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AT THE STATE’S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?

Sherwin McDonald and his sister Tenagne Benjamin near their shack as another brother David hides insideย 

By Leroy Smith

The next move of the Guyana Government through the Water Company or Central Housing and Planning Authority will determine how tougher or easier the road will get for three teenagers who literally living on the edge and will reflect the government’s compassion towards citizens in extremely difficult circumstances.

Eighteen-year-old Sherwin McDonald, his seventeen-year-old brother David Benjamin and their sixteen-year-old sister Tenagne Benjamin have been calling the government reserves their home for the past months.

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
The structure the siblings call home along the government reserve

On Wednesday morning, BIG Smith News Watch visited a reserve in Plump Park, Sophia where the teenagers built a shack along the edge of the East Demerara Water Conversancy which leads into GWIโ€™s shelterbelt water treatment plant. Prior to moving there, the siblings lived along another reserve closeby after they were evicted from an apartment in Alberttown.

โ€œWe mother been go Antigua last year and left us in a house she was renting and the people dem put we out so this is why we end up here suh, she said she going and spend three months but never looked back,โ€ Sherwin McDonald, eldest of the three siblings told BIG Smith News Watch. Mc. Donald lost his father at the age of 11 to cancer.

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
Sherwin speaking with BIG Smith Crime Watch’s Leroy Smith Wednesday morning

He was asked if his mother was unable to return to Guyana due to the Coronavirus but the young man was assertive in his response that coronavirus did not keep his mother from returning to Guyana to him and his siblings.

None of the siblings were fortunate enough to write the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council or graduate from high school. We asked the children if they were willing to return to school but before the question could have been properly completed, Tenagne Benjamin quickly jumped up and remarked โ€˜yes, yes, I want to go back to schoolโ€™

Sherwin said his sister did well while she attended the Campbellville Secondary School. He, Sherwin attended the South Ruimveldt Multilateral while David attended Lodge Secondary School. Tenagne does not have a birth certificate at the moment but her brothers do.

When we visited, David did not come out of the shack they now called home, in fact, he was very hesitant to even entertain BIG Smith News Watch. Just a few days ago, they were asked to remove from the government reserve but did not because they have nowhere to go. Last week, officials from the Ministry of Communities visited the location and the teenagers were given a warning. It was the second visit by the officials.

โ€œI would glade to get a piece of land so what we can get something; they said that they want us to move and they also said that if we do not remove in a certain time they will break down the house and tek away the items,โ€ Sherwin told Big Smith News Watch.

The eldest teen said that they have no relatives that they can go at or they would have already sought refuge there. According to Sherwin, his mother and her brothers do not speak so they cannot go to their uncles’.

โ€œWe know we are squatting and that it is illegal, all we would like is if someone could help us out with a house lot so that we can put up something and try to help ourselves,โ€ Sherwin told BIG Smith News Watch.

Inside the building, the three teenagers sleep together on a single bed mattress. They are able to cook for themselves because Sherwin does farming in South Georgetown while David is a labourer who works when he is called to do so by anyone who has a job to be done.

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
The mattress the siblings sleep on at nights

โ€œShe doesnโ€™t do anything, we does take care of herโ€ Sherwin said of his sixteen-year-old sister Tenagne Benjamin.

During our visit today, we observed young vegetables and greens which are now shooting up from the ground. The siblings explained that they planted the items in order to have something to cook.

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
The plans which are now shooting up
AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
The area on the opposite side of the dam where the siblings burn their garbage

Asked about the sanitation facilities, Sherwin said that they are afforded the washroom over at a building close by. The administrators over at that facility also assists them with potable water while they have been helping themselves to some illegal power supply.

The Eighteen-year-old also stressed that they do not litter or engage in any activities which could contaminate the water which GWI depends on to filter through the taps of Georgetown residents.

AT THE STATE'S MERCY: Will the government act compassionately or not?
A section of the weeded area on the reserve the teens live

He even showed us an area where they ensure that they burn their garbage away from the Water conversancy and has been keeping the surrounding of the structure weeded. Squatting on the Government’s reserve is illegal and over the years, many persons who have not been able to afford house lots have been taking up spaces along government reserves. In some cases, persons who were also allotted plots of residential lots for home construction have been squatting also.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Persons desirous of reaching out to the siblings are encouraged to email- [email protected] or call +592 6009747 so that assistance to these siblings can be done in a systematic and coordinated manner.

UPDATE: Please be informed that we are asking persons NOT to go ahead getting up supplies and donations for these young people at this time. Our further investigations have uncovered some developments which we will address publicly on our Facebook Page at 14:00hrs today, Thursday 28 May 2020. That update as well as this original story will remain published for the records. Please see the live update by clicking this link