Photos by Joanna Dhanraj
Lust en Rust is a new village; its residents were given lots in 2014. It is situated 10 kilometres from the Vreed-en-Hoop Police Station and is home to no more than 70 persons.
Lust en Rust is neighbours with Recht door Zee, which was featured in this column on September 10.
But unlike its neighbour, Lust en Rust give the impression of a forgotten village. It is surrounded by dense shrubbery through which one can spot a house here and there. It also seems to have been forgotten by persons who paid for house lots and by the government, both present and past administrations. It would seem that even the rain has forgotten the village. The dusty, potholed streets have become very narrow owing to the encroachment of the bushes.
When it does rain, most of the people have to endure floods; their lands are situated lower than the road. Rusty water marks left by floodwaters can be seen at the bottom of houses. In some areas, vacant lots are swamps.
At one lot, Moses Ramroop was busy making concrete blocks to sell. The contractor said that when he’s not building, he makes blocks. His teenage son was helping out. When asked why his son was not in school, he explained that his son is more of a practical individual and he was encouraged by his previous headmistress to enrol him in the Kuru Kuru Training College so that he can learn a skill. He said this process is already underway.
The man shared that living in Lust en Rust is difficult as there is no electricity or potable water. Residents mostly source water from Recht door Zee. Pointing to a black tank, the man expressed his gratitude to the Red Thread Organization for providing residents with them. However, they cannot be filled when there is no rain. They’re always hoping for water, he said.
Under a shed behind concrete blocks, Godfrey Richmond was taking his lunch break. Richmond has been living there more than two years already. The community, he explained, is always happy for the rains but when they do come they are often flooded. The drains were cleaned in part, and so most remain blocked. A look showed that they were clogged with weeds. Because of the clogged drains the flood waters take a long time to recede.
“When the rain don’t fall, we got to get water from the conservancy. We big people can manage but I does feel it fuh them people that got four and five children who got to get water to drink, cook, wash and bathe all of them,” said Richmond He further stated that the main pipes were already put in, but still they are not able to access water. Residents, he said, after learning that pipes were installed beneath the ground eagerly went to the Guyana Water Incorporated office to sign up for service, but were told by officials that they were unsure as to when they would have access to potable water.
Heaps of mud were seen along streets and Richmond explained that residents have to purchase mud to build up their land. He added that when the road was being built and was dug out, contractors took away the mud, which residents could have used for this purpose.
“We have to be on we Ps and Qs here,” he said, changing the subject. “People breaking into we houses. Them boys [thieves] always on the lookout. Once you go out and pass them, them done know which house you living in. You can’t sleep out from here. One man catch the thief and beat he and the police lock he up instead, so you can’t do them nothing; them got more rights than you.”
Richmond further shared that at night residents would hear sounds which indicate that people are around but it is too dark to see anything. They are happy for moonlight nights, he said. Stealing has reached such an extent that thieves would sneak into Lust en Rust and butcher cows, chopping their heads off before chopping them into four and driving away with the pieces in vehicles. It’s sad, he said. He recalled seeing one cattle farmer crying after they made off with two of his cows. He added that persons in the village sometimes know when these things are happening but can’t do a thing about it because they fear for their safety. He lamented that the police do not help and when they do lock these men up, they are usually back out on the streets by the afternoon. Even as we talked, police patrolled the area; which they did three times during my visit there.
Asked what he likes about his community, Richmond mentioned that the breezy atmosphere keeps him cool.
A few months ago, an official from Ministry of Housing had visited the area with the media, he stated, and he was hoping that she would talk with persons in the area, but he said she just spoke with the media and left. They had also invited CN Sharma to visit the village and residents from the village had gathered in anticipation of his arrival but he never showed up.
Some time ago Lust en Rust was paid a visit by Hamilton Green, who made promises. Richmond added, “He said, ‘Comrades I’ll be back….’”. However, the community never saw or heard from him again despite attempts to do so.
Rohit (only name given) was busy filling his wheel barrow with mud when we caught up with him. According to the man, he had worked with the previous administration in the interior as a job line operator. He was promised by them that they would have the land filled but never did anything about it. “This load here alone is $20,000 and I done full the place with ten loads already,” he said.
Rohit had migrated from Leguan with his family after his grandchildren secured passes for schools on the West Coast Demerara. He shared that instead of renting a place he sought to purchase a piece of land but instead of meeting better; he met just the opposite – no water or lights and having to get water from the conservancy a block away. “We get tanks from Red Thread. They gave us 37 blocks, four steel and four sack of cement. They promise we gutter but nothing happen; we had to get we own gutter. The tanks them there but we waiting on the rain,” said Rohit.
The man praised his kind neighbours adding that when he’s not around they keep watch.
He further added that the salaries that people making are too little to make it in Lust en Rust. His next door neighbour uses a generator and is tasked with finding $35,000 every month for fuel.
Alicia Richmond and her three children live in a house built by Food for the Poor. The family has been living here just over a year now. Alicia who suffers from an eye problem said she once worked at Noble House Fishery cleaning shrimp, but the water would sometimes get into her eyes which would affect it and make matters worse. After a while, she was instructed by her doctor to find another job. The single mother has been unemployed since April. She has since sent out applications but has not gotten any response. “I just trusting in God to get a job,” she said.
When she was working, her day started at five in the mornings preparing breakfast and lunch for her children then hurrying off to get to work for seven. Her teenage daughter would get the younger ones ready for school after she left then send them off to school in their school bus before hurrying to get to school herself. After school, her children stayed at a daycare until she picked them up after work. It was a struggle then, she said, but at least she had an income; she now depends on a relative overseas.
Life without water, the woman said, can be too much to handle at times adding that only two Friday nights ago, she had no water and called a taxi to take her to Recht door Zee; the fare was $800.