Angela Swamber, 60, is severely visually impaired but she’s a woman possessed of extraordinary grit and determination and has been taking care of her son, Aaron, 29, who suffers from cerebral palsy, all his life.
Mother and son live in a dilapidated two-bedroom concrete flat on Boodram Street, Enterprise, with gaping holes in its termite-infested roof, and they survive off Government disability grants.
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity and member of its advisory board Sieunarine Coosal, chairman of the Coosal’s Group of Companies, she and her son will get a brand new home for Christmas.
Swamber wept tears of joy yesterday while Aaron smiled and listened attentively during a sod-turning ceremony.
Swamber, a regular churchgoer, said she had been praying for a house.
“I’ve been praying for this for years, crying out to the Lord. And God decided to answer my prayers. I am so emotional. After all these years, you finally see something happening. It’s a joy unspeakable.”
She said her house is badly deteriorated and got worse when the back wall was damaged during the 6.9-magnitude earthquake last year. She said the house is infested with woodlice.
“Last night the rain was falling and I fell down and hurt my back. My son prays with me every night so I could live long,” she said.
Coosal, a successful businessman with humble roots, said he takes his corporate responsibilities very seriously, and promised his Chin Chin, Cunupia, company would supply all the materials for Swamber’s house.
“It’s in blessing that we receive,” said Coosal, a devout Hindu.
He and others present bowed their heads yesterday morning as Swamber’s pastor, Lincoln Henry of the Assembly of God church, said a prayer of thanksgiving on the empty lot next door where the sod was turned for the new home.
Coosal was accompanied by a team from his company, headed by Sasenarine Maharaj, whom he appointed manager of the project, and Habitat’s national director, Jennifer Massiah, and other officials.
Touch and smell
Swamber said she was born visually impaired and for the first 20 years of Aaron’s life, took care of him single-handedly.
“It was really, really hard taking care of him. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it became harder because some days I didn’t feel well. But I tried, I really tried hard.”
When she had to cook, she would average the amount of ingredients and use her senses of touch and smell.
“You know, when a person is blind, the other senses develop. Mine developed a great deal. I put my salt and sugar in different bottles and feel it before I use it,” she said.
She said Aaron has come a long way, but there was a time when he could not brush his teeth or bathe for himself. “But now he can do those things. I take out his food and put it for him to eat,” she said.
Swamber said her son desperately needs therapy because his feet are starting to turn backwards.
Aaron’s speech is impaired, but his mother understands him and translates.
He said he wanted a therapist and he wanted to go to Canada for treatment.
For the past nine years, Swamber has been assisted by a caregiver, Andrea Furlonge, appointed by the Ministry of Social Development.
Furlonge works at their home from Monday to Friday, cooking and doing other household chores. But Swamber still has to see about Aaron on weekends. “When she is gone, is me alone with Aaron,” she said.
Coosal said he was touched by the love and care Swamber and Aaron show each other.
“This extraordinary lady, though blind, moves as though she has clear vision. It’s heart-warming to know you can help people who are really in need.
“I think it’s very important that you give back to society,” he said.
He said his company, seven decades old, has been assisting schools, churches, mosques and temples and doing road paving in the Maracas and Madras areas.
He said he took over the management of the company after his brother, Adjodha, died and it went into receivership.
He has managed to transform it into a major conglomerate.
Coosal gave all the praise for Swamber’s new home to Habitat for Humanity, which he described as “the champion leading the drive”.
Habitat’s national director, Massiah, in turn, showered praises on Coosal, whose kindness and generosity touched them, she said.
“He just blew my mind because of the kind of person who sits behind the desk. He does not look at anything as just a business deal. He looks to see how can he make someone else be the best they can be,” she said.
She said Coosal joined Habitat’s advisory board in 2006, and is one of its four influential corporate leaders.
She said when he realised they were using public transportation to visit needy people throughout Trinidad, his reaction was “swift”.
“He said if you are giving, you should only give your best. I am going to donate a pick-up truck to Habitat and pay the insurance on it for one year,” she said.
She added, “We have benefited tremendously from millions of dollars in blocks, gravel, fill and other construction inputs from Coosal’s (for other houses built for the less fortunate).
“Additional support has come from providing space in his office for Habitat workshops, meetings and training sessions throughout the years,” she added.
Coosal will be inducted into the T&T Chamber’s Business Hall of Fame during its business awards ceremony on Friday.