Story and photos by Shahein Fitzpatrick
Two selfless women are on a mission to start a charity to help vulnerable families – despite both being unemployed themselves.
Eshe Williams and Shanita Joseph – who have been out of work for three years and five months respectively – told Observer how their crusade came about and how they teamed up to give back to those in need.
Williams revealed that she moved from England to Antigua, where she has family, to start a new life after a battle with depression. When her plans to launch a business fell through, she started volunteering for a local disability centre.
“During the pandemic, my family abroad couldn’t help as much as they were doing before. I then reached out on Facebook to see if there was anyone that could help me and my children with food.
“Somebody messaged me and came and brought a big bag of food,” she explained.
“From then, me and a friend went out and we did the same thing in return to other people.”
Since then she has been receiving donations from various charitable organisations across Antigua to get help for others in need. Membership of a Facebook group she started has soared and now comprises almost 400 people.
Instead of just assisting individuals within the group, the body has now branched out and helps communities such as Gray’s Farm, Ottos and Ovals.
Joseph said, “I connected with Eshe a few months after the whole pandemic started. I actually reached out to her for assistance, because another young lady did a [Facebook] Live and she was asking for assistance, and Eshe posted the Facebook group link.
“It is there I clicked and got in contact with her for assistance, and she assisted me a few times.
“After that I figured why not join along and give a helping hand as well. We have been inseparable since then,” she said.
Despite living in the same village of Urlings, the pair did not know each other before Williams brought Joseph a package of food and other essential items.
Joseph explained how she fell on hard times.
“I was living practically a normal life, I was working at Carlisle Bay for 10 years now, I had a normal everyday job.
“Life was good until the pandemic kicked in, everything was good for the first two to three months.
“But when my savings were basically depleted, that’s when I really started feeling it, and it was hard because I have my four children that live with me,” she said.
“It was hard because they weren’t at school, and that’s meals I have to provide every day.
“Living in a rented house, that’s not easy again. It’s a lot, up to this day it’s hard … even up to this day, it’s hard. I keep going because of the kids.”
Williams said she has been struggling to send her children back to school.
“I receive things for other people’s kids while mine are still home. I have no type of income, nothing at all. Rainwater I rely on to wash my skin, cook everything with three children too,” she explained.
“I have reached out to the government for assistance with back to school – nothing yet.”
Williams said the plan is to get the group officially registered as a charity, raise cash and eventually open a halfway house for abused women and single mothers struggling to pay rent.
She explained how she came up with the name for the group, called ‘Our lives matter too’.
“A lady came and gave me my first food package and it was her who said, your life matters too.”
Williams added that the registered name for the charitable foundation will be HOPE – an acronym for ‘hold on, pain ends’.