Venner Haywood is an amputee, has lost a fingertip and lost a child and grandchildren to an accident but still gives God thanks for life. (Picture by Nigel Browne.)
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As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
THROUGHOUT HIS TURBULENT LIFE, Venner “Grafton” Haywood is keeping his faith in God and love for his adopted country. This is his story.
“I was born in Richmond Hill, St Vincent. You could stand there and watch all up Kingstown. At around ten years old I came to Barbados. My father was Bajan and he brought me here. He owned minibuses and trucks and t’ing and used to work on Mount Gay plantation as a supervisor. Life was better then; food used to be cheap. St Vincent was nice but I love Barbados. I only go back home for funerals,” he said.
The 69-year-old said his first house was in Mile and a Quarter, St Peter, living with his grandmother, but tragedy soon reared its head with her death and, later on, the destruction of the house by fire. It was then he was moved to his current house in Clinketts, St Lucy, by the Welfare Department.
Before then, however, Haywood said he travelled overseas working. This is where more misfortune struck.
“I went to Speightstown Boys’ School and after graduating I cut cane in the United States where I lost a fingertip on my left hand. I was there for eight seasons [years] but after I get my finger cut off I was done with that,” he said.
Haywood recalled doing numerous jobs over the years. He said he used to cut khus-khus grass for 25 cents a rod at Warleigh Plantation and learned carpentry, working as an apprentice with another Vincentian.
Haywood said he managed to save some money to buy carpentry tools and eventually managed to land a job at Innotech and after that ended he said he painted houses for the Welfare Department.
But tragedy was not done with the St Vincent born man. He recalled a fateful day that changed the rest of his life forever.
“Last year I was walking home a Sunday night and a dog bite me on the arm. I went to the clinic and then the hospital. I was in Casualty [Accident & Emergency Department] talking to a fella when I got up to get food. Two orderlies ask me where I was going and grab me and give me an injection. When I wake up, my leg gone and nobody sign for any operation. Nobody ain’t tell me anything up to now and I don’t have diabetes,” he said.
Venner Haywood was born in St Vincent but has spent half a century calling Barbados home.
Haywood said he had a lawyer working on the case but even all this could not dim his love for Barbados. Even so, the next twist of fate nearly ended his will to live.
“I lost two grandchildren and a child in an accident in Mullins between a car and minibus. I nearly died. I sit down and couldn’t move. My parents died – I never cry but I cried for them; they were my life,” he said, with the pain still evident in his face.
Haywood said the hardships he faced may be due to the life he lived. He admitted he had not been the best person or father but he had changed.
I have a lot of children – so many I don’t really count, all with Bajan women, but none live here with me now. I have a lot of grandchildren too. I do a lot of foolishness in my life. From time you pregnant, I gone. My family quarrelled with me about it, telling me if it was my sister if I would like that to happen to her. I get older and I dun wid dat foolishness so I got married though we separated now. But some of my children still look for me,” he said.
Haywood uses crutches to get around but said it was hard as they hurt his armpits and there were no ramps in the area. He also uses a wheelchair while at home. He then gave his thoughts on how Barbados had changed over the years.
“In the past, people were more generous and things were cheaper. I used to buy three packs of cigarettes to smoke, especially in America where it was cold. Now I quit but I couldn’t buy that now even so. Still, Barbados is a nice place and it got some nice people but some people ain’t so nice, like anywhere else.
“I am still a God-fearing man – if not for the Lord, I would have already kill myself. I still trust in God,” he said.