The Face of poverty: Adrianna’s story “What happens to me, could happen to you tomorrow”

POSTED: 07/4/14 12:55 AM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Forty years ago she started coming from her native Antigua to St. Maarten selling vegetables, paying her own passage and taking care of herself. Now Adrianna is 74, she lives with her daughter in Belvedere and she is penniless because she receives no old-age pension and no welfare, which makes her completely dependent on her daughter. Portrait of a resilient senior citizen. “Whatever I can do, I do.”

Yesterday, Adrianna was at her regular haunt in the kitchen of the Come Center on Long Wall Road, helping to prepare meals for the seniors that frequent the center mid-week. For a lady well into her seventies, she makes a determined and upbeat impression – even though the subject of our meeting – poverty – is not something that would make anybody smile.

“I have been coming to St. Maarten from Antigua since 1974, selling provisions,” she says. My five children went to school here. Since 2008 I live with my daughter in Belvedere, but I have got nothing at all, just the food the food my daughter gives me.”

Her life as a traveling vegetable seller is behind her now. “I used to come here, paying my own passage, packing my vegetables. I went up and down. Sometimes you do good, sometimes not so good.”

From Adrianna no sighs of frustration – she is the living proof that without any money at all it is possible to lead a meaningful and productive life, even far after retirement age. “All of my kids did good,” she says proud. “One of them is a vet.”

But while Adrianna took care of her children, her offspring is not returning the favor in spades. “I only get something out of my daughter,” she says. “I have a son in St. Kitts, but he is in the middle of a divorce.” She makes no mention of her other children – she rather focuses on all the things she does have and the things she is able and willing to do.

“Whatever I can do, I do,” she says. “But at the end of the day, my pockets are empty. I have a lot to thank the Lord for and I do not fuss about anything.”

On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays Adrianna is at the Home Away from Home Center of Patsy Flanders to help. On Wednesdays, she helps at the Come Center. While she is not one to sit down in a corner and cry, she does have her moments: “Sometimes I do not feel so good,” she admits. “On the other hand, there are many who cannot get the privilege of a good night’s sleep like I. Sometimes I want to buy something on my own, but then I have to wait until my daughter can give me something. I take whatever the Lord provides, and my daughter gives me my meals.”

She visits the Home Away from Home and the Come Center on weekdays and goes straight home after she is done. Then she has her church activities. “I make myself useful,” she says. “If someone is sick and I am able to visit, then I will do that.”

The logical question that comes to mind is this one: how does Adrianna do for transportation to all these events? To her, the answer is simple and logical: “I walk, and if I can get $1.50 I take the bus. You pick me up, I say thank you but otherwise I walk. You cannot fight people for what is theirs.”

It is hard to miss this active septuagenarian on the roads, due to her signature hat. Adrianna smiles: “I love hats. I do not go to church or to a proper function without a hat. I cannot do without it, because then I do not feel happy; I’d feel empty instead.”

Adrianna is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Cole Bay. God plays an important role in her life and in who she is. Living in poverty is not going to get her down. “Rich is how you adapt yourself. I don’t make an issue of going down,” she says firmly. “You put God first, before everything and then you follow His word. I ask the Lord for guidance. We have to uplift each other. If someone is in the gutter, you do not push them further down.”

Adrianna’s life philosophy does not stop there, she gives it a practical meaning: “If you do not have anything good to say, say nothing at all. What happens to me today could happen to you tomorrow. A lot of us don’t have a proper meal every day. When people ask me, how are you living? I say, God is good, and I walk off.”








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