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Couple living in container, Praying to reunite with their child

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Garvin Almaralas sits in front his shipping container cum home at Mausica, D’Abadie.

Nothing can be more painful for a parent than being separated from a child. Arima couple Garvin Almaralas, 39, and his wife, Zena Smith, 35, know this pain all too well as they are forced to live apart from their children having made an old, rotting metal container their home at Mausica, D’Abadie.

Almaralas, a farmer, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian last week, said it pains him not to have his son David, four, and daughter, Maya, three, with him because of his living conditions and the space limitations. 

“It is not easy, it is a really uncomfortable feeling. We have to leave the children by their grandparents. Normally, they would come down and check us, but we have to leave them by their grandmother because of the conditions,” he said shaking his head as he sat on a makeshift bench outside his container which he calls home.

Zena, who was seated inside the container on a bed made out of ply boards, said apart from Almaralas’s two children, she has four other children all of whom stay with her relatives. “Sometimes they come and we have to fit in this small space, we have a mattress that we spread on the ground too,” she said, pointing to a piece of sponge leaning at the side of the container.

The walls of the container had rotten spots and the roof had holes in it. Almaralas constructed a galvanized roof over the container to prevent the rain from soaking their modest belongings. He said he was given the container by his sister who used it to house her office when she ran a gravel business 13 years ago.

Almaralas said he was not proud of the way he has been forced to live, especially since he used to have his own house, a van, and a thriving agricultural business. Now, he lives in a container without electricity and water. 

“Rent is expensive, I cannot afford to rent. I used all my money in my case and they leave me dead brokes, flat brokes, I had nothing. I did not have money to take care of my family. I cannot work and pay rent, I have no money to pay rent,” he lamented as tears welled up in his eyes.

The case he was referred to was a court battle he had with a landowner 13 years ago. He said he had been squatting on a piece of land where he had built his home 25 years ago. Ten years ago, Almaralas said, the landowner returned to the area and demanded the land. He said he pleaded with the landowner to sell him the property, but to no avail. In the end, he said, the court ordered him to break down his home and the agricultural business he had started.

His container/home, he said, is situated opposite the land he once occupied.  The couple’s only entertainment is a small television powered by a car battery in the centre of the container. It is located next to their suitcase where their clothes is stored. The battery is also used to help charge their cellphones.

“We are making out by the grace of God. We have no lights, no water, we have nothing here, but by the grace of God we making out here,” Almaralas said. He said he pleaded with people everywhere for help—from his MP’s office in D’Abadie/O’Meara to the People’s National Movement office in Arima. He said they applied for an HDC house ten years ago and to date, they have not received a favourable response.

Now that elections are around the corner, the couple is hoping their pleas and prayers to be united with their children in better conditions will be answered.


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