Odetta Blair's wish will come true
De Sinco building house for mother with 11 children By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
February 5, 2002

"My childhood days were very depressing, with lots of problems and because of that, I was always eager to get big, live in my own home and manage my own affairs," were the revealing words of Odetta Blair a mother of 11, whose dwelling, located at lot 370 Middle Road La Penitence, was destroyed by high winds on January 23.

Now, because of that misfortune, Blair's wish is about to be realised. Owner of De Sinco Trading, Frank De Abreu, told Stabroek News that after he read about Blair's misfortune his company decided to build her a house. Blair, who has a plot of land at Section E, Sophia, Greater Georgetown, told this news paper that she had already paid $34,000 towards the land and had a balance of $27,000 to pay. She said that the government had since promised to give her the land free.

De Abreu has started work on the house and urged that the Ministry of Housing release the land title to Blair. He said that the house, which is currently under construction, is a modern three-bedroom home with toilet and bath and a verandah. He said that it would cost his company $500,000 and the donation was part of the company's tenth anniversary celebrations. He said after the house is completed the company would paint it and seek other help in furnishing it. He stated that his employees would be working on the house every weekend and assured that it will be completed shortly.

Blair said that one of the first things she would do after acquiring her new home is to have a thanksgiving service and order her life better.

Giving a bit of her history Blair said she was born of the union of Ingrid and Desmond Blair 32 years ago.

When she was three months old her mother who now resides in the Netherlands left her father's home after the couple was finding it very difficult to live with each other. "All through my life I was raised without a mother. Since I was three months old I never see my mother again."

The mother of 11 said that she grew up with a foster mother and two stepsisters and most of the times she was treated with contempt and hatred. "Nobody appeared to love me, even my father had started to turn against me so I kept praying for the day to come when I would get old and be able to manage my own affairs."

Mother left at three months

At the age of 13 she was put out of her father's home and because she had nowhere to go, she slept for one week in the yard. The woman said that while she was enduring the hardship a young man who resided in the same area befriended her and after a while friendship turned into romance. She said that when her father and foster mother refused to give her food and treated her unkindly, the young man undertook to have her fed and sometimes offered her clothing along with other things.

At the age of 19, she had her first child, Ako, who is now 15. She said that even though the father of her child was not employed, he assisted in the welfare and upkeep. She said that her father also assisted and her child was able to thrive and enjoy a relatively balanced childhood.

Thirty two year old, Odetta Blair with her 11 children. Blair and her children were left homeless late last month when the house they resided in at Middle Road collapsed. The children are: Ako, 15; Nalo, 13; Rashana, 12; ten year old Tilisha; eight year old Chautie; seven year old Monica; six year old Brittany; five year old Bryana; Oladellie and Oxana two years old; and one month old Neshack. (Aubrey Crawford photo)

She said that for a short while her father tried to tolerate her, but he became fretful and abusive. "So one day, when he wasn't home I went through his pocket and stole some money and moved out with my friends to Berbice."

At Berbice, Blair said, she met another man and after a while had a child by him, Nalo, who is now 13. She said things were very hard since she wasn't working and he was a farmer. But she later encouraged him to seek another job and he subsequently joined the Guyana Police Force.

Blair said that while Nalo's father was in training school she returned home to her father, who gladly welcomed her. When his training was completed they reunited and had another child, Rashana, now 12.

However, the union did not last and Blair, alone again, secured a job, in a nearby shop to help maintain her children. It was there that she met Godfrey Heber, who she said did not cease in his attempts to charm her. After a while, she succumbed to his charms and they shared a common-law union, before getting married in 1996.

She explained that Heber gave her and her three children priority in his life. She said for many years he worked very hard and provided for his family and the little she earned working at the shop assisted. She gave birth to eight other children: ten-year-old Tilisha, eight-year-old Chauntie, seven-year-old Monica, six-year-old Brittany, five-year-old Bryana, Oladelie and Oxana two years old and one-month-old, Neshack.

Drug abuse

After about two years of marriage, Blair said, her husband began to abuse drugs. He lost focus and abandoned his family, seeking other interests. She said many days he assaulted her after smoking and at one time he struck her with a caharie (sauce pan), fracturing her shoulder. "We fight each other. We curse each other. We did almost anything to each other and my life became more and more miserable."

Blair said that her husband's family eventually went to get him and he was placed in a rehabilitation centre. "All during this time I had nothing to do. Nowhere to turn. No job and with so many children life was very hard. Many days we went without food. And while the children cried because of hunger, I stood watching them helplessly."

She said that after a while neighbours started to give her little chores around their homes and she earned a little money.

Laying the foundation: Employees of Desinco Trading laying the foundation for Odetta Blair's house in Sophia yesterday. At left, her son Ako looks on. (Aubrey Crawford photo)

She said that her husband was released from the rehabilitation centre and they reunited, but soon after he fell back to abusing the drugs and physically abusing her using sticks, pot spoons and other weapons. According to her, one day she became fed up with the situation, took a knife and stabbed him in the chest. She said that his parents took him to the hospital and after being discharged, he left her.

Blair said that she loved children and had many because all the contraceptives she ever used failed to work. She claimed that a doctor told her that if she wanted to have better birth control she would have to have her tubes tied or have her husband use condoms. She said she explained this many times to her husband, but he refused to comply. Blair recalled when they finally broke up how distressing and difficult it was to take care of 11 children.

Eager to earn

As regards her children's education, Blair said that she had uplifted a letter from the Ministry of Education to place them in schools. But she said that she would not send them to school now, as she preferred to wait until they had taken up residence in their new home. Blair said that when their home toppled her children had been very traumatised and her eldest daughter was the most affected.

She told this newspaper that after her house was demolished the Guyana Relief Council (GRC) had promised her mattresses among other things, but to date she had only received some clothing, utensils and foodstuff. She said that the little foodstuff was quickly diminishing. She also said that the GRC had promised her a sewing machine, which she was eager to have, since it would help her in earning a livelihood.

Meanwhile, Blair and her children are currently residing at the home of a neighbour, Patsy Cozier. The member of the Church of God of Prophecy indicated that she has learned to trust in Jesus, who is her only help. "When all others fail you, Jesus never leaves you nor forsakes you. In all of my problems God is still helping me and with a little help here and there I am making it with my children...," she said.