Rosita Edwards says the ethos behind her efforts is to ‘turn straw into gold’
Story and photos by Shahein Fitzpatrick
Seventy-two-year-old Rosita Edwards is sowing seeds in the ground much like she does in the lives of the children who live in Freetown.
Known as the ‘village grandmother’, Edwards has no children of her own but has dedicated a significant portion of her life to mentoring youth and beautifying her community.
As the second of nine children, Edwards told Observer why she loves her village and has dedicated so much of her time to making it beautiful.
“I love my village with a passion and it lifts my spirit up to see when people are delighted in what they see,” she said.
Edwards explained that as a child growing up in Freetown, she would walk in the countryside with her friends and the older women.
“We would go into the bushes and look for berries, flowers, wild orchids; I would enjoy doing that.
“I would roam, I would visit the elderly, I can tell you the life stories of all the elderly people in the village because I sat with them, I visited them, I did things for them,” she recalled.
“I was everywhere in the village; I knew the village up and down, we as a village use to share what we have, people looked out for one another. It was real.
“I would go with them every Saturday morning as a little girl to look for wood, because every yard would have a fire side. In my time, we didn’t have much coals to cook, and it was cheaper to use the wood.”
The flowers and plants that line the streets of Edwards’ village are testament to her hard work and green fingers.
“Whenever people drive through or pass my area, they linger, I can feel the joy they have by seeing what they are seeing,” she said with glee in her eyes.
“I like to turn straw into gold … anything I have to throw into the garbage it will take a while because I will find something to do with it.”
Vibrant colours peek through aloe, lemon and fever grass as Edwards strolls through the garden that she inherited from her parents more than half a century ago.
“My sister would say that I am just like a doctor; when people are sick, they would come. I have a tea bush garden which I would pick from to give to those who are sick and in need. I believe in medicinal plants,” she explained.
“People come all the way from Liberta and St John’s to get lemons. I am now sowing more seeds to get more trees; I may not live to reap them, but lemons will be there for those who may need them.
“I don’t want to just think about today, this is me passing on something that will continue; this is my legacy,” she said.
The former teacher has planted numerous gardens outside of Freetown too, such as in Bethesda, at various local churches and cemeteries, and even overseas.
“Wherever I touch ground, I create gardens. Even when I travel, I would make a garden,” she remarked.
Edwards’ efforts have created opportunities for her to reach out to children with undiscovered potential, like those in her church who she teaches at weekends.
She told a story of a five-year-old boy who she counselled.
“I exerted a lot of patience with him. When he realised I was reaching him, he said to me, Ms Edwards when you hear me de a school and them teacher a talk to me, them ball up pon me so hard, me can’t even here them. When you hear me get better see, and can read, me nah go forgot you, me nah go forgot you nuh.”
She said the young boy was so grateful and recalled a time when he brought her mangoes.
“There is a mango tree in the community on lands that aren’t used by anybody. One morning walking down to the reservoir I saw all this mango, and I went to pick up the mangoes in a bucket. I love mangoes.
“The next morning, I walked this same path, there was no mango. When I was walking, the little boy ran out of his yard with a box and said, Ms Edwards, Ms Edwards, I saw you yesterday picking mangoes and I got up early and picked them all up for you.
“When you sow a seed, it comes back to you; that morning water came out of my eyes.” She said she continued working with the child, building up his confidence until he was able to perform in a church stage production.
Edwards added that she prides herself on instilling an “A-level spirit” in local youngsters. “I see things at a distance and sometimes I don’t talk about them, but I see the possibilities,” she said. “Whenever I work with children within my church, they always rise.”