Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 13th 2015 Contents SHALIZA HASSANALI
Under a dim street light at Grass
Trace, Flanagin, brothers Mark Hal-
bal, 14, and Aaron, 11, study at
It s not an ideal place for the boys
to beat their books, but for their
poverty-stricken parents, Winston
and Harriet Halbal, better cannot
Hard-pressed for cash and unable
to land permanent jobs, the Halbals
have been facing an uphill battle to
survive in the far-flung community
in which they live.
They are known as the poorest
family in Flanagin, as they manage
without electricity and pipe-borne
water, and with only limited food,
in an old one-bedroom wooden
hovel whose furnishings consist of
two pieces of dingy sponge, a
makeshift fireside stove, and a faded
Of the couple s eight children,
only Mark and Aaron live with them.
The other six live on their own.
Eight years ago, Winston, a farmer,
was the sole provider for the fam-
"I worked for a reasonable salary
and took care of my family s needs.
Life was good back then," said Win-
ston, showing the callouses on the
inside of his palms.
But Winston s life came crashing
down when he was involved in a
vehicular accident eight years ago.
The accident left Winston, 48, med-
ically unfit after he suffered multiple
With mounting bills and an empty
cupboard, Winston said Harriet, 49,
became the main breadwinner doing
household chores in the district for
The backbreaking work earns her
between $100 and $150 a job.
On a good week, Harriet would
take home $300, which is inadequate
to feed the family and send Mark to
Asja Boys College. Every week, the
Halbals have to cough up $135 to get
Mark to and from his Charlieville
Aaron, a Standard Four pupil of
Flanagin RC, walks to school.`
Winston pointed to several missing
floorboards in his verandah, where
he and his wife sleep.
Three years ago, Winston said,
the boys bedroom caved in, while
the kitchen partially collapsed.
"We gave the boys our bedroom
and we moved into the gallery to
sleep, which is open to the elements.
Whenever it rains we would still get
wet," Winston explained.
Expecting the worst in 2016
As the country faces a recession,
Harriet said the family expects the
worst in 2016.
"When things get bad I would go
in the back of the yard and dig for
yam. This is what we does eat almost
every day. It s yam and yam. Christ-
mas coming and I don t have nothing
to offer my sons. It s a happy time
for many but not for us. It tears us
apart. On Christmas morning when
everybody eating their ham, lamb
and jam, we does stay inside we old
house. We don t come out for
nobody to insult we. Whatever we
have to eat...if it is rice and salt, we
don t ask nobody for nothing," Har-
She said many days the family
would go without food.
Harriett spoke proudly of her two
sons, who often complain about the
conditions in which they live.
"Aaron has the potential to pass
for Presentation College in Chagua-
nas. This is what his teachers have
been telling me. He tops the class
in mental Maths questions. It grieves
my heart to see them struggling."
Mark, she said, was also excelling
in the science subjects.
At the time of the visit, the boys
were in school. The family had no
photos of them. Yesterday, speaking
to Aaron on a neighbour s phone,
he said that he placed fourth in test.
He said he had gotten used to study-
ing under the dim street light. Mark,
meanwhile, said the only difficulty
he faced when using the street light
was when there was no electricity
in the community. Both boys said
they want to become lawyers when
they grow up.
Winston admitted that in an
attempt to give his sons a better life,
he sent them to live with one of his
"Yes, it s true, I couldn t afford to
feed them and sent the boys by one
of my daughters. But after about
nine months, they started to fall back
in their school work and I brought
them back home. There have been
more downs than ups for us," Win-
Villagers confirmed Winston s
Winston said he did not get a
proper education and wanted the
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 13, 2015
study under street lamp
Harriet Halbal at home in Flanagin
Town, Tabaquite, on Wednesday.
PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
• Continues on Page A7
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