Focus on Sandvoort Ancient County village gets electricity
Guyana Chronicle
January 13, 2002

The greatest event in a long time for the villagers occurred on Old Year’s Night. Residents threw on their switches and the village was transformed into a luminous spectacle. It was sheer joy. For the first time in its history, the village had electricity!
By Chamanlall Naipaul

MANY Guyanese may not be aware of the existence of a village, Sandvoort, located on the West Bank of the Canje River, about eight kilometres southwest of New Amsterdam.

This tiny village covers an area of about 1,000 acres, and is home to about 80 families and a total population of about 275. Its paved roads render it easily accessible by cars or mini-buses.

The peaceful and quiet community has its origins in the legacy of colonial slavery, when, in the 19th century, 36 ex-slaves bought the plantation and started developing the village.

Everyone in the village seems to be gainfully occupied and hard working and the villagers say that there is no problem with crime, even though sometimes bandits seek refuge there, because of its remote location.

Many of the people are involved in rice cultivation, while others are engaged in coconut, vegetable and fruit cultivation. Some are employed at the Rose Hall Sugar Estate while others work in the shipping industry and at Bermine.

Like many other villages in Guyana, Sandvoort has several relics that are a testimony to its colonial and Christian heritage. The three churches, the school and a small burial ground are all evidence of this heritage. It also has a Health/Community Centre, which is serviced by a Medex who is a member of the community.

However, the greatest event in a long time occurred on Old Year’s Night. Residents threw on their switches and the village was transformed into a luminous spectacle. It was sheer joy. For the first time in its history, the village had electricity!

Residents told the Chronicle they are extremely happy about the acquisition of electricity and are grateful to the Government.

One of the younger residents, Paulton Austin, told the Chronicle that the village once had a thriving furniture manufacturing business, but because of the absence of electricity, it folded due to the labour intensive work involved using manual tools. With electricity now available, he foresees that furniture building will be revived.

He also said that the Food for the Poor organisation has donated a quantity of books totalling 3,500 to the community, and residents are now exploring the possibility of establishing a community library.

The village also acquired telephone service about five years ago and has a domestic potable water supply system.

The village’s oldest resident, Anna Clementina Angel, 88, born December 21, 1913, is still very alert and bubbling with energy. Her memory is quite intact. It was she who told Chronicle of Nathan Michael, one of the 36 slaves who bought the village.

Ms. Angel recalled that she was born in Paramaribo, Suriname. She came to Guyana at the age of five, and remained here ever since. She has no children of her own, but has adopted several of her sisters’ children and grandchildren.

She simply “loves the village” because she relishes a quiet, peaceful and decent life which Sandvoort provides her with.

She recalled her youthful days during which she and her late husband cultivated rice and vegetables and traded in other farm produce.

Ms. Angel said one of the incidents that remains vividly in her memory occurred in 1940. She related that there was a terrible flood due to a damaged koker. There was so much water in the village that fish floated along the roadways. She remembered that the women fetched dirt in baskets to build a dam to stem the flow of water, while the men effected the required repairs.

In 1939, she had a serious bout of pneumonia but survived. That was her only major illness during her 88 years.

Asked about finally getting electricity, she said she was delighted, but explained that her house is not yet connected. She explained that she is awaiting the arrival from the Bahamas of one of her adopted sons who will conclude those arrangements.

Ms. Angel attributes her health and longevity to her honesty and dedication to hard work and says she would like the young people of Sandvoort to continue striving for improvement of their peaceful and quiet village.

The Sandvoort School building houses the Nursery school on the lower flat and the Primary school on the upper flat. The Primary school has 59 students and three members of staff, two of whom are trained. The Acting Headmistress is Ms. Vanessa Codogan.

The school was first built in 1902 by the Anglican Church, and was then known as the St. Ambrose Anglican School. It was rebuilt in 1963 by the Church, and in 1996, it was rehabilitated through the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP), self-help provided by the community and funding through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Ms. Codogan told the Chronicle that parents are very cooperative and the school has their full support with respect to disciplinary issues, adding there is no problem with truancy in the community. It was actually the first day of the new school term when the Chronicle visited and there was a full turn out by lively and enthusiastic students.

Another prominent resident of the community, Thourold Sinclair, said the people of Sandvoort are happy with the provision of electricity. He recalled how he had to study with wall lamps during his school days and, a later on, with gas lamps.

Sinclair, a rice farmer, said the community’s affairs are being managed by a registered Cooperative Society (No. 550) of which he is the Vice-Chairman. He said that there are about 250 acres of land within the community under rice cultivation, while 90 acres are for pasturage purposes because residents are also involved in rearing cows.

“Sandvoort was also once saturated with fruits, but constant sea defence problems and a lack of irrigation water caused a decline in cultivation,” Sinclair explained.

He added that more rice lands could also be cultivated, but the high costs of fertilisers and other inputs, along with a serious difficulty with water, are all disincentives. The present drought being experienced has magnified the water problem.

Speaking on the high level of community spirit among Sandvoort residents, Sinclair said through self-help and assistance from GUYSUCO worth $250 000, recent repairs to a koker built in the 1960s were completed in three days. Under normal circumstances, the same work would have taken three weeks, he said.

Another important development for the community is a surveying exercise geared at assisting residents to get Transports for their lands, Sinclair pointed out. He added that this would stimulate further development because residents would be able to use the Transports to obtain loans to invest into a variety of economic ventures.

Sinclair admitted that Sandvoort youths, like those in other parts of the country, are looking for “greener pastures.” He said he would not blame them because whilst there is progress, its rate is too slow to create enough employment opportunities for the youths.

However, he expressed optimism, for the future of Sandvoort.

“Things are looking up for Sandvoort. Many residents who have (gone overseas) and to other parts of Guyana are now showing renewed interest and with electricity now available, many might decide to return,” he said.