Black Bush Polder family struggling to make ends meet because of COVID-19

By Andrew Carmichael

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the world to a virtual standstill. It has forced us to reimagine how we do things. With the world’s economy coming to a screeching halt owing to the COVID-19 protocols, many families have been affected.  
Today, many of those families are on the breadline, fighting for survival. They are quite often faced with the option of putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus or starving, and they would often choose the latter.
This has been the constant battle that a Black Bush Polder, East Berbice-Corentyne, family has been forced to fight since Guyana instituted the COVID-19 measures. Chandra Harrypersaud, his wife Basmattie “Anita” Sookram and their three children were on the breadline even before COVID, and now they have been pushed even further down that line.


The couple resides with their children – aged 9, 5 and 3 years old – at Lot 110 Lesbeholden, Black Bush Polder, in an incomplete structure they call home. They have been living there for over 10 years now.
The 32-year-old Harrypersaud explained that they live where is considered to be the end of the road, and they also feel as though they are at the end of the proverbial road with all of their struggles.

After ten years, the couple was only able to complete half of their house which included half of the floor. They consider themselves lucky that none of their children has fallen through the space where the floor should have been.
“I had put their boards there like a wall so the rain can’t come in and the children can’t fall and go downstairs,” Harrypersaud said.
But even with just being able to complete the flooring for half of the small house, his wife considers it considerable progress. For them, life has not been easy. Many of us can relate to living in a rented house and moving to your own home, or living in a house which the family owns but if we are forced to move from building to building within months, it might seem odd.

For Harrypersaud, that was the journey to getting his own home or rather part of his own home after they were forced to move from seven previous homes.
During that period, they had not been sitting down since Harrypersaud was a fisherman and his wife a cattle farmer. They knew that getting their own home called for some sacrifices, but more than anyone would expect.
“I had to sell my two heads of cow, my eleven sheep and the nine goats so we can get money to buy the wood,” Anita said as she related the challenges towards having their own home – or half of it.
The frame of the house quickly went up and two side walls followed. When the money finished, the fisherman was only able to get wood to complete half of the flooring. Nevertheless, they made it their home.

He tried planting and was initially successful in utilising the spacious yard to grow some cash crops but soon birds from the community realised that the green vegetables were more inviting and relished Harrypersaud garden.
Then came COVID. Harrypersaud had an elaborate plan of completing his home and fencing his yard so that he can protect his garden but COVID has put a stop to that. His inability to work since the borders are closed has put him and his family further on the breadline.
When this publication visited, there was nothing growing in the garden and Harrypersaud said he does not have the financial resources to fence his yard to provide protection for his garden. He has abandoned that idea and is now looking at ways to fight for his family’s survival.
A section of the business community along the central Corentyne has come to the aid of the children and completed the floor for Harrypersaud. They also built the remaining walls and inserted windows in the building.
While there is still much more work to be done on the building to bring it to an acceptable living standard, Harrypersaud is thankful. The house now has at least one bedroom and a living room. His next challenge will be to furnish but he is unable to work because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Harrypersaud has been able to get odd jobs but according to his wife, the money he earns is insufficient.
“The money can’t even maintain the three children. Me nah get money fo buy ting fo dem children. Sometime I got to buy one pound thing fo dem and like half-pound milk so I can make lil porridge fo de baby,” she said.