Thu | Mar 30, 2023
Race Against Time

Double jeopardy for Rock River family

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Jennifer Bryan (centre) with her daughters, Latoya Tobias (left) and Shantel Tobias of Rock River, Clarendon, in a reflective mood as they share about their living conditions.
Shantel Tobias points to the space below the bedroom door as well as the loose floor tiles.

Jennifer Bryan, her children and grandchildren are in a desperate situation as they try to survive the rainy season as well as prepare to face the new school year.

Living in a three-bedroom hovel that rests precariously on its foundation, Bryan’s abode is in imminent danger of collapsing. When it rains, the family has to set buckets all over the house, even on the beds, and keep the children huddled in one place to prevent them from getting soaked.

Standing in the room and looking up at the ceiling, one can clearly see the sky. One room has two beds – a single and a three-quarter – which accommodates two sisters, while the single bed is occupied by their two brothers.

In total, the crumbling structure accommodates numerous persons – Bryan, seven of her eight children and her grandchildren as well as her uncle, his woman and his grandchildren.

And with September 5, the reopening of the new school year just days away, Bryan and her two daughters are trying to focus on getting their children back into the education system, and allowing their living accommodation worries to take a backseat.

Bryan has three children in school, ages 11, 13 and 16. One attends Edwin Allen High, one goes to school at Rock River Primary and the other at Claude McKay High. None of them is anywhere near ready to face the new school year.

“It is so hard. Sometimes them didn’t even guh school, because no money, no lunch ... everything was a problem,” she said of the previous school year. And things are not looking any better for the new year.

“Well, I have no hopes for the one in ‘Compre’ (Edwin Allen). The one in Rock River shares things and got a book and a little bag, and the one attending Claude McKay needs help too,” she informed as she said she would welcome any assistance with lunch money and bus fare for them.

“Him (her son at Edwin Allen High) don’t get any khaki yet. It is the situation with many people, they have nothing,” she said.

For Bryan, it is her day-to-day reality, trying to keep food on the table. She survives on the goodwill of others who give her things which includes food items.

Still, she would like to change her situation. She is now pleading for a job as a domestic helper.

Bryan’s two daughters – Latoya Tobias, 24, has three children and Shantel Tobias, 22, is the mother of a five-year-old. They are both in similar positions as their mother, as they too, cannot afford to send their children back to school.

Unemployed and unskilled, both young women express their desires to go back to school, and to get a job to do in the meantime.

“Sometimes my daughter’s father will help me, but I need help if anyone can help me,” Latoya shared with The Gleaner amid tears.

She shared that although her daughter has some back-to-school supplies, she still has a far way to go before she is fully ready to meet all the requirements before the September 5 deadline.

“If I can get a work, or if anyone can help me to go back to school to pick up where I left off, I would be grateful because I want to help my child,” she pleaded.

Her older sister, Shantel, has greater challenges as none of her three children has as much as uniforms or books. With their father in jail for over a year now, and with her not earning anything, she is pleading for a job, so she can take care of them.

“I dropped out of school from a tender age. I would like if I could get a job so I can help my children, ‘cause I wouldn’t want them to grow up and live in this same situation that I am living in. I would like to change their future,” she said.

Stressing that she isn’t afraid of tackling any job, Shantel said she would even welcome the opportunity to go to HEART/NSTA to learn a skill.

Life has not always been like this for Shantel. She said she was employed as a domestic helper, but after a friend chopped her on her hand, which caused her to be hospitalised for “a long while”, she ended up losing her job.

“I am asking if there is anyone out there who can change the situation and even the lives of my kids. They need shoes and books. School fees haven’t been paid, nothing has been started yet. They need lunch money, uniform ... if they don’t get assistance, they will have to miss the first part of school,” the young mother shared.

With tears in her eyes, Shantel said it breaks her heart to request hand-me-downs from parents and students in an effort to keep shoes on her children’s feet and clothes on their backs.

She related that one day her little girl came home from school in tears, as the kids mocked her about her needing their ‘wear and left’.

Still, for all her struggles, having a firm belief in God, Shantel hopes for better days ahead.

“A cry and I cannot cry meck dem see because mi haffi be strong fi dem and mi sey better a go come and there is better because mi know one day God a go change di situation and mi a work towards better.”


To assist the family contact: Latoya Tobias 876-502-5308