Trinidad Express / Petit Trou is the last village a visitor must travel through to get to Toco’s Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines.
Few even know the village exists because by the time you get there, your only thought is to pass it fast to reach the beach.
However, if you were to turn into the Petit Trou (small hole) Road, it leads to a road meandering inland to the long-abandoned cocoa plantations and the descendants of the people who worked there.
On this road you will also find the Toco Senior Citizens Home. Not long ago built, it sits near a highpoint overlooking Grande L’Anse Bay. A more perfect location on the island you might not find.
This home is a place that will hurt your heart, especially if you are of that age where your end is likely closer than the beginning.
Here you will find the elders of Toco, men and women born in the 1930s and 40s and who gave the best part of their lives working the land and sea, and who have come for varied reasons and in different states of health, but all see the end in sight.
But in a room of this elder care home, lives a resident who is the odd one out. He is not yet 50-years-old. How he ended up here is heart breaking. What he has done with his life…is inspiring.
This is his story.
“My name is Christopher Ramroop. I’m 49 years of age, divorced. I have two beautiful daughters born the on same date and month, two years apart. After Yahweh God they are my prize possessions.
I grew up in the village of Cumuto with my uncle and two cousins. By the age of 16, I was on my own, living a freestyle life, with sports and adventure, all in the Valencia river at nights catching crayfish and hunting in the northern mountains.
I worked odd jobs, using the money to help my mother and two sisters. I saved a little cash and with the help of my father, I built my own little house.
By then I was a construction worker. I decided to travel to the United States to work with my buck man (father). But it was not so. There is a saying of the old folks, ‘what eh meet yuh eh pass yuh’.
The 9th, of October 1994, is where I learned the truth of the parable. I was involved in a motor vehicular accident.
The Sunday evening of the accident, we were coming from Sangre Grande passing through the village of Valencia. That’s where the car skidded, trying to avoid hitting a car coming in the opposite direction with children standing in the back seat. So I ran off the road into the railings was pinned in the driver’s seat. I tried to get out and immediately my world went numb. The world changed forever in that moment. My brother was with me. The villagers assist us. I was placed on a piece of ply board on the tray of a small truck. That increased my injury. And the ambulance was no different, no neck brace, not even a piece of sponge to support my head and neck.
Life was never the same again. A new body, in a new world. Insomnia, bed sores, the separation of my daughter’s, I was on the very thin line separating life and death. It was enough for me to depart from this world.
But with the help of the good Lord, and the faces of my daughter, they pull me through. I have been physically challenged for all these years. To get out of bed is sometimes good, and then not. My dizzy spells and breathing pattern bring a lot of discomfort. Most of the times, I just slug it out. I still have to adjust to the changes of my new world. I live one day at a time.
In 1998, I went to the St James Medical Centre for the healing of the bed sores by Dr. Poon King. When I was discharge to go home, the social welfare officer said my house was in a dilapidated state, she promised that I would get my house rebuilt and then I could go home. She said it would only be a couple months. Well it’s history now that I never went back home. The institutionalising that I brakes from getting into, is now where I am at.
With much time on hand, I started doing pencil sketches, as this is what I do best. It has been my passion and a natural God given talent. Cartoons post cards, portraits, free style hand painting on jersey, I experimented with different mediums.
Acrylic paint is one I work with the most now, post card size to 24 by 36 inches. From 2001 to now, the compliments I get from other artist, it’s good yes, but I want to reach the mark of perfection. As a quadriplegic artist that works face down on my bed, with much pain and emotions, it is worth it. This is what I have accomplished with time.
I made a couple art sales as a table vendor at hotels like Cascadia, St. Ann’s, and Crowne Plaza. I tried with others. It was only a big disappointment. It felt like they wanted to pick a disabled man’s pockets. But the money from my sales I put to good use, and bought things like my computer, smart TV, monitor, motorized wheel chair and acrylic paints canvas paint brushes and things like that”.
But is very hard to survive on a Public Assistance monthly grant of 1,800. It is just not enough. Persons like me who have to pay a monthly fee as a resident at a home, needs a lot more cash to cover the cost.
There are talented differently able body persons in our lovely twin islands who really needs the proper accommodations to continue making great contributions to society, and not giving up as others who lost the faith in the system. Who will be the one to reach out to us?
It is hardest for me not being there for my daughters in the moments when a father supposed to be there for their children, to teach and pass on all the adventures of this wonderful place, and all I experience in this lifetime. It’s far different talking about it, than living it. Everything I was involved in from working hard and outdoor activities, sport, are all lost.
As for my artwork, there’s always the person who will give you the respectfully price for your work. You may have to do a little negotiation. Few people in Trinidad and Tobago really recognize and consider a man living with disabilities They will exploit you if given the chance, or be very discouraging. But I always make room for comments, and opinions.
So I am trying to make enough cash to invest in a machine to print my own work. From postcards to jerseys, and prints of my paintings in a wide scale, so that I can even to have an art work booth.
I give thanks to be in the land of the living, for I there was a very thin line that separated life and death. Death did not defeat me. It left scars of a lifetime, but I live in hope, for a better life, in eternity.
NOTE: You can go to Christopher Ramroop’s Facebook account Chrisnatural Casti, to view his artwork.
He can also be contacted at 397-9851 or at [email protected]