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While thousands of children head off to school today for the start of the new term, it will not be the same for children of fisherfolk and other people affected by the oil spill along the south-western peninsula. Residents of La Brea, as well as fishermen, fish vendors, oyster and crab catchers said yesterday that they would be forced to keep their children at home because of the oil spill, which began on December 17.
Even if they could send their children to school, they said for the past two weeks they had not been able to earn money to get their children’s school supplies. Yesterday, Coffee Beach resident Denecia Gilbert, 25, expressed disappointment that she would not be able to send her son Ramone Boodoo, three, to preschool today. Boodoo attends the Early Achievers Preschool in Belle View, La Brea.
Gilbert, who sells weaves and does hair braiding for a living, said since the oil spill began washing ashore in La Brea on December 18, none of her clients had ventured into the community. “I not happy,” Gilbert told the T&T Guardian yesterday. “It affecting me because he now start preschool. He start in September. He will be missing out on a lot of important things. It not good knowing that he have to stay back and he now start preschool.”
She said only recently she was able to get employment as part of the oil clean-up crew along the beach. However, she said she still would not be able to afford to send her son to school anytime soon. “I cannot afford to send him yet. He has transport to and from his school. I have to pay school fees and buy things for him to eat too,” she lamented.
Illness affecting some
Another resident, Virgil Gilbert, 33, said he would have to keep two of the three children now staying with him at home because of the oil spill. He said the children, aged seven and eight, respectively, were unwell because of their exposure to the oil spill. “We have no Christmas, no New Year’s and now no school,” Gilbert lamented.
“I really do not know about sending them to school because it is real chaos here. They cannot go to school with all these big trucks in and out here all the time. It’s chaos with helicopters flying all the time. I was traumatised by this, much less for them.” He said Coffee Beach was a small, peaceful community and they were not accustomed to the level of activity they had witnessed in the last two weeks.
Gilbert lamented that children in the community were falling ill, adding that he, too, experiences bouts of nausea at night when the nauseating oil smell invades his home.
No school supplies bought
Asha Sylvan, 30, an oyster catcher, of Diamond Village, told the T&T Guardian she had no idea how she would send her children to school because the oil spill had dashed her hopes of earning a living in order to buy their school books. “We want Petrotrin to give us some attention too,” she said. “When I came here Wednesday it was bad, but it get worse. All the mangrove roots covered and all we seeing is damage.”
Sylvan, who joined the media on a tour of the Aripero mangrove on Friday, pointed to oil-covered oysters she retrieved from the mangrove. She said her livelihood, like the oysters, had died as the thick pools of oil continued to creep into the mangrove.
Yesterday, Terrilisa Modeste, 21, complained that since the oil spill started affecting them, her daughter Anastasia, one year and seven-months-old, had developed a skin rash about the body. She pointed to red blotchy areas on the child’s skin, which appeared inflamed and swollen. Modeste said she took the child to the Point Fortin Area Hospital on Friday after the child’s skin began itching and turning red, and she started getting sick.
“They gave me a prescription for medicine for her to drink and she used it yesterday (Saturday) and today...I know it will take a little time, but I not seeing anything happening,” she said. “It is not working. She is uncomfortable, she does be scratching it (her skin) all the time.” Petrotrin has established a medical clinic at the La Brea Community Centre to monitor residents and conduct routine checks.
However, yesterday when the T&T Guardian visited the clinic, Petrotrin security refused us entry and prevented the photographer from taking pictures. At the time, a La Brea resident was being attended to by a nurse.