My community Gordon Lane on a quiet summer day. One of over eighteen communities forming Rose Town, near the Trench Town neighbourhood of West Kingston, Jamaica, Gordon Lane is an actual lane, as the name suggests, with residents’ homes laying on either side of the road.
Clothes sun dry on a hanging line along a sidewalk on Gordon Lane. Our community and the wider neighbourhood of Rose Town are vibrant areas, graced with clothes hanging by the side, little children playing on the lane, small shack bars playing all types of music, and friends and families gathering along the lane to have conversations until late. We are also a very spiritual community, with the majority of residents here being christians, and firmly believing in the rights of people. Most of the people who live in Rose Town are ‘squatters’, meaning they do not own the land, but simply took up residence here at some point. This is true for my family, as well. HIDE
‘My son Rolique and his grandfather begin their walk to collect water for the household before school starts. This is a daily sight in Gordon Lane, and has been one for over 20 years now. Our community used to have running water back in the day. Until I was ten years old, our neighbourhood was connected to the mains through old pipes, which ran to every house in Gordon Lane. But one day, we learnt the pipes, which were iron pipes, were damaged and no longer usable. This was in the year 2000, and the old iron pipes were progressively turned off after that, until none were usable.
This is the pipe my son Rolique, and Mr Mackie, his grandfather, walk to every day to source water. A few years after our old iron pipes were put out of use, the Prince’s Trust supported a project, which aimed to give the people of Rosetown new pipes, and through these, to renew their access to water. Unfortunately, the Prince’s Trust project was completed in 2004 with two Rosetown communities left without any pipes. My community, Gordon Lane, was one of them. This water point is situated at the outskirts of our community. It is a bridge system, which the people of Gordon Lane came up with, and which allows them to source water from the neighbouring communities. The water runs from 6pm to 6am each day, and locks up thereafter, so Rolique and my father have to get up early to make the journey. HIDE
Raymond, another resident of Gordon Lane, is seen pushing his own cart, loaded with water-filled pails, by hand. Raymond has been extending his assistance to nearby neighbours for a long time now, sourcing water from neighbouring communities in the same way my son does, and bringing it back on his own cart. Over the years, the walk to nearby communities for water has proven an increasingly difficult task. Neighbourhood turf wars on the path to water were getting in the way. Raymond continued to source water for others in Gordon Lane who were reluctant to make the journey.
It is challenging to run a business when you don’t know when you will next be able to source water. Business woman Tracy Ann lives in Gordon Lane. For years, she couldn’t source water regularly from nearby neighbourhoods because of criminal activity on the way to the water points. She recently found a solution in creating a hose connection, which runs through two neighborhood yards, all the way into her own home. Ever since the Prince’s Trust project closed in 2004, the people of Gordon Lane have been seeking answers from the council, and other community organisations, about the missing pipes. 20 years-on, they still don’t understand why their community was left out of the project. But their own efforts and the ingeniosity of people like Tracy have allowed them to access some form of water. HIDE
It has been over 23 years now since I saw water running through the pipes of my house in Gordon Lane. We used to have so much water that in summer times, we as children would play with water - our own ‘water wars’ - and I still remember these times vividly. As I reflect on our journey with water, I cannot help but think my memories contrast so much with life now, and with my son’s experience as a 6 year-old having to walk far to a water point each morning. We may never know what happened to the pipes, which were meant to be built in Gordon Lane. We will keep trying to find answers and keep coming up with solutions to bring water closer to us. I do hope that one day, my son, too, can enjoy a day with water access and his own 'water wars'.