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Secrets from Area 21 Secret to Escaping Poverty Print E-mail
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Written by By Shane Williams   
Thursday, 26 April 2018 00:00

Secrets from Area 21 is a column about my life growing up at the corner of Kraal Road and Kut Avenue in Southside Belize City. My family’s house lot served as the border line for four of the city’s most dangerous gangs for many years: George Street, Supal Street, Kraal Road and South Side Gang. As a result, I have intimate knowledge of the “thug life” in Belize City and will share some stories about the worst of times and best of times in my neighbourhood with two goals. The first goal is to show outsiders that despite our struggles there is great potential in my community. The second goal is to show the people of my community that we have all the help we need right at home. This column will feature stories from the past that touch on themes such as love and family relationships, crime and violence, poverty, religion, sexuality and politics among others. It will feature pieces on what people in my community are saying about current social and national issues. There will be some special guest entries from people in similar communities. And I will introduce some of the most powerful people in this country whose navel strings are buried right in Area 21. For my first entry I wish to discuss one of the main keys to escaping poverty.

“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” – Nelson Mandela.

I grew up in a poor family; however, I must express extreme gratitude to my grandmother and mother because not for one day as a child did I know we were poor. Notice I said nothing about grandfather and father? I will discuss those suckers in a later entry. My granny, mom and aunts have worked like slaves from since I can remember. They take the kind of jobs nobody wants and not one day have I ever heard any of them complaining about the cards they were dealt. They took the jobs that cause joint aches because they don’t want their children to have belly ache. I said I grew up in a poor family but thanks to the ladies in my life I cannot say I know what it is to miss a meal. When I asked my grandmother about her time taking in laundry, baking bread and bun, sewing chair coverings and curtains to put food on my table she said it was her “sacrifice”. Days before my grandmother passed away in 2006, she spoke to me very carefully about what she expects of me. She said, “Take care of those who sacrificed for you and make a similar sacrifice for the ones who come after you.” I was only 18 at the time so I didn’t fully understand what she meant. It was not until years later when my nieces and nephew started going to school that I got a better understanding. My job was to make a sacrifice for my nieces, nephews, little cousins and my children (whenever I get them). She was talking about a concept I call Generational Sacrifice.

Generational sacrifice is the key to escaping poverty. Like the late great Nelson Mandela said, “Poverty is not an accident.” A family does not become poor overnight. Poverty dates back to generations. Most people of African descent can trace back their poverty line to an ancestor who was a freed slave of a not too decent master. While a few slave masters provided “opportunities” for the freed slaves at the time of Abolition, most slave masters didn’t even give a mule. This is also a topic to be left for another entry. The point I’m trying to make is that poverty happens over time. Therefore, escaping poverty is also a generational effort. In the case of my family, I can only trace our generational sacrifice back to my grandmother. She never gave me reasons to believe her parents made a sacrifice. My grandmother had eight siblings and had to drop out of infant school to help take care of her siblings. Nobody made that sacrifice for her. From that moment she was destined for a life of poverty like that of her parents. Unlike me, she knew very well what it was like to miss meals.

Fortunately for me, my grandmother, Elfreda Flowers, decided to make the first sacrifice for my family line. She decided she would do whatever it took to ensure that her children get at least a primary school education. This meant doing hard labour and staying in difficult relationships to provide for her 14 children. As a result, all of her children graduated from primary school, with the exception of a couple sons who decided early that they prefer working with their hands. As her older children grew up and were able to take care of themselves and even help out a little, she decided to push harder for her younger children to go to high school. This effort allowed five of her children to graduate from high school and they are all living comfortable working class to middle class lives. My mother was one of the older children. She did not get the opportunity to go to high school. Fortunately for me, my sisters and cousins, my mother and all her siblings decided to make a similar generational sacrifice as my grandmother. They decided to make sure all their children get the opportunity to go to high school. I am happy to say that over 90 percent of Elfreda Flowers’ many grand children have gone on to graduate from high school and several have graduated from junior colleges.

I have decided to honour my grandmother by making a similar generational sacrifice. I will do anything I have to do to ensure that my children (whenever I have them), nieces and nephews will have every opportunity to pursue a tertiary level education. My mother’s generation are far better off than my grandmother’s was. My generation is far better off than my mother’s was. Now my job is to ensure that my children’s generation is far better off than mine is.

Generational Sacrifice!!!

This entry was sponsored by Chon Saan Palace!