Up until last month, Kanya Andrews, 33, her husband, Bertrum, and their six children were trying to make the best of their cramped one-bedroom wooden house at Liverpool Village, Corentyne, Berbice.
“It was hard for us and for them,” Kanya told Stabroek News. “When them children ready to go school morning, them got to wait one by one and then change,” she explained.
The couple are raising a 17-year old, 15-year old, 13-year old, 11-year old, seven-year old, and a one-year old. The five older children are all in school, with the 17-year-old, Aqueena Skeete, preparing to sit five subjects at the next CSEC examinations and the 11-year-old, Quintie Andrews, preparing to sit the next National Grade Six Assessment.
Bertrum, 43, had been employed at the Bloomfield Village rice mill, however, he lost his job early last year when the mill went out of operation.
He then went into small-scale farming to provide for the family.
Kanya said she would often discuss with her husband the need to expand their home but due to their lack of finances, discuss was all they could do.
That is until Food For The Poor (FFTP) Guyana intervened.
Her family is one of 10 families in Region Six that recently received new two-bedroom houses from FFTP Guyana at a simple ceremony held at the St. Francis Community Developers headquarters in Rose Hall Town.
Kanya explained that last month Alex Foster, President of the St. Francis Community Developers, who works hand in hand with FFTP Guyana in Region Six, and an employee showed up at her door and told her about the organisation’s housing project. She said her life changed that day.
“I can’t tell you how much we are thankful for this house,” Kanya said. “Now my children can sleep peacefully in one room and we can have another room and morning times they can use both room and get ready and done faster,” she added.
The couple thanked FFTP Guyana and Foster, while explaining that the new home was the “push” they needed.
Among the other recipients is Sattie Ramotar, 38, a single mother of six of Kilcoy Chesney, Corentyne.
“Abie na been get nuff space and abie does got to cook and sleep and do all thing one place,” the woman, who lost her husband last year, said.
“All me life, when me move into this house then me feel comfortable and me watch me children them, them comfortable now to,” an emotional Ramotar added, while also noting that she has since converted her former house into a kitchen.
The woman’s three eldest sons have since become fishermen and work at sea to provide for her and their younger siblings.
Other families who benefited from the housing project are from Light Town Village, Lonsdale Village, and Brothers Village, all in East Bank Berbice; Fyrish Village, Nurney Village, and Manchester Village, and Hampshire Settlement, all in the Corentyne.
Approval for six new houses
In addition to the 10 new homes that were handed over, construction of six houses within the region has been approved for 2018.
Ciskea Gray, 42, is one of the expectant beneficiaries of the new homes to be constructed this year.
The single mother of two explained that the house she presently lives in “is shaking,” while the yard quickly floods with the slightest rainfall. As a result, she said she is anxiously awaiting the day when she can move herself and two children into the new house.
Gray, who is employed with the Whim/Bloomfield Neighbourhood Democratic Council as a weed cleaner, also noted that one of her biggest goals this year is to save to purchase a computer for her 13-year-old daughter, who is presently in third form at the Lower Corentyne High School. “I use to pay $5,000 rent and that money I will save so I can buy a computer for my daughter before she reach fourth form, so it can help she do she work and SBA [School-Based Assessment] and everything,” she said.
The other expectant new homeowners are from Auchlyne Village, Chesney Squatting Area, Number One, Albion, and Tain Settlement, all in the Corentyne, and Johanna North, in Black Bush Polder.
At the handing over ceremony, Andrea Benjamin, FFTP Guyana Project Officer, noted that 3,000 houses have so far been constructed and handed over to families throughout the country since the start of its housing initiative in 2004.
The houses have been built in regions Six, Five, Four, Two and One. In 2017 alone, it was noted, 100 houses were constructed, with 30 being for families in Region Six. It was noted that 34 adults and 91 children will benefit in total from the 10 new houses and the six to be constructed in Region Six. “We know that housing is a problem for poor families, not only in Region Six but throughout the country and our mandate is to ensure that every family, regardless of what their economic status is, to have adequate housing available for them,” Benjamin said, while adding that with the necessary support from stakeholders, the organisation is working on expanding the project to outlying areas.
Meanwhile, a simple appreciation ceremony was held last week Friday for Food for the Poor by the recipients of wheelchairs in Region Six.
Foster, who spoke briefly at the ceremony, explained that St. Francis Community Developers has been collaborating with FFTP Guyana for over 26 years. In particular, he noted that the organization has been generous in supporting members of the special needs community.
According to Foster, over 200 wheelchairs have been handed out to persons in Region Six over the past fiscal year.
Foster also called for citizens to be more helpful to and less judgmental of persons who suffer from a disability.
Additionally, he stressed that it is time for adequate ramps to be constructed at all new buildings for wheelchair users. “The government can do one simple thing that will revolutionise the access and movement with special needs and that is every new building that is going to be constructed in this country for public use must have access for people with disabilities,” he said, while also challenging the business community to include the construction of ramps in the layout of their business places.
FFTP Guyana Senior Manager Jimeel Davis, who was present at the appreciation ceremony, noted that over the last three years the organisation has donated 1,500 wheelchairs across Guyana.
Davis explained that Food for the Poor has always been donating wheelchairs, however, three years ago the magnitude of the project increased because it was noticed that there was a significant need in Guyana. “We give wheelchairs that fit the exact size of persons. Not only that, we are trying to make sure that the wheelchair is fully set up and usable. If there is any problem with the wheelchairs, all our partners have parts and tools… to replace the wheelchairs,” he said.
He noted that in 2016, Food for the Poor partnered with the Free Wheelchair Mission, which makes the distribution possible.
During the appreciation ceremony, it was noted that there was a child in need of a wheelchair that could hold him in an upright position. Because of his disability, his current wheelchair seats him in a slouched position.
Davis, before addressing the gathering, made a phone call and then announced that a wheelchair to benefit that child would be available for him in a week’s time.
He also noted that requests have been made for folding wheelchairs, which will better enable users to move about with transportation. Davis said a new shipment of wheelchairs will arrive in the country in June and a majority of them would be the folding type. “Persons who have to travel can come and swap their wheelchairs and the ones [that do no fold] we will give to institutions, such as hospitals,” he explained.