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April 4, 2021

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Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter to Her Excellency Mrs. Arya Ali to a shine light on a forgotten community. Yakusari, Black Bush Polder is a farming community, where rice and vegetables are the major direct incomes for families. You probably have or have not heard about the issues affecting residents of this area, including floods, damaged streets and roads etc. But I am not writing about those issues. The issue at hand is what is being done to develop this community? There are no jobs here except for those inclined to become teachers, nurses, police, and farmers. How many persons are so inclined to become a nurse or a teacher? Not many, that’s how much. In order for you, Your Excellency, to better understand the issue at hand, I am going to share my story with you.

I am almost twenty-five years old. I am an intelligent and mature young lady, currently unemployed and without a university degree. As a child growing up, there was an incident where a cousin was raped and brutally murdered. Due to that incident, I had my heart set on becoming a lawyer. At eight years old, I wanted to be the person to ensure murderers are put away where they belong. I had big dreams and ambition. As I grew older, I realized that dream would never come true. My parents could never afford to send me to law school. My dream was crushed as a teenager. I then decided that I would be a manager or seek a job in the business sector. My parents have three kids, but they could not afford to send all three of us to high school, so my brother had to drop out and help plant vegetables to send my sister and me to school. So that my sister could attend school regularly, I too, hardly ever attended school daily. Sometimes I go to school once or twice per week, and when my teacher asked why, I would lie and blame it on my allergies because I was ashamed of telling them I didn’t have sufficient money to pay passage to go to school that day. I was a fast learner, so it wasn’t difficult for me to catch up on the work I missed.

As I grew older I became more and more discouraged because I knew I was never going to get an opportunity to pursue higher studies. What was the point in going to school, I thought to myself? I didn’t take my school work seriously, but when CXC exams came around, surprisingly, my parents were able to pay the exams fee. But I could afford to write six subjects only and I passed all with Grades 1, 2 and 3. Imagine, if I had went to school every day and took extra lessons, like my classmates, how much better I could have done? After high school, I managed to find a job as an assistant outside of Black Bush Polder, but little did that 17-years-old me know, what was the reality of working outside of Black Bush Polder without a university degree. My salary barely covered my daily travel expenses to get to work and back; I could barely afford to buy a data plan for my phone. The internet was then, and still is now, very important to me because it’s my only way of reading books free online. I thought with my job I would be able at some point pay for university but I only had that job for a month before I quit. Why?

My boss at the time asked me to have sex with him, therefore I quit. I guess he figured out that he couldn’t push himself on me, or tell me to have sex with him to keep my job because he knew I was much smarter than I looked and so he asked without making any threat. I left because it was a huge red flag to keep working there.  I kept looking for jobs and went for a few interviews where the men conducting the interviews only kept staring at my breasts all the time. It wasn’t that I was dressed inappropriately, because I was dressed professionally. But I didn’t want to take chances working for them as I didn’t want to end up like my cousin. I also did volunteering work for a few years.

I even applied to be a teaching assistant, in the hopes that if I get to teach, I would be able to get to work and study at the same time. Any university degree is better than none, right? But I never received a response from the Ministry of Education. I ended up applying for a Health Workers training program with the Ministry of Health to which I received a response. Health wasn’t something I was passionate about, but at least I was going to learn something. I enrolled for the program at the West Demerara Regional Hospital for Community Health Workers, 2017. I was successful and earned the best graduating student of a batch of 42 community health workers upon completion in 2018. I worked in my community for 2 years before quitting, the job was beginning to affect me mentally, emotionally and other personal reasons. After I quit, I invested my money in a small poultry business with the hope that it would be able to send me to university to get a degree; I still hoped that I could be able to better myself and have a better future. But the floods of December, 2020 destroyed all my chickens and baby ducks. I had 200 chickens which I had planned on selling the following week; all the money went down the drain along with my dream of a university degree.

Do you know that the age group of girls getting pregnant here is between 17 to 20 years old? Some are even younger. What else is there to do after you finish high school? Get married and have kids. What motivated me more write to you is I learnt of a 16 year old girl who is currently pregnant; it breaks my heart to see that because they are so young and are having kids. They should have had an opportunity to excel in the world. Girls from Black Bush Polder should be given scholarships to further their studies. There are intelligent people in Black Bush Polder, but you will never hear about them because they are too poor to be able to do anything about it. I don’t need a degree to tell me I am smart because I know what I am capable of doing. But in order to have a better paying job I need one, or even a job to cover my travel expenses to work every day. Even though I am just at home and not working because I can’t find a job, I am working on a novel – with the knowledge of knowing that a novel written by me would never get published. I have part of my novel on a book site and am getting good feedback from readers, but, I won’t have the opportunity of publishing it. But I still continue to write because I am doing something creative. If I didn’t read as a kid growing up, which equipped me with the knowledge of making better choices for myself, I would have been married with a few kids by now.

Black Bush Polder is still stuck on the old days and it’s sad to see that it’s drug abuse that has brought us into the 21st century. We have electrical power and water, but no landline in this age. Without the landline, we don’t even have a proper WiFi. All we have is a wireless WiFi which doesn’t work more than half the time. How do you expect our kids to do their school work online? The usage of drugs has become so bad that if you find 5 young adults male that don’t do drugs, that’s a lot. We need youth groups in here, we need more opportunities for young people. We need job creation in Black Bush Polder. It is time for Black Bush Polder to become developed.

Please, Your Excellency Mrs. Arya Ali, start a project that will create more opportunities for the youths of Black Bush Polder, we are humans too…

Thank you for taking your time to read my letter.

Sincerely,

Lisa Budhu

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This is a cry for help but one wonders if it directed to the appropriate person/target.  Lisa Budhu could be from anywhere in Guyana.  She could be a disadvantaged person anywhere in the world.  The solution to her problem cannot come from Arya Ali or any individual.  The solution will only come from political change, not simply a change of governments but a change in political ideology.  Guyana, under the PPP that Black Bush overwhelmingly supports, is now controlled by big business whose selfish interests will forever keep people like Lisa Budhu disavantaged and desperate.  Only a more egalitarian political sysyem will bring real change and improve the lives of the oppressed.  So, people like Ms. Budhu and those sympathetc to her plight could bring about change by reflecting on their political leanings and support only those committed to a fairer world. The current PPP is not the answer and certainly Arya Ali doesn't have the solution. 

@Prashad posted:

Maybe we can help this girl. Let us each put in 10 US dollars at the end of the year.

I am not against helping but it is a system wide/universal problem. For every Lisa that writes to the newspaper there are thousands more in the same predicament.  The solution is a reorientation of governments from serving the interests of the rich to serving those of the disadvantaged.  The problem can only be solved by political change. 

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