'No giving in'

Vendor says she won't be deterred by market fire

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

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While vendors picked through the rubble of yesterday's fire at Ray Ray Market in downtown Kingston, Tamara Coley repeatedly sang the lyrics of reggae artiste Chronixx's hit single Ain't No Giving In as she skilfully parked a handcart she had used to transport her barrels of goods from the neighbouring Redemption Market that was gutted by fire last June.

The mother of two, who was initially reluctant to speak with the Jamaica Observer, said she was on a mission to obtain US$2,500 to pay her daughter's university tuition.

“Uniform pants and shirt! If I don't have it, I can source it! Coley shouted as she unpacked the seven barrels. “Come, mi have school blouse with skirt! Mi nah give up and I ain't giving in!”

Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation Chief Executive Officer Robert Hill told the Observer that 44 firefighters from Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine responded to a call at 4:58 am that the market was ablaze.

Coley, who said she was at home when she received word of the fire minutes after 4:00 am, told the Observer that despite the tragedy, the tuition for her 18-year-old daughter, a second-year tourism management student at The University of the West Indies, had to be paid.

“Mi just waan sell something. Uniform pants and blouse!” she shouted has she held her younger daughter with one hand while using the other to take school uniforms from the barrels, hanging them to a makeshift stall across from the burnt-out market.

A customer came with her granddaughter.

Shortly after taking the child's measurement, Coley returned to shouting: “Uniform pants and blouse. Mi have school socks, ennuh!”

Coley, who has been vending for over 15 years, said she, too, was a victim of the fire that engulfed the Redemption Market last November.

“Mi nah give up, ennuh. Something have to sell today, today. If mi go home go sit down with my hand at my jaw and start cry, mi nah go sell nothing, 'cause this is my source. So if mi go home right now nuh problem nah solve. And if mi sit down here so with my hand on my jaw mi only get depress and end up at hospital, and then dem give you my baby,” she said.

Coley explained that she was at church four weeks ago testifying about last year's fire in which she lost two of her three barrels of goods.

“Just as I was getting back on my feet, here burn down last November, so I was just telling them that my daughter had just started UWI, US$2,500 is the school fee and mi nuh know weh it come from but God,” she said. “Mi nah give up now; a six years mi deh a church now and mi rooted and grounded.”

Frustrated by the fires that have been plaguing the market district, Coley said her efforts to secure a job have been futile.

“Mi have level one and two in housekeeping, level one in food and beverage, level one on computer from HEART. Mi have five CXCs. Mi have CXC Mathematics, CXC English, CXC Office Procedure, CXC Information Technology and CXC Principles of Business, and mi deh right here so same way. Mi send out mi resume and mi nuh get no call,” she said, adding that she even applied to the farm work programme.

Earlier, Hill was unable to say what mechanism would be but in place to prevent a recurence of the fire. However, he explained that he was heading to an urgent meeting with political representatives, the mayor of Kingston, and the municipality's Commercial Service Committee to identify a suitable location for the displaced vendors.

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