Broomes Foundation gives hope to East La Penitence fire victims

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…donates construction materials to assist in the rebuilding of homes

“It hasn’t been easy since. One night we are sleeping here, next night we sleeping somewhere else but I am truly grateful for the help we are getting because all I want is to get back a shelter for myself, children and grandchildren,” one of the fore victims, Chevion Clarke told Village Voice News

By Svetlana Marshall

The site of the fire

Days after a raging fire completely destroyed the homes of two East La Penitence families leaving 16 persons homeless, the Broomes Foundation, in keeping with its mandate to support vulnerable communities, is offering much needed assistance to reconstruct the two houses.


“It hasn’t been easy since. One night we are sleeping here, next night we sleeping somewhere else but I am truly grateful for the help we are getting because all I want is to get back a shelter for myself, children and grandchildren,” Chevion Clarke told Village Voice News as she sat a stone’s throw away from where her house once stood.

Clarke, a 39-year-old mother of four, is among the 16 persons whose homes were destroyed by a mid-afternoon fire last Tuesday, September 21. Her sister – Jeanelle Clarke-December – also lost her home. The 40-year-old wife and mother of six told Village Voice News that she was plunged into despair when the fire struck but she is thankful for life, and the support being offered by the Broomes Foundation.

Founder of the Broomes Foundation, Simona Broomes in discussion with the fire victims, Chevion Clarke and Jeanelle Clarke-December

On Thursday, the Broomes Founded led by Simona Broomes – former Minister of Government under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government – donated a load of sand, a sling of cement and 600 blocks to aid in the reconstruction of the two homes.

“I am very much glad because we already get sand, we are getting materials, we just got to clear out [the debris] and start building,” Clarke-December said with great optimism.

The younger Simona Broomes interacting with one of the fire victims after presenting him with a tablet

Clarke-December lived in an upper elevated wooden house while her sister lived in a single flat house just behind hers.

In an interview with Village Voice News, Broomes said she was led to offer the foundation’s support after learning that the fire had consumed the homes of the two sisters. Broomes explained that she was on her way home on Tuesday, when she saw heavy smoke emanating from the East La Penitence Dam. She subsequently learnt that it was a fire, and that two homes on the Dam were completely destroyed.

On the morning of Thursday, September 23, Broomes and two of her children – Simona and Troy – went in search of the fire victims, and presented the affected school aged children with two tablets to assist with their virtual classes.

After hearing the women’s plight, Broomes returned hours later with construction materials including sand to kick start the reconstruction of the homes – by which time, the families had begun to clear the site of the debris.

Broomes said her foundation is more than happy to provide relief to those in need of help.

“The only thing I am sad about is that they don’t have title for these places because they both can start two brand new houses from the bottom; and like my daughter was telling her about the story in the Bible, yes, you have lost everything but the rebuilding can be greater and it can be better, by the time they finish cleaning, they already get cement, they already get blocks, they already get sand, so that they can start to do something,” the former government minister and parliamentarian reasoned.

She said Broomes Foundation is pleased to be a beacon of hope for others.

Troy Broomes interacting with another fire victim

“I really want to encourage them and wish them well and to continue to encourage other women because I can be a support to them and they can be a support to someone else; I can give a word of advice to both of them and they can give it to someone else,” Broomes said.

Broomes called on other organisations and likeminded Guyanese to provide additional support to the two women to ensure their homes are completely rebuilt.

Recapping the events that unfolded on Tuesday, Clarke-December recalled that she was cleaning the yard at around 14:00hrs when her 10-year-old son informed her that something was lit in his aunt’s home.

“When I run in the house, the mattress was on fire. We try outing it, but we weren’t getting to out it. We hadn’t enough water, water wasn’t really coming at the pipe,” she said.

At the time, her sister, was asleep in another room in the house. “My sister was sleeping, so when I started hollering, she jumped up and come in front to see but by the time she snatched her TV off of the wall, the fire was at the door. She even got burn on her fingers,” Clarke-December further recalled.

It was not long after that the fire spread to her house. According to her, numerous calls to the Guyana Fire Service went unanswered. “We called and we called and we didn’t get no answer, people had to leave the dam to go to the fire station, and when they came they drive and go around the road, they had to jump the trench to get over. By the time they reach, both houses burn down to the ground,” the woman said.

Clarke-December lived in the upper elevated wooden house with her husband, six children, and two grandchildren.

Her sister lived in a smaller wooden flat house with two of her four children, and three grandchildren. “Between sleep and wake, I hear me daughter hollering, Mommy! Mommy! Get up, fire!” Clarke recalled.

Upon hearing the alarm, the 39-year-old mother rushed to her daughter’s room to find it engulfed in flames. Clarke said attempts to out the blaze were futile, and she was left with no other choice but to abandon her home and run to safety with her children and grandchildren.

“The TV was closest thing to the door, I picked up that and through the door,” Clarke said while noting that she was contemplating returning to the house to get her work bag with documents, but opted not to.

“When I watch, I couldn’t go back in because I would have lost my life, trying to save that, it didn’t make sense,” she said.

The load of sand, which was among construction materials donated to the fire victims by the Broomes Foundation

Reports indicate that Clarke’s four-year-old grandson was seen earlier that afternoon with a lighter. It is believed that he may have set the mattress on fire while playing with the lighter.

After the women lost their homes, their families were separated, however, they both expressed thanks and appreciation to the neighbours, friends and family members who to date continue to provide shelter and other assistance.

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