At home in La Brea. Sereena Smith, on the steps of her house, along with neighbours, contemplate life in La Brea.
Unemployment’s making life tough for La Brea residents
Poor but crime free
The once depressed area has been the site for the Union Industrial Estate and the Labidco Industrial Estate. But industrialisation hasn’t managed to permeate throughout the area as it has in Point Lisas and Point Fortin.
Some residents live in squalid conditions, while others live in two-storey concrete houses, but one villager remarked that the area is almost free of crime except petty thieves who go after fruit trees.
Govt’s MUST programme
Attempts at improving the standard of living of villagers have not been successful.
Residents are not skilled and have not capitalised on the Government’s MUST training programme to get certified.
A guide at the Pitch Lake was quick to note that 90 per cent of the people doing fabrication work at the Union Industrial Estate were not from La Brea.
Many residents are still unemployed even as the Government boasts of almost full employment.
Stephen McCrea, a resident, said that there are still many people who want work.
What work there is not for us. We don’t have 20 per cent of the community which is skilled,” he said.
The Government have put programmes in place so in the near future we will probably have lower employment in the area but for now, it is what it is. The process takes some time and training,” he remarked.
Youth and training
In contrast, Henry Ojoe, noted that some people don’t have the initiative to work.
A lot of work has opened up. It have some lazy ones but some are doing training. It have people who don’t want to work and just want a mouthful,” said Ojoe.
A point which 21-year-old Abby Tony acknowledges.
Tony, who was at home babysitting a niece, said that she was enrolled in a MUST training course building cupboards.
I really want to be a cook but I had nothing to do so I enrolled in the course. If I get a job, that will be good too,” she said.
Poverty has a lot to do with making money and in this area it have plenty of fellas who just don’t want to work. It also have plenty of single mothers with nobody minding them so there is a cycle,” she said.
Alcid Bernard, 20, one of two young men chatting near the La Brea Main Road, told the Business Guardian he had been looking for a job for nine months. His companion Dillion Jeffery, 24, said he was on vacation from his job in the maintenance department at Venture Productions.
Bernard, a graduate of Point Fortin Senior Secondary school, acknowledged that there was work but he would not consider taking up the jobs available.
It have a job where I have to scrape fish and put it in a bag. I not going to do that,” he said. He said he would consider a job anywhere except in “town.”
Asked whether he would consider himself poor, he brashly replied that his family pays all the bills.
I is not a poor person. It have people in this village who worse than me. They have nothing to eat,” he said.
Jeffery, on the other hand, said: “It have plenty poor people. You just have to look for it. Poverty is not just somebody who can’t eat. It’s living in a house where you can’t pay bills and you can’t eat like you should.”
A few streets away, Sereena Smith, 46, was quick to point out that poverty in La Brea was caused by unemployment.
Sitting on the porch of her wooden house, Smith was drying mango to make kuchela to sell, while she looked after her niece and nephew. She also earns a small income selling snacks from her home to the village children.
There are plenty people unemployed here. And it’s hard to get a job because you have to be educated. Some of the children go to school, some don’t go because they don’t like it,” she said.