Unemployed woman feeds 12 dependents daily while caring for disabled daughter

Thirteen-year-old Omesha Williams (right) and her twin Omoya (Michael Gordon)

Marjorie Crooks relies on a miracle every day to put food in the mouths of the 12 dependents in her care.

Good Samaritan Rena McLeod-Campbell takes her children Xavier (right) and Xaundre Campbell to visit with the family. (Michael Gordon)

Good Samaritan Rena McLeod-Campbell takes her children Xavier (right) and Xaundre Campbell to visit with the family. (Michael Gordon)

In addition to caring for a disabled daughter, Crooks – who lost two of her sons to violence – has now become caregiver and provider to four grandchildren, her 84-year-old mother who is suffering from a stroke, a 50-year-old mentally challenged man who has lived with the family since his mother died, a daughter she adopted at three months old, a god-daughter who has always lived with her, as well as her other biological children.

All this the 45-year-old single mother does without an income as she has devoted her time to caring for her daughter with cerebral palsy.

Marjorie Crooks (centre) and some of the people who depend on her to provide for them every day. From left: her grandchildren six-year-old Naomi Duncan, 11-year-old Avalon Duncan and three-year-old Ramesh Duncan, god-daughter 12-year-old Timoya Handson, twin daughters Omoya and Omesha (in wheelchair), her adopted daughter 18-year-old Kayesha Jones, her other grandchildren seven-year-old Rachael Duncan and five-year-old Ruchelle Duncan and a mentally challenged family friend 50-year-old Victor White. (Michael Gordon)

Marjorie Crooks (centre) and some of the people who depend on her to provide for them every day. From left: her grandchildren six-year-old Naomi Duncan, 11-year-old Avalon Duncan and three-year-old Ramesh Duncan, god-daughter 12-year-old Timoya Handson, twin daughters Omoya and Omesha (in wheelchair), her adopted daughter 18-year-old Kayesha Jones, her other grandchildren seven-year-old Rachael Duncan and five-year-old Ruchelle Duncan and a mentally challenged family friend 50-year-old Victor White. (Michael Gordon)

Crooks’ troubles began when one of her twin girls was diagnosed with the debilitating cerebral palsy 13 years ago.

Crooks, who already had five boys, was excited at the birth of twin girls Omesha and Omoya Williams who were born premature.

But her excitement soon turned to concerns when a doctor at Spanish Town Hospital, where they were born, informed her that one was doing better than the other. Crooks said the children were on medication but she did not realise the seriousness of the illness until the doctors said they would have to change the medication as Omesha’s stomach was swollen.

Omesha, the affected twin, later developed a seizure, but Crooks said she thought little of it when the babies were both released from the hospital two weeks later. However, at five months old Omesha was not sitting up like her sister and her head always lolled to the side when she was propped up. A visit to Bustamante Hospital for Children confirmed the mother’s worst fears as she received news that Omesha would never be able to walk or talk and would require round-the-clock care as the seizure had damaged her brain.

Crooks said although she could not afford to stay home to care for her child, having no other source of income, she was determined not to put her into a group home.

“I chose not to put her in a (group) home because nowhere is better than her home, and no one would be able to give her the love and care that I can,” Crooks told the

Jamaica Observer during a recent visit to the family’s dilapidated three-room structure on Hanover Street in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

Over the years, Crooks got much-needed financial assistance from her eldest son, who had migrated to the United States as a child and who started working from an early age to help his mother and siblings.

“He was the one who helped everybody. Him help with graduation, back to school, just about everything because that boy was working since he was 12 years old,” she explained

But her troubles would only get worse when this main breadwinner of the family was murdered at his New York home.

Another adult son stepped into that role soon after, providing for the family, so that Crooks could stay home to care for Omesha.

“Omesha was his baby. He always used to walk and sell and would help with her,” she said of her second son.

But last January, Crooks suffered another blow when this son was murdered, leaving behind 10 children. Three of the children – ranging in age from three to seven years – are now her sole responsibility, as well as a fourth grandchild from a different mother, who has lived with her since birth.

Crooks, who miraculously makes every meal stretch to share for 12 mouths daily, said she still manages to provide a meal for some street people, whenever she has excess.

“I believe the street people are my ministry, and so when someone blesses me and I cook I buy styrofoam plates and share out food for the street people because I can tell anybody about what it is to be hungry,” she said.

In addition, she has had to use the money for food to purchase diapers for Omesha as well as her mother who is confined to her bed, having suffered a stroke. She has also incurred medical expenses with Omesha’s twin, Omoya, whose leg was nearly amputated a few years ago as she saved a baby from a collapsing wall. The 13-year-old is now left with a badly scarred leg and a limp.

Crooks’ 18-year-old son has now taken on the task of helping to provide for the family from his meagre earnings at a bodywork shop, and her other son helps when he can afford to.

But Crooks said it would have been impossible to survive without the help of people who sometimes “bless” her with food.

A good Samaritan, Rena McLeod-Campbell, who first brought the family’s plight to the attention of the

Observer, says it is heart-rending to know that some days the children do not have a meal until late in the day.

“Food is one of their greatest needs because the other day I came here and it was around 11:30 and they had not eaten yet,” McLeod-Campbell said, adding, “All these stress is on her especially when she worry that she can’t find food, but she is a woman of faith.”

McLeod-Campbell said she first met the family when Crooks asked for one of her baby’s diapers. She explained that she followed Crooks home and saw Omesha crying because she was hungry. Crooks, she said, prepared two packs of Ramen noodles and McLeod-Campbell said she was astonished to discover that such a small portion of food was being used to feed so many people.

“When I saw all the children come in and they ate and nobody complained and they were so happy, I thought to myself that here I was complaining about all the things I didn’t have and they were contented with that little,” she said.

A mother of two, McLeod-Campbell said she immediately proposed to her church leadership that they host a gospel event to raise funds to help the family as well as another woman who has an autistic child.

She said they were hoping to have raised enough funds to assist in building the family a proper bathroom as the current toilet overflows when it rains. They also wanted to give the family a stove and a refrigerator which they are badly in need of.

“Only one burner working on the stove, and sometimes they don’t even have gas so they have to use wood fire,” she said.

McLeod-Campbell said Crooks has to store juice for Omesha at a neighbour’s house and so they were hoping the family would be able to get a refrigerator of their own as well as a machine to wash for the large family.

“I am really hoping they can get some help because she (Crooks) is really a woman of faith, and despite not having it she still tries to help others in so many ways,” McLeod-Campbell said, pointing to the mentally challenged adult who is living with the family.

Crooks explained that she took the man under her wings because people would tease and abuse him, especially after his mother died.

“When I was moving here to live I couldn’t leave him behind, so I took him to live with me,” Crooks said.

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