Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
WHILE THE Government has closed the curtains on the enquiry into the operations of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC), the lives of the persons affected continue to play out away from the glare of television cameras.
Homeless and destitute sums up the story of 67-year-old Violet Harrison who, at one time, was the owner of a luxury five-bedroom apartment, which according to her, was valued at close to $30 million.
Today, her life has taken a different turn, making her a regular feature at the Mary Atkins Homeless Shelter in downtown Kingston where she has gone in search of help to put a roof over her head.
According to Harrison, her story of tribulation started around 4 p.m. on December 27, 1993, when fire engulfed her mattress company on Orange Street, downtown Kingston, turning her world upside down.
"This fire distorted my whole life. I lost over $8 million in that fire as my insurance was withdrawn when I moved to that area," Harrison said, while seeking to explain how she ended up on the list of FINSAC debtors.
"Instead of using my machinery, which they would not take as collateral, I decided to use my house to take a loan of $700,000 to restart my business. In the space of 18 months, the loan grew from $700,000 to $4 million."
Claiming she was at a loss as to how it escalated to that amount in such a short period, she said she retained the services of a lawyer to battle her case. All efforts, however, proved futile as in 2004, her house was repossessed and sold by the bank.
Today, her only ties to her home and business rest in a stockpile of papers, which serve as testimony that she was once the owner of Quality Sleeper Bedding Distribution Company Limited and a four-bedroom apartment in Golden Spring, St Andrew.
But throughout all her struggles Harrison, who told The Gleaner she temporarily resides with a friend, remains upbeat about life.
"There is no animosity in my heart against anyone. I just say that's life and it's the work of the devil testing me to see how strong I am. I spent most of my time writing so as to ease the stress, and I would love to use my experience to motivate others," she said.
The 67-year-old added that it has always been her passion to work with prisoners, which is something she hopes to do as soon as she gets back on her feet.
"I want to teach them to make institutional mattresses for the hospitals, fire stations, police stations, and so on so, they can learn a meaningful skill while in prison. This would save the Government a lot of money," she said.
In the meantime, Harrison is seeking donations from Jamaicans to help her construct a one-bedroom house as she already owns a piece of land.