My parents are worried but they are putting up a brave face. My siblings and I are worried too but we do not show it, because we do not want to worry our parents even further. Since the heavy rains, our things have not dried properly. The lingering dampness hangs heavily in the air. And now, with the announcement of the dangerous cyclone, we know that things are far from being resolved for us. Our house, made of iron sheets, which by the way, do not come cheap, will not provide enough protection for us. Our parents are torn between remaining dignified and stay put, or gather our belongings and go to the refuge centre.

On Monday night, we have no choice but to leave. With a heavy heart and a defeated look in his eyes, our father tells us to take our bare essentials and we do.

However, when we sort out our things, the majority of them are damp, which means unusable. We cannot bring canned food for we will need a place to cook, we cannot bring biscuits because everything has gone soggy. So we really take the bare minimum, the clothes on our back and a spare change. It is without any relief that we make our way to the centre. There is no relief in not knowing if our house will still be standing when we come back, no relief in knowing that some will not hide their disdain of people like us, no relief in knowing that we will once more be tagged as “bater bis”.

We are also humans, we also have feelings and we also aspire to a decent life. We are not ashamed of our poverty, for we work hard to come out of it. But it is not our fault if we are not helped by a system which favours the haves; and which is designed to relegate us to the periphery of a country which prefers the veneer of people from abroad rather than catering for its own people.

This is what is in my heart as I hold the hand of my youngest sibling and make my way to the centre alongside my poor but dignified parents.

Laity