For Better or Worse

Sixty five year old Sheila Devi resides at Wairebatia on the outskirts of Lautoka. She lives in a two roomed corrugated iron house with her three grand children (1 grandson & 2 granddaughters). It was unfortunate that her grandson left school a few months after his mother passed away in 2008 when he was only in Form 3. Despite our advice and counselling, he never went back to school. However, his two little sisters are currently attending primary school. When their father re-married he disowned all three of his children. Sheila, not having any choice became the sole carer of these children. Her grandson who is now 15 years old is a casual worker at a sweets making shop and is also the financial provider for the family with whatever little he earns. The two girls are now in Class 5 & 6 respectively and they are extremely fortunate to be sponsored by the Bayly Education Lautoka. It is always so touching when we visit the family. Shiela a diabetic patient has had her right leg and three toes from her left leg amputated and is wheelchair bound. Gone are the days when she would be able to hold her own in a conversation. A slight stroke has left her speech inaudible but she still manages to communicate. The daily cooking and most of the household chores are now done by the two girls (Meenal & Manshika) and this has affected their academic performance. We continue to visit the girls at school and also at home, and with the counseling that they are receiving from their teachers as well as from us, we hope to see signs of improvement. During one of our surprise visits to Sheila’s home, it was so sad to see her sitting outside in her wheelchair doing her washing. Upon asking her who would hang the clothes on the line “she said she would wait on the neighbors to come by and help her do that”….It is times like this that I, as the Lautoka Almoner, often wonder why some of us are not satisfied with what we have in life’ while there are others struggling just to survive. Good neighbors are hard to come by but Sheila’s neighbour’s are always willing to help the family, especially in coming to our office to collect her food rations and also bringing Sheila to see the clinic doctor or bringing the girls for counseling. Leaving the children behind and going to live with her other daughter is not an option for Sheila since these grandchildren have no one else to care for them. My staff and I are always eager to assist with any positive advice- be it either motherly advice, counseling on school matters or life itself. The Bayly Trust doors are always open to such cases and we all work together in our efforts to try and give our children the best start that they can have in their life – which is a good education. Compiled by: Sarojni Michael Almoner-Lautoka