Tilbert Stewart, a native of the quiet community of Lime Hall, Rock River in Clarendon, knows what it is like to grow up without a father. He grew up with eight siblings and a mother who never looked at another man after his father walked out.
Forced with the responsibility of taking care of his siblings, life was extremely hard and saw Stewart dropping out of school at age 11. That fact made him determined that if he ever became a father, he would never abandon his children, but would do all he could to take care of them.
Now with six grown children of his own, Stewart can take a bow as looking back, he gave it his all. Doing odd jobs, farming, even going for two spells on the farm work programme through the government. However, the tobacco farm closed and he never got another break.
“I fight life and I pray to God and I ask him to give me strength,” he lamented.
Stewart who is now 57, became a father at the age of 17 and all six children are with his wife – although they are now separated.
“I always want to be there to make sure them ok. I choose not to sleep with another woman …it’s the only way you can grow them with principle. I struggle very hard, but I never give up, until the last one tell me she graduate,” he shared.
His daughter Tashel reminisced of her father going the extra mile for hers as well as his grandchildren. She recalls one day, when the rain was pouring heavily and there wasn’t anything in the house to eat, he went to the shop and bought something to cook.
“Him alone in the kitchen and him cook and bring in food for everyone,” she shared.
Even with his skills as a handyman, Stewart has had to watch his house falling apart, because he is not financially able to adequately sustain himself as well as carry out repairs on the house. Whenever there is a hurricane, Stewart must seek refuge with a neighbour who lives on the main road across the river – which is unsafe for both him and the children.
The unit he lives in can be described as deplorable, dingy and unkempt – at best. It is difficult to keep clean as a large section of the kitchen flooring is exposed to dirt. The other parts are fragile wooden floors which squeak on impact and pose a safety hazard. The walls have cracked and fallen apart and the roofing is torn and rotten. Added to that, there is no proper sanitation (shower and toilet).
Living with his daughter and her children, they were ‘floating about’ without a home.
Stewart can now smile in relief and great joy as he is the recipient of a house from Food For The Poor in partnership with Boom Energy Drink. There are no words, he said that can describe the joy he is feeling to know that he has a proper roof over his head and his daughter and grandchildren don’t have to sleep out in the cold.
“I tell you the truth, I have the hopes for a house; but I never see it coming, that is one of the greatest thing whosoever help me to get this house may God continue to bless them,” he gushed, overwhelmed with gratitude. Admitting he desperately needed the help, the house he lived in could not hold everybody.
“It is a big blessing, one of the greatest thing I can think about. I talk from my heart,” he enthused.
Looking forward to celebrating another Father’s Day, Stewart notes that his dream is for his children and grandchildren to enjoy the best the future has to offer before he closes his eyes.
“I wish to see them own their own businesses, and if they get any opportunity can go to a different island education wise. I would be proud and I actually cannot explain my heart right now what I wish for my children and grandchildren,” he opined.