Anthony Ramkissoon, right, and members of his group Overall Youth Empowerment in Action offer a gift to Venezuelan nationals at Raja’s Auto Garage, La Romaine, yesterday.

Radhica Sookraj-De Silva

Joblessness has forced many La Romaine families to go hungry, as they are forced to make a tough choice between buying food and paying rent. Because they do not want to become homeless, the families often go hungry.

This was revealed yesterday by Anthony Ramkisssoon, head of the charitable group Overall Youth Empowerment in Action.

The group, which has been in existence for over 20 years, has been doing regular food and hamper drives in the La Romaine community.

Speaking exclusively to Guardian Media, Ramkissoon said over 120 families were given food, clothing, toys, a book bag and drinks during a Christmas treat at the Raja Auto Garage in La Romaine yesterday.

Ramkissoon said many of the families are Venezuelans.

“We have been providing for 80-plus Venezuelan families this year but they are not the only ones who are facing hardship,” Ramkissoon said.

“I have seen families who go day and night without a meal, families who can’t pay rent. In La Romaine, there are a lot who choose rent over food, else they will get put out. Some landlords give their tenants a little time as they try to find work but if you don’t get work from a contractor building a house, you have no other form of income.”

Saying unemployment was high, Ramkissoon said since Petrotrin closed down many sub-contractors have been without work.

“I haven’t had any work, not one cent in 2020. All my equipment is put down so I know what it feels like to not have work,” Ramkissoon said.

He explained that this was one of the reasons he and his team have been reaching out to help unemployed families.

“We have been cooking meals when we could afford it and giving them the minimum, some rice, peas, a stewed chicken. Or like this morning like this, we are giving them an apple, snack, popcorn, hotdogs. No big set of Christmas stuff going on but we still giving them snacks, a toy and food to eat. If they do not get anything for Christmas, at least they would have gotten this,” Ramkissoon added.

Meanwhile, Pastor Vickram Hajaree, superintendent from the Open Bible Standard Churches, also distributed 250 party bags and cases of wine and soft drink to over 250 families in the St John’s Village, Avocat. The pastor, who is in charge of over 25 churches across the country, said he funded the Christmas drive with assistance from his family.

“We targeted areas in St John’s Road south Oropouche and Ralph Narine Trace. We had a Santa Claus,” Hajaree said.

His wife, Violet Hajaree and daughter Pastor Maranesha Lawrence, also took time to preach the message of Christmas.

“The message is about Jesus and it’s not Santa Claus. But Jesus. Hundreds of tracts were given out and hundreds of children and families received gifts for Christmas. We hope to continue this next year,” Hajaree said.