Vauxhall is a tiny village in Canal Number One that is home to no more than 100 residents. The village is bordered by La Hueruese Adventure to the east, Beau Vosin to the west, Parfait Harmonie to the north and farmlands to the south for more than a mile.
The day of my visit was overshadowed by rain; there was no escaping it since not a scrap of blue could be sighted in the sky. The few people who were out kept their eyes on the clouds and were hurrying to their destinations; not all of them made it.
Loreen Singh had just moments before hung two bird cages belonging to her great-nephew near her bridge for the birds to get whatever sun there was, but was soon yelling for her niece to take them in.
Born and raised in Vauxhall, she attended L’Adventure Nursery, but, according to her was never “a book head” and before long she had stopped attending school, staying home to do chores. She recalled that the speedboat was the main mode of transportation in Canal Number One and she would wait for one at the edge of the canal whenever she needed a lift. The boat would take her as far as the Bagotville junction, from where she would take a car to her destination.
When she was older, she began working as a labourer on private farms, weeding and planting cassava, but over the years her nervous system deteriorated. In addition, she has had several strokes, having been diagnosed with diabetes. She makes monthly trips to the Georgetown Public Hospital where she attends two clinics.
Having never been married, she has no children nor anyone to provide for her so she makes do by planting cassava, sorrel and other vegetables. After much pleading for state care and with the help of her pastor she now receives public assistance. It is better than nothing, she said of the $8,000 she receives each month. But after her hospital visits, buying medication the hospital does not have, paying bills and buying groceries, nothing is what she is left with before the end of the month.
Often she is so broke, she has to walk a long distance to stand in line at the post office to collect the money. Singh lamented that she has been told by officials that her public assistance will not continue for much longer, as she has two other sisters who can assist her. But she noted that while they help once in a while, they cannot always do so as they have their own families and expenses.
Her great niece and nephew who stay with her are provided for by one of her sisters, since they lost their mother at the hands of their father.
But Singh, a member of the Bethel Congregational Church, is a firm believer; she stays faithful that things will work out for her, adding that she has the support of her brethren.
Naasson Henry is one of the few remaining farmers in Vauxhall. He is a native of the village. Vauxhall, he said, was initially a farming community but as generations came and went so did their zeal for farming. What made this even worse was the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate as those who had sugarcane farms used to supply the estate. His village, he said, is quiet and its people are reserved, unlike just a decade or two ago when they were more sociable.
Currently he attends the Government Technical Institute where he is pursuing studies in Agriculture and Mechanical Engineering.
Henry, his brother and father have a 75-rod farm where they plant mostly banana and plantain. They have also planted soursop, orange and guava and sometimes cash crops.
With the rainy season here, I asked about flooding in Vauxhall, Henry said that it has been a long time since the backdams have been flooded and this may be because their farm has excellent drainage.
The community, he said, has come a long way as regards infrastructure but there is more that can be done. He wishes there was a library where persons can go to do research and read, a wider road, streetlights and a recreational facility for youths who would often make use of the L’Adven-ture school ground for their games.
At a snackette at the head of Vauxhall, James Burgan sat making cherry juice to be sold. Burgan who hailed from Supply, East Coast Demerara, moved to Vauxhall when he was six years old with his parents and three other siblings. At that time, he recalled, the road was all mud, until it was built during the Burnham administration.
“From then to now nuff things change because the sluice not like before. It used to open for the boats to go and come from Georgetown. Stabroek Market was nothing like it is today. They had a walkway down to the canal where you used to stand and wait on the boats. You used to raise a coconut branch and they used to stop for you. People used to really live like family then. When mommy ain’t come from work yet in the afternoons we would stay at the neighbour who would give us dinner and we would eat together… a spoon for each of us until the food finish; not having enough teach us to learn to share with each other,” he reminisced.
He recalled joining the Guyana National Service during his teenage years, leaving after Burnham’s death in 1985. Then, for a number of years, he was employed with Wind Jammer Barefoot Cruises as a deckhand. He boasted of seeing four continents – South America, North America, Africa and Europe, including all of the Caribbean islands except for Tobago and Barbuda. He said he saw many famous sites and renowned celebrities, naming Clint Eastwood, George Foreman, Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise.
“I had opportunities to go away, but I choose to return. Guyana is the only country in this world with all these birds…,” Burgan said.
“Vauxhall is quiet and peaceful. Everybody knows everybody. People don’t get into problems with each other. I still got my boat papers,” he added. “I waiting to see what will happen with Exxon first.”
In the meantime, Burgan does construction, tiling, and manages his snackette where he sells cassava, sweet potato and plantain chips; nuts; pastries and fruit juices.
His major concerns are how unsafe things have become, claiming that the opening of Parfait Har-monie scheme contributed to this; both main bridges leading to and from the scheme are situated opposite Vauxhall.
Burgan added that streetlights should make it feel safer and would cater for those residents who work late nights and get home in the wee hours of the morning. He wishes there were a few more bus sheds along the road, adding that they provide rest and shade. He put up the bus shed near his snackette and said it serves as a haven for the public. While we chatted, a mother and her young child sought shelter from