Saint Lucia
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After a Journey of Misfortune and Life in Limbo, Young, Single-Parent Mother Sees Hope at the End of the Tunnel!

Nadiege Tal
Nadiege Tal

ON the evening of April 8th 2023, Nadiege Tal got a call that no parent ever should: her two-year-old son, Terrell Kentrell Joseph, was dead – shot dead by assailants who stormed the home he shared with his 47-year-old- grandmother Tara Joseph, who died from the assassin’s bullets as well in the double-calamity that was a wholly tragic and unwanted feature of Vieux Fort life of late.

The news of her son’s death was like a crown of thorns upon 20 years of hardship, as The System failed the young Vieux Fort native at every level, over and over again.

Nadiege recalls she was at a friend’s house that fateful evening when she heard from a friend who said she had “heard something but couldn’t confirm…” But she was eventually encouraged to confirm that she’s heard her child had died… Nadiege then called the child’s father, who resides abroad, but he was able to tell her that ‘Nunu’ (Terrell’s nickname) had died “on the spot”.

The young mother did what any other would: she started running to the scene of the crime, until discouraged by those who feared the killers may still be on the scene.

She wanted to go to the hospital in case the body had been brought there, but that was another nightmare as no one would give her a ride, ending-up wandering up-and-down the side of the street that night: a solitary spirit haunted by her son’s tiny bright small face.

Nadiege and Dr. Joseph having a friendly chat.
Nadiege and Dr. Joseph having a friendly chat.

According to the distraught mother, “I spent that whole night by the road, until after 3am. Then, with no ride, I got-up from the side of the gutter and went home.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling cold, I was trembling. I did not sleep for four days…”

It would be some time until she finally got to see what was left of her son at a funeral home in Castries, but remains convinced it was Nunu, in spirit, who gave her the strength to get through that day.

With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, she eventually took solace in a dreadful place: the bottle.

She was convinced she could only fall asleep under its influence and only with it she could face the demons tormenting her.

And she admits, “I still drink. I still think of him. I always watch his pictures. And each time, I wish he was still there…”

At that moment, Nadiege could be forgiven for thinking that the whole world had turned against her. After all, at just 20 — when most young adults are priming their lives for future careers — she’d already inherited a bizarre eternal nightmare.

But this was not her first encounter with difficulties, even though none before can compare.

She was less than a year (only 11-months-old) when her mother migrated to Canada; and while they do communicate, she can’t remember what her mom looks like. She also felt, deep within, like her father wasn’t part of her life…

Nadiege grew-up with an aunt, but always missed true Mother’s Love like her friends. Her aunt would then send her to live with her grandma, where the relationship was “a little better…”

But she had very-little financial support as a young girl — not even for school — until one day when someone, a pure stranger, took pity on her and gave her some school supplies, including a bag, shoes and some books.

“That was the only real kindness I’d ever been shown at the time,” she recalls.

School was hard and no one cared about her troubles at home, or the hardships she faced alone.

She eventually landed in yet another difficult spot: becoming pregnant when she was just 15. Her grandmother was so angered she put Nadiege out of the house, with instructions not to return home until after she’d given birth.

Even though Nadiege was little-more than a child trying to raise another child, her story would only become more tragic: the teenage mother was now in an abusive relationship, forcing her to leave her first son’s father and entering the even-harder world of being an unemployed and helpless Single Parent Mother.

“I had to let go of everything at the time, because I didn’t want to stay in a relationship where somebody would be knocking me and giving me licks for no reason, so I had to get out of that relationship…”

Her journey of misfortune would continue and Nadiege was barely 17 when she met Nunu’s dad, for whom she bore her second child — a one-year old daughter. But she doesn’t live with her two other children, who’re with relatives.

After Nunu’s killing, Nadiege spent her days alone, waking-up to a routine of daily mental bombardment with memories of her lost son — and many times, drinking herself to sleep.

She doesn’t have a job anymore as her son’s death also threw her into unemployment.

She recalls, “The night that happened, I was off from work and then when the news spread the workplace called me and told me they heard what happened and I should accept their sympathy.”

Her manager called and told her she could have “as much time-off” as she wanted, however she wanted to go back to work immediately, thinking that it would help keep her occupied and her mind off the daily nightmare.

She explains, “So, I called the manager the Tuesday and told him, well, I will be coming back to work, but he told me he has to speak to HR (Human Resources Department) and they would get back to me.

