For many people, last year’s challenges were like nothing they had ever faced in their lives. 2020 saw not only canceled travel plans, but new financial constraints due to job losses, others saw their studies come to an end, but for some, they almost lost their grip.
The following five people shared the negative and positive effects of the pandemic and despite the world crisis, have sought to achieve various goals this year, whether personal, professional or spiritual.
Floreen James who is from Paruima, Region Seven, currently lives with her family in Belle West, Demerara West Bank. “… It affected us when the school closed, and my children couldn’t attend school. The feeling of anxiety and anxiety came over me because I was so scared for my children especially after the first COVID death here. I felt like I was going to go into panic mode, ”said James. She also considered it a blessing in disguise as she did not want to send her two sons to school in case they caught the virus. As another precautionary measure, she decided to send her children back to Paruima to stay with her parents; people traveled less frequently and to her it seemed less likely that anyone there would contract COVID.
The family felt the worst of the pandemic when James’s husband who worked on a tow and boat was dismissed. He was the sole breadwinner of the home and James talked about having to stretch whatever groceries and small savings the family had to make ends meet. Later, she joined her sons in Paruima while her husband tried to find construction work.
James’ children stayed with the family between March and August when they finally returned. During that time, he joined them for two months, but reaching them was another challenge as travel to and from Region Seven was limited. It was only until restrictions on travel to the inner region were lifted that she was reunited with her boys. When they wanted to leave, they found that there were travel restrictions again, as there was a possibility of one or more positive causes in the area. “… There was another lockdown,” he said. “After taking the samples, while we were waiting for the results to come back, we were able to get a flight out. Before we can [book] that flight, we had to get permission from the Ministry of Health, COVID National Task Force. My husband had to do it, get their permission, get that to the airline, get it to us, and that’s how we were able to travel out.
“It was my faith in God that brought me through. He knew full well what was coming in 2020 when we had our dreams and hopes for the new year to be a good one and a grand one. He knew what was to come. Knowing that and trusting that he knows what’s best, is the only way we did it. ”
James said her main focus is her family, and her spiritual life. She is also working on developing herself academically. She started two courses on Coursera studying project planning and logistics. These have been delayed as she has no internet for the time being, but is working towards achieving them.
Medical Technology Norma George is currently pursuing a medical degree at Greenheart Medical University. The road there was not an easy one.
In fact, following separation from her husband, George, a single mother of a two-year-old lived in a country where she had no family of her own. Some months later in August, with her mother and daughter, she was relieved when she finally managed to make a chartered flight back to Guyana.
According to George, after traveling in March, she suspected she was coming down with the flu and did a quick test that showed she was positive for the coronavirus. George said he had to stay home with his daughter in quarantine for two weeks. The country she was living in at the time was locked up and food shoppers had to join long queues. By the end of his quarantine, he decided to test again but instead of doing another quick test, he did the COVID PCR test which tested negative.
“The pandemic affected me financially and emotionally. I wanted to return home and I wanted to study. We didn’t get the right types of food there. The cost of living there rose because of the pandemic. Let’s say you would pay US $ 140 for groceries for two weeks, when the pandemic came, that turned over US $ 400 for just a week, “said George.
Sometime after returning to Guyana, she started working in a salon in Georgetown, but transportation costs were excessive as she had to commute from Vive-La-Force to the city on a daily basis, so she left the job thereafter. She has since settled on helping her mother sell at the family food store which also gives her time to pursue her MD.
Going through the pandemic, so far, she said, is the result of praying a lot and building on her relationship with God.
George set up a WhatsApp group called ‘Queen’ in April last year. The group is made up of forty plus members, all women. This forum for women’s purposes empowers other women. George said she realizes that women are often degraded by other women and want to do something positive about it. The women of the group have weekly Zoom meetings, share positive messages and try to promote each other. “This group has been a blessing to me in many ways. During the pandemic, I had many friends reach out and they go through it, their own struggles and no matter how I went through mine, I gained strength in encouraging others … Whatever I am i tried it, i realized i could use that to make a difference in the lives of other women. Their friendship and friendship has been a tremendous blessing to me, ”said George.
