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Mothers, children share love

By CAROL MATROO Sunday, December 8 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Tropical Wonderland: Over half a million Christmas lights transform businessman Aziz Ramsingh's  home into a tropical wonderland at Palm Road, North V...
Tropical Wonderland: Over half a million Christmas lights transform businessman Aziz Ramsingh's home into a tropical wonderland at Palm Road, North V...

there were tears of joy and sadness yesterday at the Golden Grove Women’s Prisons, Arouca, as mothers met with their children and other relatives during the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service, in collaboration with the Prisons Fellowship TT’s 9th Annual Angel Tree Programme.

Some mothers instantly broke down in tears at the sight of their little ones — some bearing hand-made Christmas cards while others hugged children they left behind because of a crime they committed years before.

Some of the women have been incarcerated at the prison for years, some still awaiting trial while remanded, so the few hours they had with their loved ones yesterday were precious indeed. Some mothers had no visitors at all.

Stacy-Ann Beckles is a mother of three who was held for trafficking in 2010 at the Piarco International Airport. Yesterday was exactly three years and one month since she walked through those prison walls on December 6 in 2010.

She was sentenced to eight years hard labour.

But, Beckles, 36, has tried to turn around her life by engaging in classes offered by the prison, educating herself for when she has to face the outside world again.

“I was a woman who came in here with no CXC (passes) and now I have accomplished two — performing arts and music — and this year I have attained Mathematics, English and Social Studies,” she said, adding she has also completed two Evangelist courses.

Like most drug mules, Beckles’ reason for her crime was poverty.

“Poverty was the key for the reason I did what I did. Then God turned around situations when I got held in Piarco. I made the decision to change my life,” she said.

As she held on to her five-year-old daughter, Abigail, who became emotional with tears in her eyes, she said she regreted her decision.

“To women, I say seek God first, I sought him last and I ended up here, but He is awesome. Work for what you want, for all that glitters is never gold. I had friends, I had a good visa, but I chose the wrong road by wanting the quick dollar to take poverty off.

“Now I am still poor and I never got the money. Instead I got eight years, leaving my three children at home, but God has been there for me and I would advise them please stay away from drug traffickers, stay away from family and friends who say take a bag for me and they will buy you a ticket.

“That was my scenario, buy me a ticket and it cost me my life, but God turned it around. I am now qualified and educated and I just love what God is doing with my life now,” Beckles said.

Beckles said she intends to re-apply for a job when she leaves prison at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine , where she worked before her incarceration, and plans to carry her message spiritually.

“I intend to be one of the world’s greatest evangelists, so I intend to carry the spiritual aspect of it and let women, especially young women be activists. Please do not traffic, it does not pay, crime doesn’t pay,” Beckles pleaded.

Asha Sooklal has been waiting in remand on a High Court date for the past five years for murder. Her greatest regret was leaving home that fateful afternoon before she got into an altercation that left one person dead.

But, the most painful part of her incarceration was being away from her nine-year-old daughter.

“She was just a year and a couple of months old and now she is going on nine, so I really did not have much time with her. I had one Christmas with her when she was really small. It is really hurtful not being able to see her grow up. Every time I see her I just see this drastic change, I never saw the spaces in between that. It’s just really, really, really hard because she’s my daughter, yet she’s not my daughter. Right now I say this is my little sister because my mom has her,” Sooklal said.

“I have to hear second hand the different things that are happening in her life, the changes, her new accomplishments, how she is going in school...I have never seen her wear a (school) uniform) except in a picture. I really appreciate these visits because it is a way of recouping what is left of her life besides letters. I can finally get to hold her, hug her, hear her voice,” she said as tears ran down her face.

Sooklal said she hopes her crime does not impact on her daughter’s life negatively. Sooklal said her crime was closely associated with domestic problems and urged women who were in such situations to support each other.

“If you feel you have nobody, there are places and centres where there are people to talk to because sometimes all you really need is an ear, somebody to just listen to you. I think more things should be put in place for women. I don’t know what, but more people should come together to help women,” she said.

To hold on to her daughter’s trust in her, Sooklal said during each visit she always tells her she loves her.

“I try to say love, love, love, as much as I could because yes, she has love, but I want her to know I love her even though I am not there. I really do love her and I try to let her know I will be home as soon as possible. I also tell her that if she needs to speak to someone, my family members are there for her,” Sooklal said.

Nadia Pooran is serving 20 years in prison for murder. Yes, she has regrets because she admitted a life was lost. But, seeing her children always brings mixed emotions.

“When I see my children there are always mixed emotions. It is a time of joy and yet sadness, they are here and then they have to leave, on my part,” Pooran said.

Her son, now ten years old, said his Christmas wish for his mother was just for her to “come out”. Her daughter, at, 16, said she has asked God to work on her mother’s life, and help her with hers.

Pooran’s daughter, a secondary school student, said her biggest challenge was knowing her mother was not there, but she has grown to live with it.

“It is not as hard on me as it was when I was smaller. I grew with understanding and knowledge about it,” said the daughter. She and her brother live with their grandmother.

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