Story and photos by Jeanna Pearson
Sandwiched between the Plaisance and Vryheid’s Lust communities, Better Hope is a beacon of togetherness with its friendly villagers and rustic homes.
Even though it spans a small area, there are over 3,000 people living in the village; most of them are of East Indian heritage. The village is steeped in Hindu culture. Hindi music floats from almost every house spilling into the streets. Many of the older women can be seen early in the morning, with their heads covered, praying to their gods in front of their yards, as the smell of Indian food wafts from every street corner.
The village is also well endowed with liquor gardens, where three-quarters of the men hang out in the evenings. Yet, the heart of the village lies in its community ground: the place where young boys in the village play cricket and the other sports and families gather on weekends to watch games.
Better Hope is known for its cricket clubs and the community centre ground is so popular, many of the youths from neighbouring villages would visit to play sports. A long time ago, the pride of the community was the Better Hope Games. The event, over the years, has faded away.
According to Savita Palo, a young woman who grew up in the village, the “games” was a weekend of family fun and different sports. She said everyone in the village used to eagerly anticipate these weekends, and the ground would overflow with villagers, all vying for prizes. Various villagers would seize the opportunity to capitalize on the event economically and there would be ‘sweetie’ booths and toy booths for the children and food booths. There was also a section for the teenagers, cordoned off by the teenagers and a liquor stall for the adults. The games would include different contests, and everyone in the village would partake.
Apart from the community ground, the Better Hope seawall was another hot spot for young people. At Easter, they would flock the seawall to fly kites and have cook-outs. Palo recalled evenings when the older people in the village would tell stories while the younger men would play dominoes at market stalls.
She said the village, which was once a rural community relying heavily on fishing and farming, has evolved into a semi-modern community. She said even though the houses have retained their old-rustic architecture, there are several modernized shops, beer gardens and boutiques and supermarkets.
She stated that only a minority of the population depend on farming and fishing, adding that some of the men have also shied away from sugar estate work. Palo stated that most people have white-collar jobs in Georgetown, domestic work, or construction work.
In the village, there is an auto spares company, a furniture store and several boutiques but only a small percentage of the residents take up jobs in these places.
Palo also stated that there is a GuySuCo Health Centre, which is in urgent need of repairs. She stated that residents would also go to the Plaisance Health Centre for medical treatment but that “too was a waste of time” since the centre was always out of medication or doctors were not present. She added that the centre was seldom cleaned, making it “unhealthy for our children.” She said many parents would carry their sick children to the centre, only to be turned back and sent to the Georgetown Public Hospital.
“Whenever your child sick they can never be treated because they are always out of medicine,” she said, adding that she was annoyed because it was the closest medical centre they could use to get aid.
Palo further complained about the village garbage situation. She stated that even though the village “isn’t the nastiest place” to live, there was still a need to keep the place clean. She said the pileup of garbage in drains and the canals was getting out of control. However, she indicated that some villagers have taken it upon themselves to clean the streets and drains.
The main drainage canal in the village is littered with bottles and Styrofoam boxes. Palo added that some people have begun dumping their garbage in the canal late at night.
There were also complaints about an increase in robberies in the villagers, mostly at night. Villagers griped that there were no street lights installed to help protect people who going home late at night.
Deepa Somur, 33, protested about deteriorating roads in the village. She stated that “the roads were horrible and always have been horrible. They come and fix it then six months later there are holes again.”
She said too that the absence of street lights had caused an increase in petty crimes. “You can’t even leave your stuff in the yard these days. People come in and steal anything they can find. It is not a safe place to live,” she said.
Nevertheless, Somur said, the people are very friendly and peaceful. She said the community is divided into sections: there is a squatting area, a rural area and a slightly urban section.
The village has one nursery school. There are no secondary schools or primary schools in the village. Somur said many of the children would attend the Montrose Primary or the Vryheid’s Lust Secondary.
Somur stated that she grew up in village with her parents and got married a few years ago. After her marriage, she said her first child came and she was forced to leave her job to be a stay-at-home mom. “But I couldn’t sit around and not do anything. So I had this idea to have my own boutique…. I started with just $100,000 and it has grown now. I have my children and I’m doing what I love. I love good clothes so why not sell good clothes at a cheap price,” she stated.
The people in Better Hope are happy people who make the most of their time and enjoy life, Leroy chatterpaul stated. Chatterpaul is a chef in a mining camp in the interior. He would spend six weeks in the interior and return to Better Hope, where he grew up.
He stated that men in the community were working together to resuscitate the community centre for the youths in the village. They were also in the process of setting up the Better Hope Central Youths Sports Club, so as to keep the young people in the village away from alcohol and drugs. “We plan on going to the Ministry of Youth and Sport to help us get it up and running so as to help our youths instead of leaving them to lime and smoke weed and stuff,” he said.
“We just want the youths to come off the alcohol and drugs,” he added.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has been working actively with villagers to rehabilitate the centre and revive sports in the community. The village has a cricket club, a football club and a basketball court. The Community Centre ground has recently been refilled with dirt.