Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Not all rainbows and sunsets

Yesterday we all walked down to Grand Anse beach. Once we leave our street, Belmont Rd. and get onto Kirani James Boulevard it is about a 2 kilometer walk to the beach. Happily this road is one of the few with a fairly consistent sidewalk, of course narrow, but safer than being on the road.

Just after the traffic light at our road and Kirani Blvd is a pubic waste bin. Garbage is picked up daily in St. George's and all around the city are green concrete bins about the size of a small car that hold the trash from that community. It is pretty common to see rats hanging about scavenging for food- in fact we've named the rat near our house "Matty the Ratty". So I wasn't totally surprised to hear movement in the bin, however when I looked there was a man inside the bin with the garbage.

There are definitely homeless people in Grenada, often the have mental or physical disabilities. I have seen people sifting through garbage bins, but never actually in them. I can't describe the feeling of seeing another human being in such a state. You feel sick. And of course Aiden who is so sensitive to any kind of suffering was just gutted. Once we got far enough away I heard this little voice behind me say "I need a hug."

Aiden needed lots of hugs along the way. And he needed hugs when we got home, and hugs at bedtime.

In Grenada no one will die of exposure or hunger. They may die of malnutrition but there is generally speaking fruit or breadfruit that this available. But for people who have mental health, drug addiction or physical disabilities they can be too great a burden on their family and find themselves begging and sleeping in the streets.

I don't write much about the poverty, maybe because I don't want anyone to have a negative impression of Grenada, but like Canada, there are people who are living on the streets, on the edge, in the middle and in mansions with security guards.

Many of my neighbours heading toward Grand Anse don't have indoor plumbing. Bathing is done outside and outhouses dot the landscape. People squat in houses that should be condemned. On our street there is a man who lives on the porch of a house. I kind of admire him. He obviously has enough integrity not to break into someone's home to live, but the porch is littered with clothes, dishes and items I can't decipher. It seems more and more people are moving into these derelict homes, sadly with young children in tow.

I try not to think about what those kids are eating or where they are playing/going to school.

There are so many needs in Grenada, sometimes Brent and I will start a conversation with "What Grenada really needs is..." but then we give up because there are so many issues that cascade and you can't fix one without addressing the other. As an example affordable housing is needed but the cost of transportation means that even if you get a place to live the cost of transportation could make working almost a losing proposition. The cycles of poverty, corruption, economic depression seem insurmountable.

Sadly we had nothing to give the man in the bin. All we were carrying was a towel, sunscreen and a water pack. It was a really hard lesson for Aiden; that sometimes as much as you want to - you can't fix things.

As I get ready to leave Grenada I am thinking about all the problems I wish I had gotten more involved in tackling. There is so much that could be done and there are some really amazing organizations like Groundation Grenada, the Mt. Zion Library, Saving Brains Grenada that are doing great work, challenging paradigms and seeking social change. In the end I hope that I will have contributed in some small way to the development of this beautiful island.

This is one of my favourite songs by FLOM about Grenada.

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