For six years beach vendor Lavonne Alleyne has been plying her trade at the Fitts Village beach in St James, but it has never really been smooth sailing.
Alleyne, who rents beach chairs and umbrellas to tourists and sells handmade jewellery, told Barbados TODAY she has faced constant harassment and victimization from the beach rangers, and whatever she does appears to be a problem.
“I was here for six years, the first vendor who started any vending here at Fitts Village beach, and for that period of time I have been harassed ever since from the rangers in this area. I had my business shut down for a day for not wearing the NCC [National Conservation Commission] shirt. I only had one at the time and I had it on the line. I opted to go home and get it off the line and come back but they insisted that I shut my business or they would shut it for me and leave,” Alleyne explained.
“The rangers around here have a problem with my chairs. I sometimes put out four or five chairs to advertise and let people know something is happening here. Now they want to tell me I can’t put the chairs there, I have to wait until the people come. For all the years I have been renting chairs we always put out our chairs first and if someone comes the chairs are already there. After going to NCC numerous times to find out if there was a change in the rules or if there would be a letter informing me of anything different, nothing of the sort came about.”
The beach vendor said the NCC had promised to investigate her complaints, but nothing was done.
In the meantime, the situation is worsening, she said, with the NCC neglecting to provide a proper working area.
As a result, she has lost some of her property to the high seas, an upset Alleyne said.
“Two months ago I have had my jewellery and my tables washed away in the sea. I used to set up close to the entrance; it gives me better access to the tourists that come from the ship, . . . but when the water gets high it’s problems. I tried many times to get the NCC to put us in the park which they did for about five months and they put us back on the sand again. The last time I tried for them to put us in the park it was so much confusion around here with the rangers and a cleaner . . . . If the sea is rough, they tell me they don’t care where I put my things. I asked them if they have a conscience and they said, ‘it has gone through the window’ and we are not to put our things back in the park.
“It takes money to buy those beads and stuff like that. I have to set up here behind this wall to keep my things safe. So I have to work a little harder now to get the sales. I find they have been victimizing me here. I just come here and work and try to make some money so I can take care of my family. Since I relocate over to this side, it’s a bit slow, but I have to be more optimistic. I have bills to pay. People have suggested that I go elsewhere and I may very well take that advice,” she said.
Alleyne lost over 60 chairs last year to a suspicious fire, but she said she would not be deterred.
All she wants is to ply her trade in peace at a spot that she enjoys, the beach vendor told Barbados TODAY.
“I’m not wealthy, my family isn’t a big name family, [I’m] not a high society person. [I am] just a poor woman on the beach hustling, trying to make ends meet,” she said.
Efforts to reach the NCC were unsuccessful up to the time of publication.