Number 11 Village, Corentyne, Berbice is a small village with a population of just over 300 people. However, the village is popular for its large-scale fishing. While most residents earn their living from fishing and cattle rearing, others are attached to the sugar estates in the region or operate small businesses, like groceries and beer gardens.
This village is predominantly Indian and has no place of worship, no school, no community centre, police station, health centre or playfield.
If you travel from New Amsterdam, you get to the village directly after you pass the ancient now demolished toll gate.
Residents said the village, which consists of two short cross streets has always been peaceful and quiet. They also noted that most persons have migrated to foreign countries over the years.
Varone Paul, 58, who has resided in the village all of her life, said she enjoys living there. However, she noted that the bridge over the trench which leads to her house lot needs immediate repairs. Paul said it has been years now that residents have been complaining about the bridge but nothing has been done as yet. She explained that residents have been coming together and repairing parts of the bridge by replacing “old boards”, however, she noted that they alone cannot afford to fix the entire bridge.
She stressed that she along with the other residents would be grateful if the regional officials would step in and offer some assistance by fixing the bridge.
Paul’s daughter, Chandrawattie Paul, also known as ‘Priya’, 20, said she recently gave birth to her first child and it is unsafe for her to use the bridge. She worries that one day she could be crossing the bridge with her son and it could collapse. She said it is dangerous and should be fixed as soon as possible before something happens and persons get hurt.
The Pauls noted that the villagers are co-operative but there is only so much they can afford to do.
Meanwhile, World Beyond Georgetown caught up with, Kennard (only name given), a father of two, who was on his way to catch fish. He said that while he has a permanent job, selling the fish he catches helps him to meet his financial obligations. “This trench right here in the village we does catch fish,” he said, “Mostly tilapa we does catch.”
One of the oldest villagers, Pram, said that before “old age” he used to catch fish and sell at the now defunct Sheet Anchor Market. He now stays active by planting his garden.
Kishan, who is a construction worker, was also fishing in the Number 11 trench, known as, “Salt Trench.” He stressed that while he fishes to earn an extra dollar, it is something he quite enjoys. He pointed out that since the trench is in the village it makes it a lot easier to fish.
Another villager, Esther Peters, also spoke of the bridge that needs fixing. She said, “Me and my mother sickly, if we take in night time we can’t get one car to come in and take us hospital.” The villager told World Beyond Georgetown that there are many school children in the village, however, it was highlighted that one family has several children, who are not attending school because “dem poor, de man can’t afford to send dem.”
The villagers also highlighted that since it is 2017, and their village has been in existence for over 50 years, it should have land line telephones. “Dem promise us to put in phone and so, we na get it yet. You a feel fa leff this village cause like dem forget bout abie,” Peters said.
Meanwhile, one of the two shopkeepers in the village, Sharmila Bronne, 48, said she has operated her grocery and beer garden for over ten years. She complained about business declining gradually over the years. She also voiced her frustration at the new taxes that have been implemented, opining that it has now become more difficult to run a successful small business in Guyana. “With all dem taxes what you go sell fa get lil money?” she questioned.
“Business was better years ago because we na had all them taxes here. You cannot say you making profit because what profit really you making with all them taxes? Den estate closing; what gun happen to dem people? And who gun buy from me?”
The other shopkeeper, Baby Hemchand, 27, who operates Suraj Grocery and Liquor opposite Bronne, said business has “slowed up” tremendously over the past few years. She noted that since it is a slow area and not heavily populated there is not much room for her business to flourish.
Touching on crime, the woman said that her business has been robbed three times since being in operation. The most serious and recent robbery was in 2011, where approximately five perpetrators invaded her home armed with guns and cutlasses and her robbed her of money and jewelry.
She recalled the horrid night on which the bandits attacked her husband. She said they beat him mercilessly and chopped him about four times, the most severe chop wound being on his head.
“That time me had me son alone and me husband was sick. We didn’t had grill, we had board and dem knock off the board and come in and he [her husband] pull one cutlass but he couldn’t do nothing. As soon as dem enter de house dem start chop,” she recalled.
After that incident they closed their business in fear that the perpetrators might return. However, she said, the ordeal left her husband not being able to do heavy work owing to his head injury. As such about one year later they decided to return home and reopen their business in the hope that they would never be victims again. The wife said, “If me hear anything knock and so me a tell he is na nothing. Even if me frighten me a tell he na worry because de doctor say he can get an instant heart attack. So me a make me mind strong for protect me family and let he na worry.”
Hemchand also joked about her birth name being “Baby.” She said she was teased constantly as a child because of her name and persons still find it funny that her correct name is Baby.
The mother of two young children also stated that she would love for a community centre and playground to be erected in the village.
Most villagers said their favourite thing to do was to go and hang out with their neighbours in the afternoon and catch up on the latest village gossip.