Venezuelan migrant Lucina Cortez knows the need for social distancing. However, she cannot abide by this regulation as she lives in the same house with 33 other migrants.For Cortez and her housemates, life has become miserable since COVID-19 restrictions started. Cortez said before COVID-19, she did domestic chores for three Trinidadian’s families working six days per week for $150 per day.
Now none of them are giving her work.Fourteen women in her house at Duncan Village, San Fernando, work at various restaurants and bars but with the closure of these businesses, they too have been without work. The men do odd construction jobs which contribute towards paying rent.Cortez said yesterday that were it not for the efforts of the La Romaine Migrant Support Group (LARMS), many of them would have starved.
Since the virus lockdown took effect on March 23, LARMS has been distributing over 70 food hampers weekly to migrant families. The hampers include rice, meat, sausages and other tinned food.During an interview with Guardian Media, co-ordinator Angie Ramnarine said they were thankful they still had support from corporate sponsors.
“Purity Water, Soroptomist International, the Presbyterian Church, Rapid Fire Kidz Foundation and South Sewa Kitchen, as well as the Syrian-Lebanese Women’s Association, have assisted us tremendously with these hampers as well as clothing,” Ramnarine said.She called on the Ministry of Health to conduct random testing on migrants who are forced to cluster in houses.
“In some places, we have more than two dozen people living in one house and they do this so they can share the rent. It is very difficult for them to abide by social distancing,” Ramnarine said.“Just as the political parties go out during elections and find people in every nook and cranny, I want them to find these Venezuelan families who live in the most cramped conditions.”
Ramnarine said although some landlords have agreed to take half of their rent, many of them were still forcing the migrant workers to pay full rent.“So far we have not heard of anyone getting any eviction notices,” Ramnarine added.
She said apart from providing food, the migrant children were also benefiting from online classes.“We want to thank Lana Medina for providing online learning for the children of migrant families. From Sunday to Sunday, she sends activities for the children to keep them engaged in their education,” she said.She said LARMS has also been reaching out to farmers to provide produce for the hampers.“Some of the produce like ground provisions are very familiar to them but if you give them bodi, most times they will not to know how to cook it,” Ramnarine said.
She said watermelon farmers had donated 100 melons last week and called on pineapple farmers to provide fruits for the hampers.“We will pay for the produce at reasonable prices. We understand some farmers are being forced to dump produce. For those farmers, if you have a surplus we are asking you to call us so we can arrange transportation to collect supplies for our migrant and local families who are in need,” Ramnarine said.
She said LARMS had joined with social group Kindness Makes a Difference (KDM) and they were also doing hampers for local families. KDM co-ordinator Kavita Ragbir said every week her group distributes 75 hampers for local needy families. Anyone wanting to contribute food, supplies or groceries to LARMS or KMD can contact Ramnarine at 687-8072 or 334 5454.