Finding refuge in church
SPRING GARDEN, St Thomas:
Rebecca Henderson has lived in a small room at the back of Mount Faith Spiritual Church of God in Spring Garden, St Thomas, for several years.
She shares the dilapidated room and bed with her daughter Patrene and grandson Andre, both of whom have developmental disabilities - seven-year-old Andre having been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Henderson cannot recall her age, or that of her daughter, but remembers that she came to Spring Garden from Cedar Valley where she grew up, living in a small house before it was damaged by a hurricane, and she was given refuge by the church.
Evelyn Johnson, a senior pastor of the church, told Rural Xpress that she had known 'Pearl', as she refers to Henderson, for several years, and could not recall when the family had settled at the church.
"It's been years since they've been here. I left Spring Garden and went to live (elsewhere) and came back, and they were here before I left. Hurricane damaged the house she was living in. She doesn't have anywhere else. I only know about another daughter, but she can't take her," Johnson said.
Johnson pointed out that the room the family occupies is extensively damaged, with several walls cracked and crumbling, and a roof that leaks. The church has started a campaign to effect repairs, but no work can be done on the structure while the family is in residence. Johnson indicated that the church has tried to find alternative accommodations, but has met with little success.
Henderson, who is obviously elderly, has no source of income, except what she can plant around her yard.
"I used to go town go do little washing, and go bush and plant up in my young days, but I am old now, can't do that anymore," she said.
The family's only other source of income is the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education benefits provided for little Andre, and a few other well-meaning citizens and organisations who offer support.
Global Progressive Movements (GPM), a St Thomas-based youth organisation, along with Miss Teen St Thomas Simone Townsend, and Erica Beckford, a community health aide who works closely with Patrene and Andre, partnered to make the family's Christmas a little brighter. The group, led by GPM president Icidora Francis, did extensive cleaning and provided two new beds, courtesy of the St Thomas Parish Council and Member of Parliament Dr Fenton Ferguson, as well as food items, linen, and diapers for Andre.
Representation has also been made to the Salvation Army, Food For The Poor, and several other charitable agencies to seek housing for the family, as the issue of their safety is of urgent concern.
But despite the desperate situation, it is evident that there is much love among the three. Patrene is fiercely protective of her son and he is never far from her, having developed such a strong relationship that he is able to communicate with her through nonverbal cues.
Henderson does the best she can for both of them, intent on keeping her little family together as best as she can manage.
She has also made use of all resources available to keep Andre fed and thriving, despite the difficulties brought on by his disability, and works closely with the community health aide to improve his condition. She hopes that eventually she can move them to another, more secure and habitable location.
"If I get a little place for myself where I can have a little patch, I can grow things. We wouldn't go hungry again," she said.