At the tender age of twelve, Richard Fresco entered the grown-up world of work when he gained employment at the Amerally Sawmills in New Amsterdam, Berbice. He left the job several times, but kept returning.
Richard was twenty-seven years old when his world almost ended and his dreams appeared to be forever shattered.
Whilst on the job last year, he fell off a truck, broke his neck and is now paralysed from his waist down, with just a limited amount of movement in his hands, He needs constant attention which is provided by his mother Virginia Giddings.
Richard is her last child, but the woman is surviving on her old age pension, occasional help from NGO’s and public assistance payments, which have been infrequent, and are only now being regularised for them.
But things have begun to move rapidly in the young man’s life in recent months. There is a small glimmer of hope. First there was the gift of a house that replaced the shack in which they were living in Angoy’s Avenue in New Amsterdam.
Now with the assistance of the Mark Benschop Foundation, progress is being made with further medical treatment. The Foundation is trying to help the young man access surgery at the Balwant Singh Hospital.
A free medical check up at the hospital however indicates that his chances are minimal, since so much time had passed since the accident. However, before anything definite could be decided, an MRI scan of Richard’s cervical spine has to be done.
This may be done at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital as soon as the funds can be raised. Mother and son have expressed some bitterness at the apparent lack of concern by the employers.
Virginia said that all the employer did, was to take her son to the hospital and that was it. During her son’s long stay and to date, there have been no visits. Additionally, she claimed that when checks were made at the National Insurance Scheme, it was discovered that there was no record of payments made by the sawmill on Richard’s behalf, although deductions were made from his wages for this.
An appeal had been made to the Ministry of Labour for assistance in dealing with the issue, but to date there has been no response. However, Virginia says that this might be because she was unable to leave her son for the follow-ups required.
However, the Benschop Foundation will now be doing this on his behalf.
While describing the issue as unfortunate, the Foundation adds that it is a shameful thing when persons can treat each other in this manner, especially since Richard was on the job at the time of his accident.
Richard himself feels a sense of bitterness against the owners of the sawmill. He says that he expected better of his employers, “I kyaan move, I kyaan do anything for me self. Many days I does deh wondering. Put me in a position like dem, I would never do a ting like that…They real beast to me like. Nothing they ain’t want give me, nothing. Never even come and see me,” the young man told this newspaper.
Richard related how dedicated he had been, working late hours, and getting up in the wee hours of the morning to get the job done, sometimes even working through the night.
“This man shoulda still give me something man, even if is a five dollar self,” he concluded in disgust. The Benschop Foundation has been making efforts to contact the sawmill owners but had no success so far.
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