For Anthony Duncan, the responsibility of having a family to look after was what kept him moving forward and trying to stay positive. Duncan is an operator with the Department of Transport and Harbors and works on the route from Georgetown to Mabaruma.
“The risk was tremendous when dealing with people traveling to and from. I couldn’t decide who had COVID or not, ”said Duncan. “I had to take extra precautionary measures. I had to keep doing my job because I am the only bread winner for my family.
“At one point we were told we were not going inside anymore because COVID was there but then at another time we were told we had to go there because we always had to supply the hinterland. We had to adhere to all the COVID-19 protocols, sanitizing our hands, wearing face masks, checking temperature regularly and social distance.
“We would normally carry one hundred and twenty people on the big boat, but we started carrying fifty percent.”
Despite all the measures taken, the man said that there were times when he slipped up and touched something, forgot to wash his hands and would somehow touch his face. Duncan added that while he knew he was always careful, these slips made him afraid that he probably had caught the virus. Thoughts of possibly getting COVID took a toll on his mental health one time but as time passed, so did the fear.
He and other colleagues rotate to allow for greater social distance. He noted that he was one of the lucky ones who not only kept his job but did not face a pay cut during rotation.
“For me, I always look at family, it means a lot to me,” he said. “As a man, you tend to go the extra mile especially when you become a family man. My job right now, it pays yes, and I’m getting benefits, but I’m looking for more. What I’ve started doing is upgrading myself. Although I already have certificates, I am trying to improve myself academically so that I can get a better paid job to ease my family and bills. I’ve already started working on it. ”
Apart from the pandemic affecting her life and the lives of her husband and three sons, teacher Rosel Hercules was concerned about the first graders she taught at Wauna Primary School in Region One. They have since been promoted to grade two and now have a new batch of first graders.
“As a teacher, I couldn’t go to school and teach like I used to. We don’t get electricity during the day … We don’t have an internet service for all Region One kids so what do I do, I print my materials. I have my plan and I would print out weekly or a few materials to cover the plan and distribute to the kids. Last year, with the school closed, I didn’t go to school so I would ask the kids to come to my home and get up. However, now I’m at school and they would come to school, drop me worksheets to mark and collect more, ”explained Hercules.
He said that the Education Department in Mabaruma provided ink and paper for printing and that the school had a printer.
Hercules, a devoted church attendant, said her social life at the church was affected but her spiritual life was not affected by the pandemic. She and her family would sit under the mango tree in their backyard and worship. Sometimes a second family would join them on Saturdays for worship services in his backyard. However, since the church reopened, she’s back in the church. When asked if COVID guidelines are being followed, he replied in the affirmative split that they wear their face masks and remember to stick to social distance. It’s been almost a year without their regular hug, but they have adapted to the new way of greeting each other by touching elbows.
“As Seventh Day Adventists, we believe our King is coming soon and we know that dangerous times will pass and I want my family ready so that’s what I’m working on this year, ”said Hercules.
In addition, she also helps her children cope with the new method of learning by explaining the work they receive in printed materials or helping them learn a topic more or less.
Maya William, a window technician at a local company, makes sash windows and awnings. A mother of three, William is in her care, her daughters aged 13 and two while her son lives with her ex-spouse.
It’s only been a year since she’s been working with this company. She noted that, at the start of the pandemic, her company had kept her going but as time went on, she and other employees were dismissed for two weeks.
“At first when they made me redundant, I didn’t know that I would be working back in two weeks. They told us nothing. I was worried about where I would get another job, where money would come from to pay my bills. I was frustrated, ”said the woman.
Although the children’s father would assist from time to time, he could not rely on his help as he did not provide the funding on a regular basis. In addition, William said, there was no family he could rely on for help. A week and a half to be dismissed, she received word that she was due to return to work next week.
She noted that with the closure of schools and day care centers, she had to pay someone to watch her children.
“I’m working towards a better home for myself and my children. I want to set up Wi-Fi for my daughter so she can do her school work, ”she said. “We currently use data and work would come on WhatsApp, but the data doesn’t last. She does most of the work offline. The school [distributed] a workbook that is supposed to last two to four weeks. The book has the four topics inside. When that same finish, the teacher would call us to collect another book and we would carry that one in for him to mark. ”