Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 26th 2015 Contents A7
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Gulf City Lowlands/La Romaine:10am-7pm
The Falls West Mall:12pm-6pm
*Books (exclude West Indian Titles, Schools Books,
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In Cunaripo, one passes an old,
smiling man sitting in front of
Scotty s Recreation Club, green
pumpkin fields with blue water bar-
rels, gnarled trees with hanging
vines, and a century-old Presby-
terian school, to reach a destitute
family of 18 who live at the edge of
In the tiny, blue house next to Ma
Sankar s Estate in remote Guaico,
Tamana, off Sangre Grande, grand-
mother Joan Lopez lives with her
husband, nine grandchildren and
seven children of her own. How they
survive is a near miraculous tale.
The children, aged between six
and 18, have no pipe-borne water
to use. They depend on rainwater
and a truck-borne supply.
Until 2003 when they got elec-
tricity, a battery-powered television
was their main entertainment in the
"When Christmas came I used to
pay $10 to charge the battery every
six days so the children could watch
their shows," Lopez said.
The family had been getting by
on the meagre earnings Lopez and
her husband, Ellis, made picking
oranges and grapefruit on McDow-
ell s citrus estate in Tamana.
When the owners died and the
estate closed, things took a turn for
the worse. Ellis, a skilled mason, got
work off and on constructing houses
and one daughter got a job as a secu-
Their incomes are what the entire
family lives off of. That, "little hand-
outs" and the kitchen garden Lopez
cultivates on a small strip of the
landlord s land around the house.
"I plant tomatoes, bodi, baigan,
fig, pumpkin, caraille, pepper and
plantain," Lopez said. The produce
from the garden helps put food on
the family s table and brings in a few
extra dollars from the market.
When they get a "ten days" from
the Unemployment Relief Pro-
gramme in the area, Lopez and Ellis
take it gratefully.
She ended up with seven grand-
children after their parents died, she
said. Her daughter, Erica, 35, got sick
and died last November. The chil-
dren s father died three years ago.
Before she died, Erica had built a
small wooden house adjoining the
family home and this is where her
children stay with one of her sisters.
Two of Lopez s daughters have
one child each. Add those to her
own seven and Erica s children and
that s how 18 of them ended up living
in the house. All the little children
attend the 1904 Cunaripo Presby-
terian School down the hill. Lopez
said after their mother died state
grants she had been getting, includ-
ing a food card, stopped.
Lopez has created her own psy-
chological survival mechanism to
deal with her woes. "Sometimes I
have and sometimes I don t. What-
ever little I have, I make it do. Even
if I am frustrated I can t do nothing
about it. I have to remain calm."
On Tuesday, the children got toys,
groceries and snacks for Christmas
from chairman of the Sangre Grande
Regional Corporation councillor
Terry Rondon who, in a Santa suit,
journeyed eight miles up the wind-
ing, hilly road to the family s home
on Jubilee Street.
"Tomorrow the apples and grapes
and chicken coming," he said. And
he advised Lopez, "Take the children
to church, pray night and day and
God will help you."
He said he met Lopez when she
was honoured at a function for tak-
ing her deceased daughter s children
under her wings.
Vowing to make her Christmas
happy, Rondon said he went out
begging companies for donations
and many, including National Shoe
and Occupational Solutions Ltd, gave
"It s important to help the less
fortunate. There are too many people
out there like this."
He appealed to the Government
to "look for these people and help
"Not enough is being done. We
have to go out and look for them."
Surviving off the land
Chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, Terry Rondon,
dressed as Santa, presents gifts to Andrea Lopez and her family at their
home in Jubilee Street, Sangre Grande, on Wednesday.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Family of 18 against the odds
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