Sixty-five miles south from the capital city lies one of the larger housing schemes in Guyana: Amelia’s Ward, Linden. The Linden-Soesdyke Highway runs through this community dividing it into two main sections: South and Central Amelia’s Wards with a population of 10,000 residents.
Amelia’s Ward has moved from being a forested area with a few squatters living in shacks, and no roads, electricity or potable water, to an extensive community.
Sitting on the veranda of her two-storey house, 68-year-old Marvin Glasgow recalled the days of constructing her Lot 181 Residence in South Amelia’s Ward, one of the first sections established in the 1970s. “In those times buses worked periodically, and when we miss the buses we had to walk from Wismar to South Amelia’s Ward and back just to build the house… I remember this one time when I was pregnant, we waited for the bus until 11pm and the bus came and passed us, so we had to walk through the bushy tracks to get home. There were no roads and I think we reach home till 2am the next morning.”
Glasgow was the third person to take up residence in South Amelia’s Ward. According to her it was her family who gave Lover’s Lane its name. “We the Glasgows give the famous Lover’s Lane its name, because in the 1970s when we looked across at nights there were several vehicles with lovers inside, occupying a small portion of the lane which was not developed at the time. But what was interesting was that in the middle of the night you will hear cries of murder when a husband finds his wife with another man, hence the name Lover’s Lane.”
Today Amelia’s Ward can be described as a town within a town. At a main access point to the community stands the Amelia’s Ward Police Outpost which offers a 24 hour service in an effort to protect residents from criminal elements. Most of the crime, residents said, was of the break-and-enter and larceny variety. The realization of the outpost can be credited to the efforts and advocacy of the Linden Station Management Committee (LSMC) shortly after its formation two years ago.
Several ideas were toyed with as to how to go about erecting the facility, the first being a buy-a-block initiative. However the government stepped in and decided that they were going to foot the cost for the construction of the facility. This was met with appreciation by the committee and residents of the community, and several private individuals and companies then came forward to assist as well. Through the LSMC they cleared the land as well as assisted with levelling it, and provided lighting and signboards. When it was time for the official opening of the outpost it was the LSMC whose members played a major role in preparing the compound and its environs.
Approximately three blocks away from the Police Outpost is the new Amelia’s Well Station, which was funded by the Government of Guyana. In April 2010, the $90M well was commissioned. The well, approximately 200ft, was expected to deliver 150 cubic metres of water per hour to over 5,000 residents of Amelia’s Ward as well as Central Mackenzie. Prior to this, the old well which is located at Well Road South Amelia’s Ward struggled to service the rapidly expanding community. However, on numerous occasions it succumbed to the pressure and millions of dollars were regularly pumped into patching it. This forced the government to take the leap of digging a new well. “This still isn’t enough, because we still getting water problems in some areas,” said Marlyn Charles, also known as Brown Jack. “Personally I am not really affected by water shortage because of the slope that I am on, but most persons around the area cries out a lot about not having adequate water supply,” she added. Marlyn is one of the many persons who have been living in Amelia’s Ward from its inception.
Obliquely opposite the Police Outpost, construction of the community’s first gas station is progressing apace. It is the initiative of a businessman who chose not to speak of his plans at this time. There is also electricity provided by the Linden Electricity Company Incorporated (LECI).
Medical needs are catered for by a health centre, while there are several nursery, primary and secondary schools, with the oldest being the Amelia’s Ward Primary School situated in the heart of the community at Self Help Housing Scheme.
Glasgow’s neighbour, 59-year-old Shakeela Rampersaud, said she along with her children and grandchildren are now enjoying the benefits of paved roads, electricity, potable water and accessible schools: “From the time I came here to live in the 1980s to now, I can confidently say the place has developed greatly. It’s much more comfortable; all of life necessities are just a stone throw away.”
While a high percentage of the residents work in other parts of Linden, several of them are into entrepreneurship in the form of mechanic‘s shops, grocery stores, supermarkets, taxi services, a garment centre, Internet cafe and day care facilities.
Brian McRae, proprietor of McRae‘s Supermarket said his business has evolved from a small shop to a two-storey shopping plaza offering a wide spectrum of household articles and hardware. “Despite all the developments going on in Amelia’s Ward, it lacked a major shopping centre so I decided to open a supermarket, offering a wide variety of services. We sell from groceries to confectionaries to beverages to furniture to home appliances to hardware materials, and now we are the main shopping plaza in Amelia’s and Linden offering most, if not all, of the items needed to complete life,” he said.
McRae’s Supermarket was declared open on June 20, 2006. It is situated at the head of Toucan’s Drive.
A stroll through the streets of this diverse community reveals a wide range of stylish houses surrounded by neatly cut lawns in most cases. The community is quiet on weekdays until the children begin to return after 3pm, to be joined some two hours later by the adults transported in short-drop minibuses, or in more recent times, the one hundred dollar cars that offer a 12 hour service from Central Mackenzie to Amelia’s Ward. The area also has a taxi service, Fantazia Comfort Zone Taxis.
Residents of the community share job space with the rest of Linden, being employed at the bauxite industry BOSAI, and other private and public entities, including the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the Republic Bank Limited, the New Building Society, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Singh’s Cash and Carry General Store, Bolo’s Varity, CAB Hardware and General Store and James and Sons Variety, just to name a few. Some persons are also employed in several interior locations, more especially in the gold and diamond mining sectors.
The construction boom in Amelia’s Ward has not stopped. Many persons are building their houses while hundreds flocked to the Constabulary Hall recently to get a spot in Phase 3 of Central Amelia’s, the newest community in the housing scheme. Miles of road are now being laid; pipelines are being installed, and electricity is already being supplied although there are only a few houses at the moment.