By Dr. Karlene Richardson
Many people know Jamaica either from being born there, through an acquaintance, or the many stories told; Stories of Bob Marley and The Wailers, or stories of the perfect lined shores, warm temperatures, or the food that many refer to as ‘flavorful’. There is another side to Jamaica not often explored. This is one of the many things that thread its similarities not just to other Caribbean countries, but to countries in general.
Jamaica’s population varies, including Caucasians, Indians, Africans, even Chinese. There is another population that is often ignored: The Barrel Kids. While this unique population is diverse, the similarity is the definition of the population: children abandoned or left alone by parents who have migrated seeking a better life. These children are often times left with families, friends, and at times, even strangers. As the name implies, parents migrating to other countries in hopes of finding a better life, sends barrels of products such as clothing and food, in exchange for their absence.
Too often, these parents are oblivious of the impact of their absence. In addition, these parents are sometimes delusional of the fact that sending barrels each year will never equate to the absence of their love. These children are left to fend for themselves, raise themselves, and find replacement love. The outcome is usually resentment, of which these parents term, ungratefulness. Relationships are strained. Families are torn apart, and the future for these children becomes ‘a hit or miss.’
Even when some Barrel Kids are rescued, relationships sometimes are never healed. As in the case of Karlene Robinson, the author of From Gutter to Glory, who found her mother had moved on with another family. This is often the case. Barrel Kids walk into the realization of feelings of being replaced. Issues go unresolved for years. Resentments linger for decades. Everyone involved assumes a role, and scars not healed, everyone pretending nothing ever happened except the Barrel Kids.