Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 12th 2015 Contents A9
July 12, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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Set of 5 Votive Candles on designer tray with LED lights or can
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JIMMY ABOUD THE TEXTILE KING
SERVING YOU SINCE 1949
In fewer than five strides, Louisa
James can get from her wash area to
bedroom to kitchen. Crouching over
her bed to fold some clothes while her
cat looks on lazily, she tells us it was
desperation which led her to make the
20-foot long container her home for
the past ten years.
Poverty is only one of the problems
Louisa has had to contend with.
"I was in an abusive relationship
and the police come and take me
and place me in the home for bat-
She and her five children spent
eight months in the women's home.
"From the home of battered
women, my brother call me and
tell me he have a container and I
could come and live here," she
It was hard work over several
days but she singlehandedly turned
the container into her home.
"I end up clearing it out; it was
full of rat and snake and the land
was full of bush."
As rust-riddled as it may be, it
houses a metal bunker bed sleeping
three, while Iker, the eldest, shares
floor space with her mother. Four
of the children live with Louisa in
the container, whereas one is now
living with a relative.
With little ventilation, the con-
finement is terribly hot but a small
TV set and a dusty fan offer meagre
It's the only home her 11-year-
old daughter Joanna has known.
"I cook, wash, sleep, eat, rest do
everything in here, the only thing
is that it leaking real bad...When
rain fall it like a rice strainer," Louisa
explained. A glance up would show
beams of sunlight piercing through.
A worn green carpet helps to
soak up the flood water when it
Louisa had a job with Cepep but
she became severely ill, so she had
to give up her only source of
income. Her medication is not sup-
plied by public health care and pills
costing five hundred dollars each
are yet another luxury she must do
On the day we visited her, Iker
had a CXC exam and while other
parents may have found themselves
up with anxiety, Louisa too was
awake but for another reason.
"I hardly sleep last night. Rain
start to fall. I hear it falling on the
flour bucket; I had to get up and
check if the flour waste."
The flour was saved so it was
carrot dumpling as usual for lunch.
For Louisa, when it rains it
doesn't just pour, it floods. She has
to shoulder the pain of her children
being taunted at school.
Ily, who attends the St Madeline
High School a short walk away is
the usual target at school.
"They tell me look where you
living, you living in a container. It
rotten down, you are trailer trash,"
he told us.
He tells us he is usually ashamed
of his life and often contemplates
suicide. "I used to take a knife and
slash my skin. I tie rope around my
neck. Sometimes I think about
jumping off the school building."
He says his feelings are a blend
of anger and sadness, but living on
the train line in St Madeline, it's
his dream of a brighter day which
gets him by.
"I'm just trying to get a good
education and be something in life
so I could help my mother."
A resilient Louisa says she's not
proud of her life but has learnt to
play the hand life has dealt so her
children can get as much of an equal
chance as she can scrape for them.
"I does take a little drop so we
could get a little light for the chil-
dren to do their school work, until
the neighbours call T&TEC police,"
she said as she pointed to a bulb
suspended by small wires from the
Family celebrations are often not
the joyous affairs they are for other
"Birthdays does be hard. I does
try but I can't always give them
what they want. Look Iker birthday
coming up just now and she want
a cake from Pricesmart. I tell her
I will try, but I don't know. I hop-
ing," Louisa said.
Christmas cheer is supplied by
church hampers. These have to be
carefully rationed so that some stuff
can be left over for the New Year.
For the rest of the year, a $500
food card and a public assistance
grant of $1,800 are carefully bud-
"I does buy rice, flour, sugar, oil,
but it have plenty I does leave out.
Look, I does hardly buy chicken."
Louisa tells us she has applied
to the State for housing but has not
received a favourable response. Iron-
ically, state land is being cleared
behind her container to build
"I would be glad to get help. The
principal, church, councillor and a
lot of people write letter for HDC
for me to get a house, but every
time you go it's always photocopy
and photocopy and you never get
Unable to catch a break, Louisa
continues to dream big and while
her circumstance may be different,
hers is the same dream every moth-
"All I want to see is my children
get a good education. I want to see
Iker go to university because I know
Louisa has big dreams
...even as she makes a container her home
Urvashi Tiwari-Roopnarine will be reporting on poverty and other
critical issues that affect potential voters, and examining the
parties' responses in their manifestos.
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