McDowell Trace

HUMBLE SETTING: Two of the children do their schoolwork by the light of a pitch oil lamp at the family’s home at McDowell Trace, Guaico in Tamana. Inset the children’s father, Brandon Morales.

Around 5.30 p.m., Brandon Morales, 30, reaches his home in McDowell Trace, Guaico in Tamana, after a hard day’s work as a mason in Chaguaramas.

The sun is setting and darkness is settling over the little rural village.

He lights the one pitch oil lamp the family has and uses the light from two cellphones charged by a neighbour’s house to finish off his three children’s school work for the day.

“My wife, Angelie (26), teaches them during the day but I help out with whatever she doesn’t understand when I come home,” Morales told the Express.

“I put all of them around the centre table and still get to run through a little work with them and give them their little correct and thing on it.”

Their three girls - Crystal, ten, Arabella, seven, and Arianna, five - all attended Jubilee Presbyterian School in Tamana but have been home since the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

When online classes resumed earlier this month, the girls could not access it because they have no electricity.

“We collect a package for Arianna from her school and work with that for her. But her teacher said the packages won’t last for more than a month again because all the students using the Internet,” Morales said.

He said he sacrificed and bought all Crystal’s Standard Four textbooks and she uses them for her studies.

“We use Crystal’s Standard Two books to teach Arabella. I couldn’t get new books for the last two because I now start this work. When I get pay, I will buy all the books,” he said.

Morales said when he married Angelie five years ago they moved into the pretty, wooden house he built himself in McDowell Trace but they never had electricity.

“I went to T&TEC (Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission) office in Tumpuna to see about it and they told me because the house was so far inside the trace, I will have to pay $10,700 for a pole and a transformer. I could not afford it at the time,” he related.

He said he even tried to use an option from the Self Help Commission but the contractor still needed T&TEC’s approval.

No pipe-borne water either

Morales said before he got the job in Chaguaramas, he sold conch he got from a ravine at the Sangre Grande market.

He plants a variety of food crops and fruit trees to help feed his young family, he said.

He said for the past seven months he has been visiting T&TEC’s office to enquire about electricity and “all they keep telling is my letter went in for pricing. They had said they would call me the first week in August but I didn’t hear anything. If I get electricity, I will be able to buy the devices for my children to do online learning. I got the house wired in time for their online schooling.”

Morales said the family does not have pipe-borne water either.

“I buy two 400-gallon tanks and put guttering on the house so most of the time I get water from the rain. Real rain does fall up on we side,” he said.

He said he saved up buckets from a previous job and uses them for washing.

“I have a scrubbing board and a brush. But it’s plenty clothes and I have to help my wife sometimes,” he said.

Morales said he wants a better life for his children.

“I went through my own poverty and make an oath to myself I don’t want my children to go through that. I work very hard for them to have a better life,” he added.

Anyone wishing to assist the Morales family can reach them at 678-8137 and 383-0115.