Donated prescription glasses go a long way: “It saved my life”

POSTED: 07/8/14 2:46 AM

St. Maarten / By Jason Lista – “Thanks to Port de Plaisance and all those people who called me,” Swinda Abram said yesterday at the Today office. Abram was accompanied by two other women, C. Christopher and Jaquiline Pemberton, who also received help getting new glasses. Abram had visited this newspaper earlier with Julian Rollocks, and highlighted the plight of many seniors on the island who can’t afford proper prescription glasses. “Help was over pouring,” Rollocks said, after the article appeared in the Today. “Thanks Today and all the people who were willing to help,” Abram added.

Rollocks pointed out that Abram’s glasses cost $615, while her pension provides a meager Naf 640 a month. “We cannot have senior citizens living on 640 guilders a month,” Rollocks said. He wants to see new legislation put in place to alleviate the strain. Abram explained that she spent five years living without glasses, even though she sorely needed them, simply because the cost was too high.

Christopher also received anonymous help after the article appeared in the newspaper. “My glasses were expired,” she said of her old prescription lens. “I was going nuts. Headaches, tingling.” She endured that for 6 months, she said. “But that has gone now. It saved my life.”

Christopher’s glasses cost $1000 because of the nature of its prescriptive lens. “Thanks to Mr. Rollocks and whoever helped with my glasses. Thanks for your kindness,” a grateful Christopher said. Rollocks said that something must be done about the high costs that seniors face when renewing or acquiring new glasses. “It’s expensive. We have to do something.”

“I get these thanks to Mr. Rollocks,” Pemberton said. “Thanks to Mr. Rollocks and thanks to whoever helped me.” Pemberton said the new glasses have made a big improvement in the quality of her life.

But her story is perhaps the most tragic. She was laid off at the Sonesta Maho without severance pay after working there as a cleaner for 16 years. That was two years ago, and she is still trying to find a full time job. “I haven’t gotten anything from Maho,” Pemberton complained bitterly. “I have a son who is going to university to do his GED.”

“Mr. Zambrini, I cannot get something for my 16 years at Maho?” she asked of the hotel’s manager. “I need my money. I ain thief, I ain take nothing from the guests. I cannot get a job because I am over 50. I don’t have to go to court. They could have given me something for my 16 years.”

She was bewildered by the legal process here when she went to seek compensation for her years of work, and couldn’t understand the judge’s ruling because it was in Dutch. “I can’t understand. I don’t speak Dutch. I’m from St. Kitts.”

Pemberton is hoping to find a full time job as an office cleaner or a maid, and something for her son 18 year old son so they can jointly cover their costs. “Rent is so high.”




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