At 20, Janel Chase should have been looking forward to how her life would unfold. Instead, she is a depressed mother of two whose reputed husband recently walked out on her leaving her with no means of supporting herself and children.
Some days it is a struggle to find a few spoons of sugar to make tea for her two- and one-year-old children.
She lives with her 81-year-old grandmother and according to her they help to take care of each other and the children. Their home is located in Cemetery Road, Mocha, East Bank Demerara, and although it is in "good condition" it does not have any electricity or running water.
And apart from the difficulty of surviving and providing for her two toddlers, the young mother is also epileptic. She was forced to leave school early because of the condition.
She said she sometimes knows when to expect an attack but at other times it happens suddenly, like one she experienced a little less than two years ago.
She said she was returning from the shop after making a purchase for her grandmother when suddenly she blacked out. She later learnt she fell flat on her face on the road and had to be taken home by public-spirited citizens. When she came to, Chase was in her bed and two of her front teeth were missing, knocked out when she fell on the road.
Even though her boyfriend, who was living with her at the time, stuck around after this incident and she bore him another child, Chase feels that her missing front teeth caused him to leave.
"I think is because me ent get no front teeth and he must be see some other girl more flashy than me and gone with she," the young woman said.
She told Stabroek News that he walked out earlier this year. She said he made a living by weeding for people during the day, while at night he operated a karaoke machine at a popular business spot in Mocha. But many days he gave her just $300. One day, she said, she told him that the money could do nothing for the children. "He just turn and say, Janel me ent able with this. This relationship between me and you over. He ask me for his clothes and I give he it and he gone," she said.
"I don't know, honestly I don't know where that boy is."
Chase said she attempted several times to make contact with her daughter's father's relatives to get assistance for little Marian and Mario but they were not willing to help and on a few occasions she has had the phone hung up on her.
Chase is very conscious about her missing teeth, which are only noticeable when she speaks. She is small in stature and underweight, but the young woman said she really cannot take care of herself. She said many days when there is not enough food for the entire family she leaves herself without to ensure that her children and grandmother eat because of their ages. And this is not healthy, because, according to the young woman, whenever she is not eating properly she is more likely to have an epileptic fit.
Chase grew up with her grandmother. Her father lives overseas but she does not know him, while her mother is married and living in the same village. Chase said since she grew up with her grandmother she is not close to her mother. According to Chase, she left school in form four on the advice of the headmistress because of her condition.
At her grandmother's age there is not much she can do, but Chase said the woman still has a small kitchen garden which she maintains.
"She would go and sit down and weed and plant and when dem things get ripe deh does come in handy fo we. I don't really know how really we surviving," the young mother said.
Chase's story is not unique as there are many women her age who are in the same position or even worse but her existence is indeed sad. She survives through the benevolence of those living around her. She does not mind that her reputed husband has left, but wishes he would contribute to the children's upkeep. "Is better he go if he want another woman, I don't want he to be with me and other woman because with all dem things out there, I don't want to dead and leave me children," she said.
Chase would not openly beg for assistance, but would welcome anything offered to her. Because of her condition and lack of education it is difficult for her to find any employment and even if she does she has the added problem of finding someone to take care of the children since they are sometimes too much.
She sees the road ahead as long and difficult.