“Then on Friday, the HR people called me and told me, well, due to the store’s safety and stuff like that, they wouldn’t be able to hold me anymore, and they have to let me go. When she told me that I just started crying…”

Nadiege said she received $1,800 from her former employers, but most went into the funeral expenses for her son. The company has kept in touch and offered to provide whatever assistance they can, for which she is grateful. But without a job, she has no stable financial support.

She’s staying at a friend’s house at the moment, and her mother sends money occasionally.

And so it was that Nadiege found herself lost, withering stormy weather under a system that simply made her another statistic.

She says “No one, no agency, no institution” ever reached-out to lend support, until one day when the Ubuntu Movement and Citizens for Peace and Prosperity (CPP) were meeting with residents after the violent deaths of some 15 persons.

CPP’s Dr. Stephen King was speaking with three individuals when one pointed out Nadiege’s house as where the mother of the murdered child lived and saying “No one has come to help her at all…”

Dr. King said he then had someone call Nadiege out front, and what he saw was “a really-depressed, sad, broken young person and young mother…”

Dr. King would reach out to Dr. Virginia Joseph, a counselling psychologist, for help. She was understandably hesitant to have her team on the ground in many of these crime hot spots and they did not have the resources to do virtual consultations.

The goodly fellow doctor then made the phones available to Dr Joseph so her team could reach-out to Nadiege–and other victims of crime.

“He is the only support we have had,” says Dr Joseph, whose counsellors are providing their services free, even at a risk to their personal safety, providing vital counselling to some 43 persons to date, including families and children affected by violent crime.

Dr. Joseph decided to take on Nadiege’s case personally and with her help, the young single parent mother is slowly pulling herself out of the ocean of sorrow she was drowning in and is now focusing on her other kids and their future.

With the support from Dr. Joseph, Nadiege has been able to reach deep inside, beyond her pain, to try and find a way to break the cycle of vengeance, even offering forgiveness to the person who shot Nunu.

She’s quick to explain, however, that forgiveness ultimately is for the victim and community to heal and move-on — and does not absolve the perpetrator of his or her accountability.

Even as she continues her work with Nadiege, Dr. Joseph laments the fact that such services are not more readily available to all victims of crime, noting that the intervention of Dr. King and her counsellors has helped change Nadiege’s fate for the better.

She notes with regret, however, that “This is just one of many similar cases out there right now…”

And she adds, “The amount of child abuse, child molestation and child abandonment — it’s all there, but as we know too, there is nothing out there where somebody can say — like in Nadiege’s case – ‘I am walking into this place for help’ or ‘I’m going to call this number…’

“And sometimes, even when you call the hotline, what support can they really offer? After all, it’s a hotline for Suicide.

“There is no center, no place where somebody can give you the support you need.

“The system has failed her — and others like Nadiege…”

While Dr. Joseph gets encouragement from the work of groups like Ubuntu, Citizens for Peace and Prosperity (CPP) and those who personally try to make a difference, she said more needs to be done at the highest levels.

For now, there is hope that Nadiege’s story won’t end in further tragedy, as there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Sadly, she does not see her future happy in Vieux Fort anymore, not with the specter of violence hanging over her head…

It is not only her son’s death she’s trying to escape. She’s also trying to run away from a system that has failed her since she was a child, forcing her (like many others) into a life she would not have chosen or dreamed of.

She’s still struggling to sleep and still drinks, but she now has something to look forward to.

But even as the sun promises to rise for Nadiege and her children, there still remain so many others lost in the darkness, with no hope and nowhere to turn to for help – and not only in Vieux Fort, but everywhere else that families like hers have been torn-apart by neglect, violence, abuse and early loss of opportunities that every child and teenager needs.

Their rights are enshrined in Constitutions and United Nations (UN) statutes, but most are neither enforced, nor encouraged beyond words and attending annual conferences.

Every victim of every one of the 15 killings in Vieux Fort (and others across Saint Lucia) left a family of parents, relatives and friends like Nadiege; and the State has failed them all since Independence — which is why the likes of Drs King and Joseph, Ubuntu and the CPP must be encouraged to not only continue doing good and their examples must also encourage others who can also help to do likewise.

Philanthropy and Volunteerism at community levels is absolutely important, because, as the world has learned to better appreciate of late, “It takes a village to raise a child!”