Arya Samaj builds houses for those in need
CORENTYNE, BERBICE – Her love for her children and knowing the importance of sticking together as a family is what kept 54-year old Desiree Patterson going.
The woman who lives at Lot Seven, Nurney Village on the Corentyne had to be separated from her two school-aged children for almost two years. Never once did she give up hope of seeing a better day nor did she shirk her responsibility.
The circumstance that led to that situation was when her four bedroom house was flattened by fire of an unknown origin on February 1st, 2008.
“On that day I wasn’t at home. I used to go and strip pointer to make pointer broom and when I was doing that I got the message saying the house on fire. Nobody was at home and I can’t tell you how the fire started.”
She lost everything.
After the tragedy, she asked to stay at a friend’s home while her children had to stay at someone else’s. “For almost two years we lived apart. It was hard not to have them with me. It was rough too because I still had to find everything to mind them. I can’t explain what it was like living away from my children, but we had to do it.”
She did not give up and worked her fingers to the bone to find a means of rebuilding a place to call home and to unite her family.
“With the money I get, I started to knock something up and then somebody tell me about the Arya Samaj.”
Eighteen months after the fire, she contacted a member of the group, made her plea and was successful.
A few months later, construction of the $480,000 house began.
“By December we had a two bedroom concrete home. It is very nice to have a place to call home. I am so glad for it. We are comfortable and I am thankful to the Arya Samaj. I still sell the cool-down and ice at a school. But when school was closed it was hard but now school open and things pick up a lil bit but it still rough.”
Her children who are 17 and 15-years old attend the Central Corentyne Secondary School while the other is an adult and lives on her own. At the time, the two younger ones resided with her, “Life was rough before the fire. I used to sell lil cool-down and ice and that is how we used to survive. I used to make about $2,000 a week and that had to mind me and my two children.”
Her daughter is preparing to write five subjects at the 2010 Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) exam.
“The 15-year old boy, he ain’t writing the exam this year. I usually get public assistance for him and I didn’t get for four months. So it pile up and when I collected that I use it to pay for my daughter CXC.”
She can now see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
“I plan to apply for a security work. Was God who keep us through all that. I know one day things would look up for us.”
A few miles down the Corentyne Highway at Rose Hall Town in Beharry Street, is 22-year old Andrea Giddings. The uneducated and unemployed woman has four children for a matching number of men. “Me mother couldn’t afford to send me to school and to mind me and then the situation with me mother and father, I get pregnant at 14.”
She did whatever it took to survive including having sex with the opposite gender for a fee.
Andrea Giddings said she does not know what love is.
“No man ever love me and me never love no man. Me always had to fend fuh meself.”
The children are seven, five, three and two-years old.
“Them is all different father. When me get pregnant them men gone. We used to live all over and me does do lil snack wuk. The lil house that we bin living in fall down a day. (When it happened) I been in de kitchen washing wares and de whole roof top fall on me.”
As fate would have it, no one was injured on that November 13th, 2008 day. The family was forced to sleep in an open shed for quite a while.
Many days her older children are not sent to school, “Because me don’t get money to buy thing fuh them eat so me nah send them school.”
When the Kaieteur News’ Berbice Reporter visited them last week, only the eldest child was at school and none of them had eaten for the day.
“We nah eat nuttin’. Me ain’t get no money. Later me son grandfather gwine send a lil something fuh we eat.”
One day when she felt it was too much for her to bear she decided to approach the Project Manager of the Arya Samaj, Vijay Ramoo.
She later met with other executive members of the Arya Samaj who assessed her situation.
“I does worry because me mek four children and nobody ain’t helping me with them. Me don’t plan fuh mek more children.”
Now she is living in a newly constructed two bedroom wooden house.
“I feel good ‘cause them (Arya Samaj) come help me. I gwine care this one.”
Work on the new structure commenced by November 26th, 2009. Neighbours along with wellwishers assisted in the actual construction work. The $243,000 building is not yet completed; some minor work is still left to be done.
Meanwhile, Project Manager of the Arya Samaj Vijay Ramoo said construction of a one-bedroom home for the Mohabir family of Hampshire, Corentyne is to commence today. The patriarch of that family is blind and is also an amputee. The house is expected to be completed by this month end and would cost $500,000.
Head of the New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission, Pandit Suresh Sugrim, speaking via telephone from New Jersey, USA, pointed out that the New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir, Inc. is not only committed to realising the third principle of the Noble Society which is to learn, to teach and to preach the Veda, but it is also dedicated to assisting those in unfortunate circumstances.
“In fact, we continue to help impoverished children and seniors with a better standard of living, either by education, food items, housing, food and/or uniforms vouchers. By reaching out to those families that are in dire need, we help them to regain their great sense of human dignity.”
According to him, more houses are to be constructed this year but the problem is finding the necessary plots of land.
The New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir Inc. was founded 20 years ago. A local chapter was established at Williamsburg on the Corentyne on July 4th 2007. The Humanitarian Mission itself came into being in 2005. The head of the organisation pointed out that the organisation survives by the benevolence of donors especially those who reside overseas.