Grandmother’s heart aches for her grandchildren
Rose Hill, Manchester:
She forced a smile every five minutes, but her eyes told a story of hardship, heartache, and the great emotional pain felt as a result of no longer being able to care for her grandchildren, who lost their mother at a tender age.
Sixty-nine-year-old Audrey Smith lost her daughter, who was 35 at the time, and mother of six children. The responsibility to care for these children then became hers.
"I took five of my grandchildren and the other went to live with their father. Three of them are now grown, and I have two, but I have struggled with them. My two grandchildren with me are ages 10 and 15."
Smith, who is from Rae Town in Kingston, was in Manchester over the weekend trying to find a better life for her grandchildren at the Friends in Need Safe Home.
"My grandson, who is with me, was going to Kingston Technical High, but I couldn't afford it and he had to stop. Right now, I owe the school some money. His average is very poor because he goes to school so bad. I remember one time he needed a trim and school was very strict on that and I couldn't even afford that."
When Smith lost her daughter, she started doing day's work to care for her grandchildren, but even that was not enough and it took a toll on her body.
"I rented a little place for $5,000 per month and I was receiving a pension of $4,000. The little day's work was just for the makeup, but I am an old woman and me body just tired and me hands numb up so after a while, I could no longer do it."
She continued, obviously stricken with feelings of inadequacy: "There was time when all I did was cry. I would be walking on the road and me mad fi drop down because I was crying so much and was so stressed. Back then, when I had the other children, I use to give them sausage and bread, a little juice in a bottle and $50 dollars to share, but that can't work in this time."
Smith expressed that the now grown grandchildren would be more than happy to help her, but they, too, are in need and looking for jobs.
She said that had it not it been for her granddaughter, at times, she would have given up hope.
"My granddaughter has seen me crying, and even though I try not to cry in front of them, she sometimes sees me and she will use her blouse and dry my tears and tell me everything will be fine.
"There is a lady I named Sis Lorna, who had two of my grandson, one from he was three years old until he was 12. If it were not for her, I don't know how I would survive - I just really want to see them become something in life, that is why I am here."
Lorna Supria, who has been a caregiver for approximately 40 years, was with Smith at the safe house and said that she has an innate drive to help others.
She said that from the tender age of 12, when her parents separated, she was left to tend to her nine siblings and it was there that her caring nature was put into practice.
"I basically ran the home. My brother would bring the wood, my sister would bring water, I would get groceries from my teacher and my father would bring items to the house as well, but we barely saw him stay for long periods."
Supria said that years after, when she started a family of her own, she started helping others. Women who were being abused and had nowhere to go, she would take them in.
"Around 21 years ago, when I got my own place, I started the 'Lion of Judah Home School' in Kingston geared towards children, who were abandoned, or had really poor parents. I would sew and sell the items and use the money to feed the children. To date, about 1,000 children have passed through my hands, including Sis Smith's grandchildren, and I must tell you that as a little girl, I received help from Sis Smith, so I have to return it to her."
She said that it was just last year that she had thoughts of closing down as the facility became run down and she could no longer sustain it.
"The people kept on coming and pleading with me to reopen and started pitching in as much as possible, so I'm working with them. The children are in need of shoes and clothes and books though, so if corporate Jamaica can assist, it would be greatly appreciated."
To donate to Audrey Smith contact Lorna Supria at (876) 325-0640.
Drops offs for the Lion of Judah Home school can be made at 12 Morrison Avenue, Kingston 11.