No food, pampers for my babies

Un­able to feed and clothe her two ba­bies and with­out a com­fort­able place to call home, a Pa­lo Seco moth­er is cry­ing out for help.

For a long time, 22-year-old Nio­ka Alexan­der has hid­den the ex­tent of the squalor they live in, but last week Wednes­day af­ter she was caught steal­ing food items from a vil­lage gro­cery, her se­cret was re­vealed.

A so­cial me­dia video in­tend­ed to shame her had the op­po­site ef­fect.

She has re­ceived an out­pour­ing of sup­port and sym­pa­thy from the pub­lic.

What peo­ple saw was not a thief, but a moth­er liv­ing in pover­ty, des­per­ate for milk and food to feed her two hun­gry ba­bies.

One of the po­lice of­fi­cers who re­spond­ed to the re­port of shoplift­ing end­ed up pay­ing for the gro­cery items Alexan­der stole.

Hid­den un­der her clothes and in a bag were a pack of Crix, three pack­ets of chick­en parts and a small pack of pow­dered milk.

Sym­pa­this­ing with her sit­u­a­tion, the of­fi­cer al­so gave her a drop home.

The gro­cery own­er opt­ed not to press charges, but not long af­ter a video sur­faced trig­ger­ing an on­slaught of crit­i­cism for the per­son who post­ed it.

As she wiped away her tears, Alexan­der sobbed, “What re­al­ly made me do that in the gro­cery is be­cause I was home frus­trat­ed, sit down cry­ing, be­cause I was study­ing my chil­dren had no pam­pers and milk. I just left home and go and that is what hap­pen.”

She was speak­ing to Guardian Me­dia at the rusty gal­va­nize, wood­en and con­crete win­dow­less and door-less shack at Beach Road, Pa­lo Seco which Alexan­der, her sons—Mas­si­ah, four months and Jas­si­ah, 15 months—and her hus­band Bran­don Aguillera, 25, call home.

Obliv­i­ous of their dire cir­cum­stances, Mas­si­ah slept in an old ba­by car seat, cov­ered by a tat­tered dis­coloured tow­el, while his broth­er played with an emp­ty card­board box in the con­crete area ad­join­ing the shack, both of them wear­ing on­ly pam­pers.

Mas­si­ah does not have clothes while his broth­er bare­ly has any cloth­ing or footwear.

To get to their home, which is not vis­i­ble from the road, they have to trek through a track hid­den by tall bush­es.

A steep flight of steps then leads to their home which is al­so sur­round­ed by bush­es and sits pre­car­i­ous­ly close to the edge of a precipice.

The dark musty shack is bare­ly fur­nished and has no run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­i­ty. When­ev­er it rains, the gal­va­nize roof leaks ex­pos­ing the ba­bies to fur­ther cold and damp con­di­tions.

They col­lect con­tain­ers of wa­ter from the stand­pipe to bathe, clean, wash, cook and some­times drink. There is no stove or bath­room and the out­house is sit­u­at­ed a short dis­tance away in the bush­es.

Alexan­der ad­mits that the bad choic­es she made in life led her to this predica­ment but she is ask­ing for help, not for her­self but for her ba­bies.

Born in Mor­vant, Alexan­der and her younger broth­er lost their moth­er to an ill­ness when they were in­fants. Their fa­ther took them to live with his moth­er in Fyz­abad. When she was sev­en, he died from a brain tu­mour.

She has two step­sis­ters, who are now po­lice of­fi­cers, but they did not grow up with them. Af­ter drop­ping out of school in Form Five, Alexan­der be­gan pur­su­ing a course with the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps.

One day, at age 18, she nev­er re­turned home.

“To be hon­est, I ac­tu­al­ly run away from home. I re­al­ly want­ed my own way.”

She be­gan work­ing with Cepep and af­ter stay­ing at the home of dif­fer­ent friends she set­tled in Siparia where she met Aguillera.

In 2017, she moved in with him at the shack, which is owned by his fam­i­ly in Pa­lo Seco where a year lat­er she had her first son.

Every day was a strug­gle for food, said Alexan­der. She said she once worked for a man who sold mar­ket goods, but was no longer em­ployed.

“If we make $400 (a day) we will get $100,” said Alexan­der.

 

Image result for No food, pampers for my babies
Brandon Aguilera comforts one of his children. [Image by INNIS FRANCIS]

 

Her hus­band, a cer­ti­fied up­hol­ster­er, has been un­able to land a per­ma­nent job as he has a crim­i­nal back­ground, but he does part-time con­struc­tion work.

The moth­er ad­mit­ted she had stolen food from the gro­cery on two oth­er oc­ca­sions be­cause her ba­bies were hun­gry.

“I just want­ed to make sure my kids com­fort­able and they have what they sup­pose to have. I could do with­out but is my kids, if you don’t feed them they could suf­fer and die,” she sobbed.

When she first found out about the video on Face­book, she said she felt em­bar­rassed, es­pe­cial­ly since she knew her ac­tions would bring shame to her fam­i­ly.

While she knows steal­ing is wrong, she said at that mo­ment she was just think­ing about her chil­dren and it turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise.

“If I did not do that no­body would have helped and I would just be there suf­fer­ing with my two chil­dren, but every­thing hap­pens for a rea­son.”

Since the video, she said strangers and fam­i­ly mem­bers have been turn­ing up at the door to help her.

“I am thank­ful and I ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

Aguillera said if they got as­sis­tance with ma­te­ri­als he, his fa­ther and oth­er rel­a­tives would be able to con­struct a prop­er home for them to live in.

Al­though he did not know his wife was go­ing to steal, he un­der­stands why she did it.

“I leave she home with noth­ing,” whis­pered Aguillera said as he wiped his tears and bent his head.

He said he changed his life when he met her and since then he has been liv­ing his life for his wife and chil­dren.

Look­ing back at her life, Alexan­der en­cour­aged young peo­ple to get a prop­er ed­u­ca­tion.

“Get a job and have some­where to live be­fore you have any chil­dren. To be hon­est, chil­dren are very ex­pen­sive and very hard to mind and if you don’t have what they want and they keep cry­ing you will get frus­trat­ed and that’s how I does feel when I don’t have for my chil­dren,” she said.

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Story by SACHA WILSON

Images by INNIS FRANCIS

Image caption: Nikoa Alexander and her common-law husband, Brandon Aguillera, 25, with their two children at their home at Beach Road, Palo Seco, on Saturday.

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