Gail Baptiste has nowhere to spend Christmas with her children and grandchildren.
On December 8, fire razed her humble house in Guapo Village, Point Fortin, and since then, she has been “bunking” at the homes of generous friends and relatives.
Baptiste, a 59-year-old retired security guard, lived with her teenage son and three grandchildren. At the time of the fire, at about 8 pm, Baptiste was visiting a friend in San Fernando while her son and grandchildren, nine, eight and 16, were at home.
Baptiste told the Newsday she returned home at about 9 pm and saw that neighbours had gathered there along with a fire ambulance and police officers.
Her wooden house was no more.
“I lost everything. Every piece of clothes, appliance, furniture and children’s books burn to ashes.”
The house was valued at about $100,000, and Baptiste told Newsday she bought it ten years ago as part of a programme initiated by the Land Settlement Agency (LSA).
“The house is about 25 years old, but I always renovated and kept it in good condition.”
She has since informed the LSA, with a view to seeking financial assistance to rebuild the house.
But meanwhile, Baptiste, who is unemployed, said since the fire, she had been knocking on the doors of relatives with her son and three grandchildren. She sobbed, “It is hard to work all your life and then one day you lose all to a fire.”
She said the family’s only worldly possessions were the clothes they wore on their backs.
Having visited the Social Welfare office in Point Fortin, Baptiste said she had been told her request must wait its turn because there were other, more pressing cases to attend to.
Baptiste is also asking the public to find a place in their hearts in this season of goodwill to help her reconstruct her house.
“I would like help, as I am not healthy enough to do hard work any more,” she said.
Baptiste is also appealing to the Minister of Housing, Randall Mitchell, to help her find a house, at least for the Christmas holidays.