Child touches hearts of neighbours and classmates
“I was annoyed that they called me a white rabbit, so I went and told teacher. Teacher called them and gave them lashes –bloom, bloom. I felt bad that they were beaten because of me. My eyes were filled with tears and I quickly apologised to my classmates.
“I told them you can call me anything you want; I won’t get angry and never will I tell teacher again.
From that they day on treated me as one of their own. And when others would ask about the Spanish girl in their class they would say. She is sweet and kind; we love her. She is our sister”.
This is the story of 12-year-old Katherene Gonzales DeCosta, a student at the Campbellville Secondary School and a Venezuelan migrant who escaped her country’s economic crisis along with her extended family.
The family, who hails from the tropical city of Puerto La Cruz, includes 10 adults, five babies and two adolescents.
Kim Gonzales, Katherene’s mother, said that they arrived in Georgetown one year ago looking for work.
Upon arrival, they were assisted by an aunt who resides in Georgetown.
Katherene and her best friend Miss Joyce
They found a house to rent, lot 107 CQ Campbell Avenue for $50,000.
During the negotiation of the rent, Kim said the landlord was nice, but then gave stern warning that scared her.
The landlord told Kim, “If you fail to pay the rent, I will add arrears and if you still don’t pay… We Guyanese is bad people. We would beat yuh, call the police and lock yuh up”.
Upon hearing this, the rest of the family went “job hunting” while Kim stayed at home to look after the children.
Kim recounted that she did not have a stove to cook.
Being accustomed to her Venezuelan way of life, she visited one of her neighbours and asked if she could be allowed to use their kitchen to cook for the children.
But the neighbour responded rudely and said that they don’t allow people to come in our house just like that.
Shocked at the response, she apologised and explained that her husband went to purchase a stove but would arrive late.
The neighbour responded, “Well that’s not our problem. It is just that we don’t know you.”
Feeling ashamed, she called her aunt and told her what had transpired,
Her aunt who had been living Guyana for some years told her, “Child, this is not Venezuela, the people are different”.
Kim’s aunt explained to her that Guyanese are very enclosed, hostile and don’t associate much.
She was also told that Guyanese are very racist and rude.
Kim then warned her children and rest of the family not to associate much with Guyanese because they seem like bad people. But she could not stop Katherene from being inquisitive and curious about her neighbourhood.
Little Katherene wished to make friends with the children of Campbell Avenue and often questioned her mother, “Why can’t I be friends with Guyanese people?”
Kim would respond by saying “Well the neighbours don’t say morning; their faces are always serious, and the children don’t like play in the afternoons.”
Refusing to believe, Katherene would say, “No mommy, there is a sweet little old lady that lives next door, she smiles with me and tells me good morning”.
Katherene longed to meet Miss Joyce Bobb, “the smiling old lady”.
One day Katherene was sent to purchase ice but the shop had run out of supplies.
While returning home, Katherene gazed at Joyce’s house and saw her opportunity to form a conversation.
She knocked at the gate and was greeted with the smile she loved. Wasting no time, Katherene asked Joyce if she had ice.
Joyce responded, “Yes darling,” and offered Katherene the ice free of cost.
Seizing the moment, Joyce and Katherene became best of friends.
Joyce Bobb said that she admires Katherene’s courteous attitude and is impressed by her intelligence and charming words.
Katherene described Miss Joyce Bobb an “angel sent from heaven” because of her kindness towards her.
Becoming friends with Joyce Bobb convinced Katherene that her mom’s perspective of Guyanese was totally wrong.
Eventually Katherene became friends with almost everyone in her neighbourhood.
Her mother said that because of Katherene’s persistence and personality, they discovered a beautiful side of their Guyanese brothers.
She, too, was able to find few Guyanese who are quite friendly and hospitable but she is a bit baffled by some of their traditions.
When asked about the baffling traditions, Kim responded with a question, “Is it a culture for Guyanese men to be overly protective of their wives?”
Not knowing how to respond reporters inquired about the reason behind Kim’s question.
Shockingly, she responded by saying that her friend would often warn her not to be accompanied by her husband when visiting.
Kim also said that her friend is not allowed to visit her either because of the men in her house.