Leidys Dejong worked as a medical doctor in Venezuela for over a decade but like millions of other migrants, she fled in search of a better life.
Today, Dejong, 33, is homeless on the streets of San Fernando, facing constant abuse from other homeless locals.
Guardian Media’s photographer Rishi Ragoonath spotted Dejong crying while the other vagrants shouted at her.
A cat and two dogs licked at her fingers while she sat cross-legged on a piece of cardboard near the San Fernando Police station.
“Get out from here. Why all of you Venez get back to Venezuela. We doh want all you here. Doh come around here,” one man shouted while another said, “Why you don’t hush your mouth.”
Dejong, who speaks English although not fluently, said she left Venezuela with Europe in mind as her final destination. Before becoming stuck in Trinidad because of the pandemic lockdown, Dejong had lived in Ciudad Bolívar, formerly known as Angostura and St Thomas de Guyana, the capital of Venezuela’s southeastern Bolívar State.
She said during her time in Trinidad she lived with a family at a house in Gasparillo. She took care of their babies and also cared for an elderly man, whilst working part-time in a doctor’s office.
However, hours before Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the State of Emergency, Dejong was dropped off on the streets.
All she had was a purse, her slippers and a bowl of food.
Not knowing what to do, Dejong went to the San Fernando General Hospital where she knew she would get help.
Instead, all she got was a prescription for medicine that would help her sleep.
Other homeless people in San Fernando, who recognised her plight, began chasing her away.
She then went to the Promenade opposite the San Fernando Police Station so that she could be safe if someone attacked or harassed her.
Dejong said, “I would like to live in Trinidad. I am on the street because it is more safe and quiet. I didn’t know where to go so I came to the police. I don’t know what to do to get a little peace of mind.”
Guardian Media contacted the coordinator of the La Romaine Migrant Support group Angie Ramnarine who spoke to Dejong. She told Ramnarine that Europe had been her final destination. She said she worked as a medical doctor in Venezuela before she came here.
“It’s a fear that I had for a long time now that the pandemic will lead to homelessness and vagrancy among the Venezuelan migrants in particular. And now we are seeing this,” Ramnarine said.
She added, “Yesterday, outside my gate, a family of four came asking for food and they too didn’t have anywhere to stay. They slept outside the hospital for two days.”
Ramnarine said another family who came to collect food hampers offered the homeless family a place to stay.
Ramnarine said there will be more destitution if people did not extend support during the lockdown period.
Anyone wanting to assist the migrant families can contact Ramnarine at 687-8072.