It has been 10 months since Gopaul Etwaroo was rescued from a pig pen at the back of his father’s North Sophia home and the young man, who doctors say is on the autistic spectrum, has finally found a home.
After six months of unsuccessfully appealing to government for help, the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) has been able to find a family willing to foster Etwaroo.
“She’s a single mother with a young son. We have added a room on to her house and contribute $40,000 and groceries every month to assist in his upkeep,” GWMO President Urica Primus explained.
This is significantly less than the $80,000 a week the organisation was paying for the young man to receive specialised care immediately after his rescue. For six months, he received physical and psychological therapy, which significantly improved his quality of life and expression.
“He moved from a toddler to a child. In fact, if you ask him he will tell you he’s 12,” a chuckling Primus shared.
It might not seem so but this is a great victory.
Last May, when he was found naked in the padlocked enclosure, Etwaroo did not speak. The enclosure was too low for him to stand. He slept on a bench constructed from wooden planks and ate from what was provided in recycled bleach bottles. He also had no bowel control and relieved himself in a trough.
His stepmother, Parbattie Sukhu, had claimed that she and her husband, Etwaroo’s father, were forced to place him in the pen because he was destroying household items. She also claimed that he was kept naked because he refused to wear clothes.
Immediately after his rescue, Etwaroo was forced to wear diapers.
Today, he washes his own clothes, cleans up after himself and maintains his room as a sanctuary.
“There can be a mess anywhere else but he doesn’t let it… [get] into his room,” Primus said.
He enjoys making music and riding his bicycle. As part of his therapy, he learnt how to make brooms as a source of income.
However, the night terrors he experienced after his rescue remain. “He gets anxious in evening and sometimes thinks he is still in the pen but at least he’s no longer afraid of being touched. Before he seemed to associate touch with being constrained but now he lets you touch him briefly,” she explain-ed, before adding that he continues to go to the Georgetown Public Hospital for therapy and medication
His care, however, has left the organisation in debt. Four months after he was relocated from the specialised facility, the GWMO still owe approximately $150,000.
“So far, the only agency which committed to assisting us in paying is the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). We haven’t received the money yet but they have committed. We also have received help from Sortex Mining and several members but we still owe,” she noted.