Silver Hill on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway is approximately 13 miles from the mining town. Its population of less than 100 argue over its name; some say it’s Silver Hill, others say it’s Moblissa Newtown but the signboards agree with the former.
When the World beyond Georgetown visited the village, shopkeepers, men drinking and a few others chatting were anxious to share the many difficulties they face every day and wanted photos to be taken to prove it.
Villager Patricia Williams designated herself tour guide, pointing out the first issue – a large pool of water on the road, which forces villagers to through the grass and mud on the parapet.
She indicated the Silver Hill Primary and Nursery School where just outside a well/pump station is situated. The well is powered by solar panels on top of a building. At the time of this newspaper’s visit, clouds hung overhead and the pressure of water from the pipe attached to the pump station was low. According to villagers, it was recently stated in one of the newspapers that 300 persons in Silver Hill benefited from the well, but this was not the case. One villager proved it when he turned on the closest possible pipe and no water came. The villagers still resort to using rain water and water from the creeks.
The village has no electricity so they still use lanterns; very few have generators. According to one of the security guards for the school, the school has solar panels but they’re of no use as they have inverters but no batteries. The same situation exists at the Silver Hill Health Centre, but in this case there are neither inverters nor batteries for the solar panels. One mother said that recently when she took her baby to the clinic, no vaccine could be given and she was told by a nurse that it was impossible since there was no way that they could store vaccines without electricity. She was therefore forced to travel all the way to Georgetown so her baby could be vaccinated.
Eighty-two-year-old Beulah Major moved to Silver Hill in 1976 when LFS Burnham asked persons to occupy the highway where they could obtain lease land for farming and provide for themselves. “I came here as a farmer. LFS Burnham wanted people to be self-sufficient so he provided them with carambola, billimbi and cashew nuts. He also offered that anybody who wanted to rear cows, they would get 100 acres of lease land and if you had cows the government took it upon themselves to inseminate ten of them,” she recalled.
“Burnham had gone to England previous to the year I moved to tell the Guyanese to come back to Guyana and invest in the lands on the highway. But Jamaicans who were there also heard about it and came to see for themselves.”
When she arrived in Silver Hill, there were no other residents. Persons who had applied and were given land were awaiting electricity and potable water. According to the elderly woman, the village has over 900 residential plots; only ten of them are occupied to date.
She recalled that at first, she lived on her farm four and a half miles in Silver Hill. One day just after putting her baby to sleep on the bed, she was about to get up when she noticed an anaconda about 10 ft long, right at her foot. She was so terrified that she could not move and after a while, it slowly slithered past her and went on its way. A few other persons at that time she said had similar run-ins with anacondas as the area was being cleared and the snakes were being disturbed from their habitat.
Today she no longer lives on the farm, but right up in front close by the school. In fact she lives in the building that once housed the school. Years ago when certain foreign goods were prohibited, Major would purchase “scarce goods” in Georgetown for the village and return to sell same at the one of the government buildings. However, since it was crowded she was allowed to sell in a nearby building, which the then superintendent had stayed in but had moved out of. Major travelled every day from her farm to the superintendent’s building to sell, but after it was broken into twice she began to stay in the building and has been there ever since.
Major is one of the pillars of Silver Hill. Before school was kept at the downstairs of her residence, the children had to travel a long distance to the school in Long Creek. Once the children started meeting at her downstairs for their lessons, she wrote letters to the ministries beseeching them for a school for the village children and in time they had their own school.
She told the Word Beyond Georgetown about the time when she had wanted to go abroad but was told that her old birth certificate was invalid to obtain a passport and so she needed a new birth certificate. When she turned up at GPO she was told that her records were lost but after paying a “lil thing” they “surprisingly” found them. She was able to get herself a new birth certificate. It was then she found out that she was named Beulah as her mother had always called her Enid (her middle name).
Bishnu Bedassie, who was sitting close by, shared a similar experience. In 2012 when his house in Silver Hill burned down and he lost everything, he too tried to reapply for his birth certificate but was told that all records were lost. He has an identical twin brother, and said he was told to use his brother’s name. He refused and to date has no birth certificate.
Major was born in Vigilance on the East Coast Demerara and lived in Buxton before moving to Silver Hill. She still considers herself a Buxtonian and is mother to nine children; she has 32 grandchildren and 13 great-grands.
She would like to see a structure put up in the Silver Hill cricket ground.
Leaving Major, tour guide Williams pointed out an old, little rundown building, which was once the post office and is used by the Women’s Community Policing Group. This group of women meets a few times a week to learn to do craft and make floral arrangements, cushions and scrap mats. The village also has a Men’s Community Policing Group.
Lynette Michael moved from Christianburg, Linden some 25 years ago and settled in Silver Hill on a piece of land her father had purchased years before. She, too, met no neighbours when she first arrived and still to date, has no immediate neighbour.
Michael has a little snackette by the public road where she sells plantain chips, channa, chicken foot and juice. Once a week she travels to Linden to buy plantains, channa, and water to make her juice including other groceries since there’s no grocery shop around. The bus ride to Linden costs her $300. On her return journey, laden with supplies, she pays an extra $1,000 for the bus to take her into the village.
Michael washes and cooks with rainwater and uses the water from the creek for drinking. The creek water, she said, is always running whereas the rainwater stored in her tank wouldn’t be as fresh.
One advantage of living in Silver Hill is the remoteness which only means the place is eerily quiet, which she loves. She also added that violence and cursing are not seen in the village, but stealing is an issue; her little shop was broken into five times already.
Major, who by this time had made her way out to the road, showed a part of the public road which was redone, but the pedestrian crossing sign had been covered and with school soon to reopen, she said it should have been repainted by the NDC.
Finally, the World Beyond Georgetown talked with tour escort Williams. She was born in Henrietta on the Essequibo Coast and lived for some time in Georgetown. She moved to Silver Hill 27 years ago after getting married. Her husband was born in the village so he had no idea of what it was like to live anywhere else, but she did and found the village to be dreary at first compared to the life she was accustomed to. However, over time she settled in nicely. Now she wouldn’t give it up for the world. It has become a haven to her. According to the woman, if she decides to sleep over at a sister living in Georgetown she’s restless all night. Silver Hill has become home.
She and her husband formerly planted 5 acres of pineapples but were forced to stop owing to the consistent thievery and decided to open a little shop on the road two miles from where she lives by the Demerara River. Right now things are slow, she said, but they will pick up when school reopens. To keep her drinks cool she stores them in an ice cooler. She buys ice every day from a man who passes by.
“I’d like to see better roads, water, jobs for the young people. The main job here is burning coals. Some go away in the interior,” she said. “When you ain’t getting your coals sell and people want to make a bargain you got to take it because you ain’t getting nothing better. Some days all you make is $800/$700 on a bag whole day. Both the women and men burning coals.
If the government could give persons or the community a grant where they can come together and sell some poultry it’ll be better.
“What I especially like about living here though is that it is quiet and peaceful; when you wake up in the mornings, the birds singing.”