Land of Canaan, while others seek to make their living in the mining areas of the interior. Some of the women work from home in nail designing and hair-dressing.

A fruit and vegetable stall

On weekends the Bryan Restaurant and Liquor Store is one of the popular hangout spots. There residents spend their time listening to music, while sipping cold beers and crunching on hot spicy cutters of fish. ‘Bush cooks‘ are also one of the popular events for the youths of the community. Since there is no recreational park, the children gather together and cook under the trees while they play games of cards or dominoes. They play cricket and football on the street.

Mr Jewan JaiSingh
One of the villagers at work in the mechanic shop
Village boys