Many families have been experiencing financial hardship and a scarcity of food supplies since the stringent, but necessary regulations were implemented to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Two families with a total of 14 children from south Trinidad are no different.
With five of her seven children out of school and no longer receiving meals from the school feeding programme, Ramrajee Chance, 37, has been struggling to ensure that her children ages 13 years to eight months old have food.
Living in a small wooden house with no electricity and barely furnished at Sunrees Road, Penal, neither Chance nor her husband, 56, are employed.
Chance never had a job. The father of her first five children is serving a jail sentence. Her husband, a carpenter, suffers from arthritis in the knees and has not worked in the last year.
Chance said she stretches the monthly public assistance she receives for five of the children, but many times the groceries run out.
“They use to get their box lunch in school, but now that they home it difficult. My husband went and dig some yam the other day for us to cook.”
She said her son helps a neighbour with his cattle and he gives him fish. “If the baby have no milk I does make flour porridge.”
The neighbours also help them with food items. Chance said she signed up for a food card but she is yet to receive one. She said the principal advised her to photocopy their identification cards and the children’s birth certificate and drop it off at the security booth at the children’s school, Penal Presbyterian Primary.
“We did that last month and I hear people getting food cards already, but we did not get any.”
Keeping the children occupied has been a challenge, particularly as she has limited their outdoor activity, including their visits to the neighbour’s house, due to COVID-19.
She said on Friday her daughter turned 11, but she had no money to buy a cake or make a lavish meal. “Nikita say ‘mammy I just want to watch a movie (on television),’ but I tell her she can’t go by the neighbour because of the virus.”
Although the children cannot access the learning programs online or on television, Chance ensures that they revise their work.
“They have no kind of entertainment so they does play outside, but not for long. I make sure they revise their work and do over whatever they get wrong in their work. I would read them Bible stories and we say family prayers.”
In another village at Suchit Trace Branch 2, Debe, Vindra Mangaroo, 34, a doubles wrapper and her husband, a construction worker, the parents of seven children, have been without an income since all non-essential businesses were closed.
“We don’t have any money. If something happens now we have no money to buy medication or anything.”
They, however, have been able to purchase basic grocery items with the food card they recently received. She said they went to the Social Service Centre to sign up for financial income support but they had a bad experience with an employee.
“She get on with us and say they want nobody in front the place. She did not have to get on so.” They also went to the Penal Police Station to get a Salary Relief Grant form, but there were no more forms.
“We have no money so we can’t travel to go and look for another form. The taxi charging $20 now because they could only carry two people (passengers) I have no laptop or anything so I can’t print the forms. We just don’t know what to do. It difficult because it have no school, it have no work, it have no income coming in.”
She was also worried about her children’s education as they have no access to any of the online learning programmes as they have no computer devices or internet service. The children’s ages range from 17 to five-years-old.