While the government pushes full steam ahead with plans for a digital economy, more than 17 families from a squatting community in Siparia still live in darkness. Situated within a forested area off Gamble Street, the community is heavily populated with children, many of whom attend school.
Residents complained that they made numerous requests to the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and politicians over the years to no avail. Mother of five Nicola Estick, 34, said the situation is frustrating.
Estick who suffered burns to her face and body as a child receives public assistance.
“Since I here about seven years now I have no current. I have a generator but all the time I use it because it does be so hard for me. Every day I does have to spend money to buy gas and is $80 to full the tank. So if I put the gas it is run for a few hours and the next day it would not have enough so I can’t be it on. “And it does be dark out here I is a single mother I does be here with my children alone.”
A kerosene lamp is her main source of light. Due to the living conditions, her only daughter, age 12, moved in with a relative. Her three younger sons, ages 15, nine and three attend school.
“With them home it really hard because I does be feeling frustrated because we have no lights. Sometimes I go by their school and pick up their work every week. I have to pay passage to do that. They go to three different schools.”
Estick said she was told that she could not get electricity in her location. However, she said there was another squatting community that got electricity.
“They have current there inside the teak and the road is the same. They only have about five families living inside there and all of them have current. We have more than 16 houses with adults and children.”
She also wants assistance to install a toilet. Recalling that in the budget presentation Finance Minister Colm Imbert said they are working towards a digital transformation, she said, “Right now we don’t have any current in the back here for our children so how we going to make out. Is a basic commodity.”
Mother of three Salina Seepersad, 39, said almost every day she has to put a data plan on her phone for her children, ages 12, nine and ten to do their work.
“Time to do zoom and thing I always have to put data on my phone for them to do that. It kind ah hard with the lights. They have to do it daylight because when the nightfall they cant do that. My daughter has an eyesight problem, she has to get glasses.”
She said they have only received promises from various politicians but no help. “We need lights and a proper road. It have a lot of kids living in the back here is not mine alone.” Shade Joseph, 29, who has been living there for over 15 years said, “I was living in a smaller house, but I sacrifice and build up something more decent. The only problem is the electricity. My daughter, 11 years, does have to be back and forth by her grandmother because of that to do her studies. It does be real hard. The only thing they doing now is the zoom and it does be real hard because they home.” A frustrated Joseph appealed to Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to assist them. “It’s important for the children future. Now where everything going digital we need the electricity. I really don’t want the children left behind at all. Education is the key.” Father of two Stephon Williams who lives with his wife and two young children, complained that the money they spend in gas for the generator could go towards an electricity bill. —Sascha Wilson