The fire-ravaged family home where the Spooner sisters now live on their verandah
After mom's death, St Elizabeth sisters lose everything in house fire

NAIN, St Elizabeth – Four months after losing their mother, Jacquneil and Asheki Spooner are again in a state of despair after fire ravaged their family home in Warminster (south of Santa Cruz) last Monday.

The fire has left the sisters helpless as they ponder their next move to rebuild, even as they are already facing debt from their mother's hospital bill of almost $1 million. 

On Friday, the older of the two sisters, Asheki told the Jamaica Observer that they now live on their verandah following the fire.

In addition, her younger sister, 21-year-old Jacquneil, has a physical challenge resulting from injuries she sustained in a car crash, which makes it even more difficult.

“... It affects her mobility without warning. It does not affect her all the time. There are times when she can be unable to move for up to eight months,” said Asheki.

The sisters had left home on November 29 to go to the supermarket when they were alerted that their five-bedroom family home was on fire.

“…On our way back, about 3:15 pm, I got a call that my house was on fire. When I got here, I saw a water truck man from the area helping, along with [residents] trying to see how much of the building they could salvage,” said Asheki.

“Unfortunately, we lost everything [as] their attempts were futile. I lost my computers that I use for work. I had a three-computer system that I had set up because I do web design and professional services in terms of consulting and digital marketing, [search engine optimisation],” she added.

Asheki, who is 26, is also the executive director at Advocate for Change Jamaica, a non-profit organisation.

Jacquneil, who was featured in the Jamaica Observer on July 7 for her entrepreneurial skills, has lost everything.

“My sister also worked in the same field. She also had a similar set-up. She had a two-computer set-up, so we lost five computers, two printers [and] a commercial printer,” said Asheki.

“We lost everything for her business – nature-based business, Havilah Organics, which produces skin-friendly soaps and scrubs – all our furniture and appliances, clothing. We only have the clothes that are on our backs,” she added.

She said a unit from the Santa Cruz Fire Station responded, but by the time the fire truck arrived there was already extensive damage.

“They came just as we were getting the fire under control, but they did help to cool down whatever was left there,” she said.

“The estimated damage that is on the fire reports is over $50 million. I am focused on getting one room habitable for my sister and me to share,” she added.

When contacted, a Jamaica Fire Brigade spokesman said an investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing.

The sisters, having buried their mother in September, are struggling to cope, having lost everything.

Asheki reflected on her mother's struggle with pancreatic cancer. Jacqueline Spooner died at age 51 on August 10 at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

“Our mom was being treated for stomach problems… She was sent to UHWI, they put her [in] the clinic and they had to admit her because she had internal bleeding. They admitted her in June [and] she passed on August 10. The cancer was metastatic,” said Asheki.

“We are called on a weekly basis by UHWI because she has an outstanding balance of almost $1 million. I say that she died, but they say that we still have a responsibility to make the payment,” she added.

With their mother not around, the sisters are struggling to pick up the pieces.

“Our mother was our everything. One of the reasons we started an organisation about paternal absence is because I lived with my father, but I also experienced paternal absence,” said Asheki.

Now the sisters are seeking the public's assistance to rebuild and get back to work to earn their livelihood.

A GoFundMe account has been created to raise funds to cover some of the expenses. Individuals can make donations at www.gofundme.com/f/help-asheki-jacqui-rebuild-their-home?member=15691167.

Donations can also be made to National Commercial Bank, Santa Cruz branch, savings account number 894271167 in the name of Asheki Spooner. She can be reached at 876-596-6619.

Jacquneil (left) and Asheki Spooner at their mother's funeral in September
Asheki (left) and her mom Jacquneil Spooner in happier times
BY KASEY WILLIAMS Staff reporter kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

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