Avril Gumbs: “Politicians should look at the way people live”

POSTED: 07/11/14 11:34 PM

Grassroots Voices kicks off today

St. Maarten – This afternoon at 5.30 p.m. the new radio program Grassroots Voices kicks off with host Julian Rollocks on PJD2 1300 AM. “The purpose of this program is to give a voice to low-income earners, the unemployed and other vulnerable groups,” Rollocks said yesterday. “People can come on the program to talk about their situation and to make their own recommendations to politicians.”

The first guest on the program is Avril Gumbs, a 58-year old single mother of 9 children and a grandmother to 38. Her children are aged from 22 to 44. One son works as a male nurse in New York, a daughter is an open-heart surgeon in the Netherlands, another son is a pilot in Canada and a son who is here on the island is a cab driver.

“I have been a single mother all my life,” Gumbs says before adding with a smile, “by choice.” She has been working in different positions for the government – from cleaning the streets and controlling streetlights and garbage to timekeeper. She makes her own Johnny-cakes that are advertised regularly on Rollock’s radio program Strictly Business.

There were times when Gumbs got up at five in the morning to work her way across the rocks from Back Bay in Pointe Blanche towards Guana Bay to collect welks. Shrimping was also part of her repertoire to get by.

“After forty years of working for the government, they fired me,” she says. “I had trouble with a man at my home, and they locked me up for four days. I took the government to court over my dismissal and I won the court case but now they don’t know where to place me. I am on the payroll, but I want to work.”

What does Gumbs have to say to our politicians and to those who aspire to become one? “Look at the people who are in need,” she says without hesitation. “Many people are unable to pay their bills, or to buy food. We have this pride, we don’t talk about it, we suffer in silence. Politicians should not only look at these people because there are elections, but the truth is that they only come out during election time. They don’t know what it is to get up in the morning and discover that you have water, but no sugar. Kids go to school hungry. How can they learn like that?”

Gumbs says that politicians ought to go deep into the neighborhoods to see for themselves how people live. “They have no idea what it is like,” she says. “I have worked hard all my life and all I ask in return is: give me a good education for my children.”

Julian Rollocks will be able to connect with his first guest – he is himself the first of six children with a single mother. Grassroots Voices broadcasts on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 5.30 p.m. on PJD2 1300 AM.

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