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THE AL GILKES COLUMN – Who will help the poor soul?

Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN – Who will help the poor soul?

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Did you see those photographs in the last MIDWEEK?NATION showing the deplorable, heart-rending conditions in which a destitute 82-year-old pensioner was forced to live in the St Michael district of Deane’s Village?
So what did you see in the photos?
That the little single-roof and shed house she calls home is leaning precariously on one side and somehow miraculously escaped being blown over or away by Tomas that uprooted century-old trees and tossed them aside like matchsticks.
Did you notice anything else?
That the house is leaning so much that it had to be propped with two-by-four pieces of wood nailed just under the edge of the roof and planted firmly into the earth below.
Anything else?
That from inside the house the old lady can see the sun, the moon, the planets and all the stars in the heavens by just tilting her head and looking upwards at what remains of the roof.
Anything else?
That this unfortunate soul has to watch her every step inside the house to ensure that a foot does not slip through the rotten floorboards and result in serious injury to her frail body.
Anything else?
That the poor woman uses a primitive, outdoor pit toilet that’s in the same condition as the house. One can imagine the compounded misery of her existence if and when she is caught out there in the midst of a heavy shower of rain.
Anything else?
That the only means for this unfortunate child of God to enter or exit her excuse for a home is by ducking under what’s left of a door, secured by a jagged, rusty galvanised sheet and what appears to be a half-rotten strip of canvas.
Anything else?
That there is no running water, so that in this day and at her age she has to “bring water” from a nearby (fortunately) standpipe for her daily personal needs, as well as to cook (in the yard next to the pit toilet) or make a cup of tea or glass of mauby.
Anything else?
That there is no electricity; so God help her if she ever stumbles in the night, knocks over the candle or kerosene lamp and can’t reach it before fire consumes the tinderbox for which somebody still exacts $5 a week for rent.
Anything else? Nothing more? That’s all that you saw?
Well I saw something even more disturbing.
I saw next door to the ramshackle house, a relatively modern, large, concrete building of the kind used for warehousing, factory wholesaling, manufacturing and like purposes. I also saw next to that, but almost out of the photo, what appears to be another building of similar design, size and purpose.
And as I stared beyond the dilapidated house I wondered if no good Samaritans occupied those buildings next door to this lady, so old, so humble – and so humbled.
Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.Email [email protected]