Tilbert Stewart of Lime Hall, Rock River in Clarendon, knows what it is like to grow up without a father. He grew up with eight siblings and a mother who never looked at another man after his father walked out.
Forced with the responsibility of taking care of his siblings, life was extremely hard, and Stewart dropped out of school at age 11. That fact made him determined that if he ever became a father, he would never abandon his children but do all he could to take care of them.
Now with six grown children of his own, Stewart can take a bow as, looking back, he gave it his all. Doing odd jobs, farming, and even going for two spells on the Farm Work Programme through the government. However, the tobacco farm closed, and he never got another break.
“I fight life, and I pray to God, and I ask him to give me strength,” he lamented.
Stewart, now 57, became a father at 17, and all six children are with his wife – although they are now separated.
“I always want to be there to make sure them ok. I choose not to sleep with another woman …it’s the only way you can grow them with principle. I struggle very hard, but I never give up until the last one tells me she graduates,” he shared.
His daughter Tashel reminisced of her father going the extra mile for her and his grandchildren. She recalls one day when the rain was pouring heavily, and there wasn’t anything in the house to eat; he went to the shop and bought something to cook.
“Him alone in the kitchen and him cook and bring in food for everyone,” she shared.
Even with his skills as a handyman, Stewart has had to watch his house fall apart because he is not financially able to sustain himself and carry out repairs on the house adequately. Whenever there is a hurricane, Stewart must seek refuge with a neighbour who lives on the main road across the river – which is unsafe for him and the children.
The unit he lives in can be described as deplorable, dingy and unkempt – at best. It is difficult to keep clean as a large section of the kitchen flooring is exposed to dirt. The other parts are fragile wooden floors which squeak on impact and pose a safety hazard. The walls are cracked and falling apart, and the roofing is torn and rotten. Additionally, there is no proper sanitation [shower and toilet].
Living with his daughter and her children, they were ‘floating about’ without a home.
Stewart can now smile in relief and great joy as he is the recipient of a house from Food For The Poor in partnership with Boom Energy Drink. There are no words he said that could describe the joy he is feeling to know that he has a proper roof over his head and his daughter and grandchildren don’t have to sleep out in the cold.
“I tell you the truth, I have the hopes for a house, but I never see it coming; that is one of the greatest things whosoever help me to get this house may God continue to bless them,” he gushed, overwhelmed with gratitude. Admitting he desperately needed the help, the house he lived in could not hold everybody.
“It is a big blessing, one of the greatest things I can think about. I talk from my heart,” he enthused.
Looking forward to celebrating another Father’s Day, Stewart notes that his dream is for his children and grandchildren to enjoy the best the future has to offer before he closes his eyes.
“I wish to see them own their businesses, and if they get any opportunity, can go to a different island education-wise. I would be proud, and I actually cannot explain my heart right now what I wish for my children and grandchildren,” he opined.