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Life goes on for Tamika John

Life goes on for Tamika John


Things turning around for Layou lass

Life for 15-year-old Tamika John will always be a challenge, but compared with a few years ago, she now has some hope for a bright future.

Five years ago Tamika came to national attention after she and her brothers were abandoned in a small wooden house in the fishing community of Layou.{{more}}

Her painful saga not only broke the hearts of the readers of Searchlight’s March 7, 2003, issue, but for many, the revelation that young children had been locked in a house without food or parental supervision seemed shocking.

Her nightmare came to an end when she was rescued by her grandmother, Sheila John, who has raised the mentally challenged child ever since.

A glimpse of a tattered Tamika roaming the streets of Kingstown and Layou five years ago set off alarm bells. In fact, it was her gazing teary-eyed look that caught the attention of Searchlight, which led to her cover story in 2003.

When Searchlight visited the Layou family earlier this week to see how Tamika is doing today, she recounted the tale of the dreadful morning five years ago when she awoke to find her mother missing.

Still visibly shaken by the ordeal, the baffled Tamika has not yet found closure to her traumatising experience.

Five years onwards, Tamika’s need for motherly love and attention is still not fully being met. The good news is her mother Adelaine Primus has returned, but the bad news is she is hardly around.

“I wish I can see my mother back home more often,” a timid Tamika shared with Searchlight.

For her grandmother Shelia, her struggle to raise young Tamika still proves tedious. The rather frail looking 76-year-old still struggles to provide a comfortable life for the teenaged girl, with some assistance from the National Association for Persons with Disabilities.

Tamika now regularly attends school and is the beneficiary of the Melanie McKenzie scholarship from the National Association for Persons with Disabilities.

According to President of the Association Patricia Cumberbatch, their intervention came about after reading the Searchlight article in 2003.

“Since the article came out with Tamika, we have been assisting her with food, clothing and transportation allowance, and also ensuring that she attends school regularly,” Cumberbatch said.

“In Tamika’s case, she is taken care of. She used to be on the streets begging. We have ensured that this has stopped and she attends school. What needs to be done is more work at home in terms of parental guidance, but we ensure she attends school,” Cumberbatch said.

The Association not only provides the funding for Tamika’s schooling, but assists wherever they can. According to Cumberbatch, the teenager now has to fend off the approach of young men, particularly those in her area; something Cumberbatch has cautioned Tamika’s mother about.

Despite the rough upbringing and the haunted past, Tamika continues to find solace among her new friends at the School for Children with Special Needs.

Though her school is now closed for vacation, she is glowing with excitement about the prospect of reuniting with her friends at school in September.

From all indications, the short time Tamika has spent at school has borne tremendous dividends. According to the school’s acting principal Phedra Samuel, when Tamika started school a week after her first story was published in 2003, that was the first time in her ten years of life that she was attending school.

“When she came to the school she didn’t communicate. She was under-developed and often spoke to herself. Maybe because of how she was locked up,” Samuel shared with Searchlight.

According to Samuel, young Tamika has made considerable progress.

“She is now doing things for herself. Though she is mentally challenged, she is writing her name and has improved in her deportment after being exposed to certain training,” Samuel acknowledged.

Tamika now has aspirations of finishing school and later seeking some form of employment.