Tameka is a 38-year-old mother of four. She has lived in the tough inner-city community of Riverton City off Spanish Town Road in St Andrew all her life.
Her four children — ages 21, 16, nine, and one — were born in Riverton City, the site of the largest dump in the country.
Tameka, who declined to give her full name, and others like her living in Riverton City have had to endure the stigma which goes with “living on the dump”. But, she is undeterred.
Her singular aim is to provide for her children and the dump is where she hustles. In fact, she said the dump has made her into an independent woman.
The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, referred to as the “trouble” bottle by those who eke out a living on the dump, is what she collects each day to send her children to school. She also collects plastic buckets and scrap metal.
PET bottles and other items collected by Angella ‘Dimples’ Christie and her daughter Tameka are stacked just off the road in their community of Riverton City in St Andrew.
“Mi nuh work, a dis mi do fi a living,” Tameka told Loop News on a recent visit to the dump site.
“Yuh just go pon di landfill and collect dem and bag dem up and sell dem a week time or whenever you want. Is it we live off,” Tameka added while pointing to several large bags filled with PET bottles that she and family members had collected from the landfill.
The single mother said she gets no support from any of her children’s fathers.
“Is me and God and my pickney dem and the dump,” she declared.
Tameka said her one-year-old son started Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Institution at the beginning of the new school year. Her other school-age children attend Denham Town High and Seaview Gardens Primary schools.
She said her 21-year-old son is into sales.
“Him doing him own thing,” Tameka said.
Like other residents, Tameka is on edge since the announcement on August 5 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the Riverton City dump and others will be closed. No details were given, but the prime minister said he will be meeting in September with the Member of Parliament for the area, Anthony Hylton.
Tameka told Loop News that her only wish is that the authorities provide her with some assistance before the dump is closed.
“A hope dem ago find sumn fi wi do. Dem just cyaa lef wi high and dry so wid nutten. Dem haffi do sumn fi wi,” she said.
Asked whether residents have yet been told anything by those in authority, Tameka said: “The only thing wi hear is that it (the land they live on) ago sell and by the next three years we haffi move from down here because the entire land sell.”
Tameka and other residents are of the view that having endured the shame of living on the dump for decades, they should be given first preference if/when the land in the area is sold.
“It was pure swamp. A we dump it up; a we build and develop roun here so,” she stated.
Since the announcement in the Parliament by the prime minister, Tameka claimed she is yet to hear from Hylton.
“We nuh hear nutten from anybody,” she said as she was joined by her mother Angella Christie, called ‘Dimples’, who has lived on the dump for more than 50 years.
Christie’s five children, including Tameka, were all born in Riverton City.
“From me know me self is the dump me live pon,” said Christie.
The grandmother said she was able to school her children off her earnings from the dump, adding that the schools they attended included Tredegar Park Primary, Penwood High, and Haile Selassie High.
Family matriarch Angella ‘Dimples’ Christie examines plastic buckets she collected from the Riverton City dump for sale in Corporate Area markets.
Apart from PET bottles, she showed the news team some five-gallon buckets that previously contained paint that she had collected at the dump and was getting ready to sell.
She explained that anything of value that can be sold is collected at the waste disposal site.
Christie said some individuals journey to Riverton to make purchases. However, for the most part, she travels to Coronation Market in downtown Kingston as well as to the Spanish Town and Linstead markets in St Catherine and as far away as May Pen, Clarendon to sell the buckets and other items of value she picks from the landfill.
“A it mi live off a,” she declared.
As to what she would want if she has to leave the site she has called home all her life, Christie said she would be grateful for some help in purchasing a piece of land in Red Hills, St Andrew.
“If dem even come fi di land we just need a likkle help to start back life somewhere else. Just a likkle help,” said Christie.
Meanwhile, 52-year-old George Ford has been living in Riverton City for 30 years.
He collects scrap metal and buckets from the dump, which he then sells to supplement his income from his job as a cutter (he uses a welding torch to cut metal).
George Ford examines some of the plastic buckets he retrieved from the dump.
Ford lives with his girlfriend and their daughter.
“If me see hustling [on the dump], mi wi collect stuff and sell but mi nuh really tek it fi habit,” he told Loop News.
Ford noted that when the dump closes the livelihood of many people will be impacted. Yet, he has no confidence that any help will be forthcoming from the authorities.
“We would appreciate any help, but I don’t see any coming. We just haffi go mek it on we own,” he said.
“Mi see 50 years and nuh see nutten from dem, so mi nuh expect fi see it again,” Ford added.