Fort Canje Dharm Shala residents continue to suffer – Caretaker
FORT CANJE, BERBICE – They may have served their country well, but their last days are far from the best. This is the view of the Caretaker of the Dharm Shala at Fort Canje, Pastor Lindsay Erskine.
He said the facility is home to 12, including one female but the conditions under which these persons dwell are unsatisfactory.
Due to the recent high tides, the institution has been under some three feet of water from since Thursday.
This he said is a frequent occurrence.
“Every month we are flooded for about three to four days. We need help to fix the plumbing in these buildings and to build a proper sea dam to prevent water from coming in. Imagine these elderly must live in this water. It is not safe for them. It is not right.”
The Fort Canje location was constructed in 1921 and 12 years ago major rehabilitation was executed. The facility is controlled by a society and according to him; some believe that it should be closed. He said it is situated some 12 feet from the Canje River.
“Our back fence is just by the river. The sea defense, which was made of wood and mud, has deteriorated. Because of the conditions here many of the people left. On to last week a woman left after something stuck her foot when she was walking in the water during the high tide. We don’t know what it was.”
He believes that the residents may all depart sooner or later in search of better places to call home.
“There is a concrete reservoir here, about five feet or higher and imagine the men…some of them in their 80’s and 60’s and so have to climb up on the roof of the reservoir to dip out water to use bathe, flush toilet, cook and so. This is not safe for them. What happens if one of them falls in?”
He opined that these senior citizens do not deserve such a life. According to him, some of them made adequate provision for their old age but were scammed by relatives or trusted ones, “It is not that they deserve to be here. It is just real unfortunate circumstances that led them to be there in the first place. It’s sad to see how they are living. They live in the heart of the mosquitoes and there are no mosquito nets.”
He is appealing for help in every possible way.
The institution is currently undergoing extensive repairs, which is being done in phases because of a lack of funds.
The electrical and masonry work was completed on Wednesday, and the carpentry is to be completed today. So far some $700,000 was invested by the Dharm Shala’s Head Office in Georgetown.
With no potable water supply residents are forced to consume mainly rain water. During the dry season they depend on outsiders to help. According to Mr. Erskine who took up the position two months ago, the facility has never received service from the Guyana Water Inc. The next phase of the work is to install the plumbing then new attempts would be made for the utility company to provide potable water. Even during the recent rainy season they were unable to secure water due to poor guttering on the buildings.
The home is subsidized by the Head Office in Georgetown.
“The businessmen in Berbice do not help at all. The Dharm Shala in Georgetown would collect from the business people there and share with us here in Berbice.”
Neighdyal Sriram is 53-years old and said he is hypertensive, diabetic, has an enlarged heart and problems with his lungs. He took up residence in May.
“Me ain’t got no ID card or so I used to live in Bartica and I had one in 2000 but it lost. I depend on the Dharm Shala for everything. I do the cooking here. The place does flood like two times a month. This last high tide water reaching we till over yuh knee. We don’t even get water from GUYWA.”
Edward Richardson lost his sight in 2008. The 84-year old found his way to the Dharm Shala 18 years ago after a lengthy stay in a hospital.
“I have nobody to look after my interest. I used to work and all that, imagine that and look at me now. Look what happen to me. I ain’t draw no pension for this year. They say I have to get ID card, I ain’t got one, it lost how long. I got ten months pension for last year because I did authorize somebody to collect it. The Judge used to collect it for me but he dead now.”
The man said even if he has relatives, he is unaware of their existence and they of his. “Some of them dead out and the rest, me ain’t even know where they deh. The last person I authorize after the judge dead thief me money and gone. So I ain’t authorizing anybody again.”
Fifty-nine year old George Croft needs public assistance. The Dharm Shala has been his home for three months now and it is no bed of roses but he has no other place to go. It is the same for 55-year old Chetram, who has been living there for 18 months.