Her cupboards are empty, but that’s not just only today.
It is the ‘norm’ at 31-year-old Sarah Bridgewater’s home, which she shares with her seven children ages one, three, six, nine, 10, 12, and 15.
The home at Walk Street, Sangre Grande, isn’t that wholesome either.
The wooden structure in a dilapidated state has a gaping hole in the floor of her make-shift kitchen, which bears Bridgewater’s only appliance—a half-working stove, which allows for any meal to be cooked on one burner.
The unemployed mother said she receives monthly public assistance in the form of a non-individual $650 cheque for only three of her seven children.
“I applied last year for the remaining four children but have not had any forthcoming responses,” she told Guardian Media.
Bridgewater’s eldest ,whom she described as “slow” , is due to write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on August 20, but said she was not certain what will happen to her son as with the closure of school due to the pandemic, her children would have been at a disadvantage as she has no access to the Internet.
Other than her mother, Bridgewater has no physical or financial support. She said she has been getting by on the kindness of strangers who help at times.
“My children have gone hungry many times,” she said.
For their clothes, she saves a bit of money from the cheque and shops at the Sangre Grande Market where she finds simple garments as low as $5
On finding a job, Bridgewater says she wants to work but due to her children being all minors, she cannot get a full-time job as there is no alternative care for them.
She relates, she signed up with the Government designed Unemployment Relief Programme (URP), two years ago but was never called.
Born and raised in Sangre Grande, Bridgewater was underaged when she became pregnant with her first child while attending Servol—she dropped out.
The emotionally exhausted mother was the fourth of 13 children born to her mother Susan—also a single parent.
Describing her childhood, she recalls a very difficult life with great hardship.
“It was really hard for my mother and hard for us,” Bridgewater sighs.
She recounts she and her siblings would have to walk a significant distance to school and back every day, as there was no money for transportation. There was also rarely enough of anything.
She admits in search of love and some form of help, she became acquainted with an older man who eventually impregnated her and then left.
Bridgewater met other men and thought it would get better, but things just got worse, she relates.
“I feel ashamed many times. I do not really go outside, knowing that my children have nothing and I do not really want people to judge me,” she laments.
Often whenever her mother cooks, Bridgewater would do without to ensure all of her seven are fed.
She has dreams of becoming a hairdresser or a nurse but believes she may have to wait until her children get older to pursue those dreams.
Despite her adversity, Bridgewater still manages to carry a smile in her voice, hold on to her faith, and refuse to give up. She says she knows someday with the help of God she will make it.
In sharing her story she hopes more than for herself, her children get help so that they can feel happy and wear a smile.
“I really want God to bless me with a piece of land and a house so that my children could be comfortable and enjoy their lives.”